Graduate Tax – a BAD IDEA

Vince Cable, a man I admire, has spoken out in favour of a graduate tax to pay for Britain’s universities.

It is a stinking rotten idea, along with almost all the others anyone has come up with to fund the universities.

The main reason is that Britain’s universities are mainly fucking useless. I said mainly; there are good bits. There are some universities that teach demanding subjects (i.e. hard science with proper sums in it)  well, and lots of them do pretty good research. But most of them don’t. Most of them just provide an expensive holiday-camp away from home for middle-class kids. The caricature of the student who watches Jeremy Kyle all day and parties all night is a caricature, but it works because it is recognisable. That’s pretty inexcusible.  If the universities really were doing a good job, the caricature of a  typical student would be someone who stayed up all night in a library, not a nightclub.

The fact is that most young people at 18 just aren’t that interested in studying with the necessary intensity. They’ve just left school, and the last thing most of them want to do is more schoolwork.  Getting drunk and getting laid is what 18-year olds want to do, which is fine, but we shouldn’t be subsidising the circumstances.

I’m all in favour of removing the class barriers to education that still exist, but providing mickey-mouse courses at mickey-mouse institutions isn’t the way to do it: it’s too expensive and it isn’t working.  You end up mollycoddling more and more indolent middle-class teens who really, really need a kick up their arses, not a soft option in sports spectator studies.

University should be equally demanding for every course; and it isn’t, even at Oxford or Cambridge.  At Cambridge, rowers and rugby-players read Land Economy, not Natural Sciences – because it’s less demanding, so they have more time to pursue their Blue. Medicine is generally recognised to be the most demanding course; medics, however, are motivated in a way that most other 18-year olds aren’t.  Well, if they’re not that bothered, perhaps they shouldn’t be at university?

Ask any university lecturer, and you will be told that the most motivated students are always the mature ones – the ones who have given up good jobs to study something they are passionate about, and are usually paying the fees themselves.

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