University it naturally a difficult topic for this government, specially with the Liberal Democrats having signed up to abolish tuition fees Labour imposed. But even the LibDems, when they are in government, and no longer a third party who will never have to be accountable for their promises, realise that we simply can’t afford this in these times of economic difficulties. However in this obsession of making all the reforms fair, I feel we may be forgetting what fairness actually means, and especially in this domain.
I will be the first to admit the current situation is unsatisfactory. Universities are underfunded to maintain the excellence of our education system; and people who take courses for example in the social sciences with relatively few contact hours, or equipment required, are subsidising more costly courses like the sciences; and then of course there is the issue around poorer students being put off university by the cost.
However what the government seems to be planning does not seem to make it any fairer at all, and certainly does not encourage aspiration!
Vince Cable seems to want to limit the rise in tuition fees, but then raise interest rates on student loans, and create penalties for people who have parents that have save up to pay for university, or people who work hard at university, and go on to achieve good jobs, people who try and be responsible and pay back their debts.
This is wrong in more than one way. Firstly we are in an economic crisis because of irresponsible debt, and they are now proposing sanctioning people who try to pay their debts off, is this really the example we want to give to our society? Secondly, and more importantly it is nothing more than a exercise in deception. Limiting student tuition fees rise, and then forcing people to take out loans to pay them, whilst forcing them to not pay these loans back early, and then raising the interest rates, is nothing different to raising tuition fees by a higher percentage in the first place, except it is more complicated, and more deceptive to the electorate and students! It is sophism at its worst from the Business Secretary.