Revolting Students - Again

Having managed to retard their case with the ludicrously and violently mismanaged protest of two weeks ago, it is entirely typical of the student mentality that they should consider another expression of student nihilism to be appropriate today. This time, the protest is not London based but designed to be across a range of university campuses, and even schools. Students striking in protest would not, of course, have any impact at all given that the majority steer sedulously clear of lecture theatres for most of their university careers. So protests it has to be, and given the motley collection of organizers, the chances of these simply being peaceful protests is limited.

I have an innate sympathy with the opposition to student fees, which is what makes the opposition enhancing protests all the more frustrating. I have a sympathy because I, in common with the rest of my generation, benefited not just from free university education but also, where needed, government assistance towards living costs too in the form of the student grant. Of course, given that there were significantly fewer students then it was more affordable as a government cost, but the irony is that the non-economic argument against funding university students now was, if anything, even stronger then. In a nutshell, the argument is that it is wrong and wholly elitist to expect the majority of the non-university educated public to fund the elitist educational ambitions of the minority who do go. Of course, one of the successes of the last Labour government was its increasing of the numbers who head to university overall, making it a far less elitist exercise today than it was in the 80s, and all credit to them for that. But the argument that those who benefit from degree education - in terms of their employment prospects and likely earnings - should also be prepared to contribute still remains, and the Coalition’s proposed system actually removes the upfront cost that makes it all look so burdensome to students contemplating applying to university in the U6th.

When Labour introduced tuition fees (breaking their own manifesto promise in the process) they were accepting the economic impossibility of funding university education for all. As cuts in the overall budget of state expenditure go ahead, the defence that students should have their privileged fees ring-fenced looks less and less tenable. It is made virtually ridiculous by the antics of the student protests, which all too often seem to showcase the under-employed nature of student life, and the underwhelming nature of their political acumen. The violence that accompanies such protests – nearly always a given in student ones – seems to be so firmly antithetical to all that higher education is meant to represent that you could not devise a better argument for removing student funding from the average taxpayer’s contribution. Once again, a majority of committed students are ill-served by their would-be representatives on the streets.

The protestors also called for protests in schools, one of their more useless ideas given that the schools are hardly responsible for university funding. But it did give pupils up and down the country the opportunity to engage in a bit of pointless protesting – at SGS, this involved the Year 10s sitting down in the playground during break! A much more amenable protest all round, inconveniencing no-one. Just a pity they didn’t really know what they were protesting about.


Anonymous said…

Calculate the amount of debt this government will ConDem you to.

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