Friday, 26 November 2010

Are tuition fees bad for poor kids? Or for wealthy kids?

I don’t think the tuition fees are what all the students are making them out to be. All this talking about how poor families will be affected by this – I don’t think that’s necessarily true because families don’t pay for the tuition fees, you pay for the tuition fees when you’ve got a job. 
Who said that? Nick Clegg? Vince Cable? David Willetts?  Doubtless if they had said it, the Guardian and co would be up in arms about their ‘patronising attitude’. But they didn’t say it. It was said by Shamima Blake, a rather wonderful 16 year old from East London who makes you hopeful for the future of this country. 

She was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last Thursday (27:24 minutes in). Unfortunately, she was outnumbered by two whinging wealthy middle-class kids who admitted they thought it was OK for dinner ladies to subsidise their time in further education.  As Ms Blake went on to say ‘I’ve researched it...and I’m pretty fine with it.’ Fantastic stuff.

One problem with Paxman’s line of argument was that he did concede to the two anti-tuition fees students that it was 'unjust’ that his generation and Nick Clegg’s generation had got a free education but kids now didn’t. This is a common myth I hear going around. It is true that Paxman and Clegg got free higher education. It is not at all true that Paxman and Clegg’s generation got free higher education. A tiny percentage of their generation went to university. Everyone else went to work at 18 and paid their taxes. My mother, who is a part of that generation who didn’t go to university at 18, gets very angry when she hears people pushing this line, and rightly so.  She did go to university when she was older and paid all her fees.  So not only was she denied the chance of university at 18 because there were so few places, when she did eventually get to uni 20 years later she had to pay her fees, and now she has to listen to wealthy, spoilt 18 year olds with about a tenth of her intelligence lecture her about how ‘lucky’ she was and how she should therefore subsidise them. Of course, Paxman and the media and the student protestors don’t even know about people like my mum, or the 35% of UK undergrads who are part-timers and who currently don’t get any help with fees or living costs.   They don’t know about them because for all of the claims to the contrary, this is a protest by the spoilt and self-absorbed children of the middle classes. And this Newsnight debate shows that perfectly.



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