Higher education: how the state sees things.

“What’s the point in education, if you have to pay for the privilege”? asked the Manic Street Preachers in their song, Socialist Serenade.  The neo-liberal plan for education is to make it inaccessible to those without the funds. It is even worse in postgraduate education where, if you can’t find the money to support yourself, you’re stuffed. There is little help available to postgraduate students bar research funding…and the competition for support is high.  Undergraduates can apply for hardship grants, as well as the Access for Learning Fund (AfL), they even have access to Student Loans.

If you are postgraduate student, regardless of how academically promising you are, you have to find the money to support yourself. The state believes that an undergraduate qualification is sufficient and anything beyond that is a luxury reserved for the middle and upper classes. Anyone else is simply shirking their duty to the national economy; they are not, as many right wing economists might put it, economically productive and deserve the same contempt reserved for the work-shy and  serial benefit claimants, who are the fodder of tabloid hate-stories.

The Education Reform Act (1989) forced students to take out loans (a product) by abolishing maintenance grants. They stopped students from claiming housing and social security benefits during the holidays which prompted many to abandon their courses. The New Labour Party under Tony Blair declared that more working class people would take up higher education. The reality is that currently there is little social mobility and working class students have decreased sharply. The average student debt at the end of one’s course is around £20,000 and it could be higher.

When this government announced its package of cuts – after spending billions on bailing out their chums in the banking sector- their sights were firmly fixed on HE. Their rationale appears to be predicated on the notion that such education is, as I mentioned before, a luxury. But what the government don’t realise or want to understand is that, if one looks at HE in purely economic terms then students are an investment.  Academics are also under threat; job cuts are expected to be announced  and many academics will leave this country for other shores. Is this really what the State wants? It seems that way.

I have just had to suspend my PhD studies because I was made redundant from a badly-paid job. I have no income and I am forced into doing something that I didn’t want to do. Now the dole queue awaits me and with it, a world of mind-numbing tedium.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Higher education: how the state sees things.

  1. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    The Cat wrote this piece four years ago in 2010. I’ve decided to reblog it because it is still acutely relevant today. The expansion of Higher Education has meant that there is greater pressure on graduates to go for post-graduate degrees in order to get good jobs. At the same time, there just aren’t enough suitable jobs available for graduates, who are now forced into low-paying, menial jobs. They thus have absolutely no chance of paying off their student debt, while at the same time are reducing the number of jobs available for unskilled workers.

    When New Labour under Tony Blair introduced tuition fees, there was opposition to it on the grounds that this would restrict Higher Education to the Middle and Upper Middle classes, who would be the only people, who could afford it. This hasn’t quite happened, though I think it’s a factor in the decline in the number of men going on to university. Why saddle yourself with tens of thousands of pounds of debt when you can make some money in an unskilled or semi-skilled labouring job?

    And I believe the Cat is absolutely correct when he says that the Coalition believe that only the Middle and Upper Middle classes should have post-graduate degrees. Everything else they’ve done has been very much in the interests of these classes, and at the expense of those at the other end of the social hierarchy – the lower middle and working classes.

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