We must take action for free education

Is there hope for believers of free education? That’s a serious question. When access to education becomes something that young people begin to show concern about, surely we have to ask ourselves what is going on with the current situation. Since the change in tuition fees, students have faced more and more uncertainty about study at university and where it can lead. The burden of debt placed upon students at such a young age inevitably leads to the marginalisation and exclusion of so many students, who don’t trust our economy to be able to repay the debt. Additionally, increasing rent costs for worse accommodation year on year is a major factor.

The current coalition government’s stance on privatising education has brought market forces into children’s learning, both through universities and the implementation of academy school status. This is through the inherent failure of the Liberal Democrats – the coalition’s understudy partner – to uphold their core values of free education. Ironically, the failed Lib Dem policy of eliminating tuition fees, which arguably allowed them their electoral success in 2010, may be their downfall; it serves as a lightning-rod for widespread discontent with attacks on education.

But wait! This article isn’t just another Lib Dem bashing exercise, but a glimmer of hope for the future, in education at least. As we see in many other countries in Europe, namely Germany and France, there are no, or barely any, tuition fees enforced on students to study at public higher education institutions. Through its federal system, there is now a clear and coherent position that higher education for students in Germany shall be state funded. This allows participation in University level education to be within reach of all those who wish to grasp it. Germany’s fight for free education has not been easy, but throughout the efforts of the last decade, they have managed to show it is possible.

Therefore, with this possibility glimmering in the mind of the country’s student population, there is a demonstration being held in Central London on Wednesday 19th November. The event will be jointly organised by The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, The Young Greens, and The Student Assembly Against Austerity. The demo is being held under the banner of ‘Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt’.

It is undeniably a crucial time for anyone who believes in the idea of a public education system, which can work for the people and can be available and accessible to all, to stand up and be part of a voice striving for a chance of fairer opportunities in the future.

Alongside the ready and assiduous support of YUSU, who have grounded their solidarity in this demonstration by helping to pay subsidy on transport to and from London on the day, you have your chance to make your stand for free education once more. Tickets are available now – I urge you to come along and take part in the fight towards free education.

3 comments

  1. Great article by Mr Hale.

    I do worry if free UK education is a mere pipe dream, but this has given me hope.

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  2. If universities are going to be publicly funded, they are going to have to be orientated towards genuine national and public need; not cloistered bubbles, holiday camps for middle class kids to have extra years of childhood with adult freedoms thrown in, or training grounds for the next generation of left wing revolutionary ‘social justice’ warriors. Universities need to be a societal resource which are culturally integrated into the society that funds and pays for them; they are not that at the moment. The focus on the ‘student experience’ has devalued what universities are meant to be for students; namely places where motivated, talented and hardworking people can pursue a degree which involves a lot of work, effort, initiative and sacrifice.
    I still remember shortly after the first intake of students on the higher fee arrangement came to the university. It was noticed in an article in Nouse at the time that these new students were spending much more time in the library than previous intakes of students; i.e. they were responsible and savvy enough to take their investment in their future seriously. The response in the article was one of mocking ridicule effectively implying that these students were boring; that is indicative of the contempt which the student culture feels towards hardworking students who sacrifice a lot of their free time to make sure that they truly make the best of their degree as opposed to pissing away their time procrastinating online or recovering from hangovers. (I’m sure that even now many hard working students get this feeling). Why should taxpayers fund this as it is?
    There needs to be a gigantic cultural change before university education can be free again; the abandonment of 50% university attendance targets (20-25% maybe), stricter selectivity, appeals to many more mature students who have life experience and are serious about their studies, requirements for extensive extra-curricular work and personal projects, average yearly production targets for students to assess their progress and extensive personal development and skills/confidence training as part of the syllabus.
    The de-politicisation and social-utilitarian rebirth of the university would be one of the greatest leaps forward for both universities and our society in generations. The next century is going to be a crucial time in the history of modern industrial civilization and preparations need to be made. The question that must be asked is: “What is a university for?” with a societal assessment regarding to our country’s educational needs. What do we REALLY need?
    We need: Mathematical, Physical, Natural Sciences and all of the Engineering aspects of those, medicine/health/disease research, Cognitive Sciences, new economics as well as serious work into innovation, business, sustainability, infrastructure, legal innovation, start-ups and entrepreneurial/organizational talent tapping across the society. University should be a hub for this and therefore education is these subjects should be free and resources should be invested to identify and promote talent and recognize hard work, train the next generation of scientists and engineers, ecologists and biologists etc to thoroughly ‘audit’ our society’s underpinnings, future needs, and present problems. No society with its priorities in order should have significant unemployment or underinvestment in any of these areas.
    The new university should also provide a vital entrepreneurial base for business minded students, provide more extensive services to all business, industry and help organizational innovation, the testing of projects and ideas that can actually be of concrete practical use whilst allowing immense leeway for speculative ‘blue sky thinking’ (vital in the sciences), since these subjects demand it for their success.

    What don’t we need? The short answer is ideology and ideological, opinion based subjects with little objective verification, or rigor; namely subjects for which a degree is unnecessary. These are the Arts and Humanities (with the serious logical/analytic parts of Philosophy being an exception), Political and Social ‘Sciences’, ‘Women’s Studies’ etc. These subjects are based on authority and fostering an appearance of being intellectually powerful and right by putting or shouting down opponents who disagree. Combine this with a focus on ‘your’ thoughts and opinions and the need to defend rather than really examine them, this the produces arrogance, narcissism, lack of self-doubt, and the belief in one’s own inherent correctness that has been probably the single most damaging force in human history and one that exists enough today without any additional public financial support. Now it can be knocked on the head and dispensed with in universities by abolishing these degree programs entirely. Why not remove them from universities and set up public learning centers (open to everyone) dedicated to independent study with available tutoring for anyone who wants it? The price being a very cheap opt-in pay as you learn subscription for tutoring done by academics, but with all knowledge resources both physical and virtual being completely open to the public. All anyone needs to study these subjects is literacy, the desire to learn and access to resources; it’s the third one that’s missing.

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