Writing in the Guardian, professor of higher education Peter Scott suggests the general election result will mean a wider gulf between ‘top’ universities and the rest, and an end to widening participation…
The trouble with the Conservative victory in the election is not only that we are stuck with a system of funding higher education that will burden graduates with debt while taxpayers continue to contribute almost as much as before – a lose-lose situation by any standard.
The trouble is not even that the idea that higher education must be run as a market will soon be so entrenched that other, gentler and generous, possibilities will be more and more difficult to imagine – even though it will be a rigged and over-regulated quasi-market. Another example of lose-lose.
No, the real trouble with the Tory victory is that the very idea of higher education for most, if not for all – a welfare state achievement that rivals the creation of the National Health Service – will be abandoned, to be replaced by a wider gulf between the “top” universities and the rest: a real university education and higher education-lite.
It was just about possible to imagine another government might have reversed the rush to high fees. Now it will become a gallop. The lifting of the fee cap looks inevitable, and the generous repayment regime for which we should (maybe) thank the Lib Dems will be replaced by lower repayment thresholds and real interest rates on student loans…
Professor Scott is clearly not a very happy chappy at the moment but is he right to be so gloomy about the prospects for higher education?
And if he is, might the real issues be at least in part because the sector itself is failing to address itself to the real needs of the country and prospective students?
For example, is a one-off degree, taken over an unnecessarily long three years, usually at the age of just eighteen or nineteen, really the right model for education in the 21st century?
Is that really worth tens of thousands of pounds of debt for most young people when it will probably have little or no relevance to the skills they actually need for employment nowadays?
I can’t say I’m convinced. You?
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