Yes, because it’s about more than moneyby Keith Burnett / August 25, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: The London schools revolution
This year’s A-Level students have picked up their results. Nearly half of them will go on to university, but in these times, they may be asking whether their higher education will be worth the cost. On current trends, it seems that the traditional gateway to success—the graduation picture on the mantelpiece—is no longer tied to affluence and social mobility.
Research by the Sutton Trust estimates that the average student graduating in England this year will owe around £44,000. Some would argue that, with this kind of debt, there is now no point in going to university unless it leads to well-paying employment. Many of these people are disillusioned graduates, who have found that this path was not the right one for them.
The price of a university education now forces a decision about return-on-investment from people at an age when most would not qualify for a loan for a car. How can a young person know what a future economy will need? In the rapidly changing world of work, they may be competing with an automated worker who will never need sick leave, maternity pay or a pension.
Tuition fees of £27,000, plus living expenses, are a lot to borrow for an unknown return. And yet young people are right to think that the option of not going to university may be even more precarious. And for those of us who are parents, we would pay whatever we can for the chance to help our children achieve their potential, try out adulthood in relative safety, perhaps meet a partner, or simply leave the house.
But taxpayers are still paying for higher education too. The loan system that is costing our students so heavily is also draining the public purse. In our attempt to work out the true price of higher education, and make our students pay it, we have created the worst of both worlds.
In this climate, how can we make universities work better for both students and society? The government, which is driving through a Higher Education and Resarch Bill, believes that competition and marketisation are the…