I am completely opposed to the Coalition plans to raise tuition fees. Unlike many of the most vocal opposition voices however, I don't feel it's because the Tories want to price poorer students out of University, because, frankly, I don't think it will. No, my opposition is based on the ideology behind it and what seems to me, the poorly thought through approach to it.
Firstly, I don't really understand how this is in any way meant to reduce the deficit. The cost of HE will not fall, and will continue to rise in the next year as predicted. It is unlikely that the burden will even ease off after that. So it's fair to say it's not a measure of austerity for these difficult times which means it is a policy based on ideology rather than immediate necessity. The ideology isn't that poor people should know their place, but rather that as the Student is the principle benefactor of the education, the Student should bear at least some, if not most of the cost. I don't mind people holding that view, I just disagree with it.
Secondary School students are the principle benefactors of their education but they are not asked to meet any of that cost. Why? Because society understands that it is undoubtedly better off if children are educated. So why do we not feel it is as important for our young adults to be as well educated as possible? In truth, we do, but recognise that whilst we can reasonably expect all children to be able to reach a certain level of education, anything beyond that is for the academically elite. Now we get to what the debate should have been about - who goes to university, not who pays for it. If the debate had been shaped around this issue, I feel the country as a whole would have been better off.
Labour were wrong to set a target of 50% of school leavers progressing to higher education. It is a fact of life that some people are suited to academic study and some are not and we shouldn't treat higher education as something everyone should do because they shouldn't, it should be for the elite. It has become the norm children of lower middle class parents to go to University and is treated almost as an entitlement. Consequently, graduate schemes are flooded with applicants and jobs that previously asked for 5 GCSE's now demand a 2:1 minimum.
There is nothing wrong with NOT going to university. There are thousands and thousands of fantastic vocational courses available from local colleges which will provide many students with a much better chance of a successful career than a poor degree in an irrelevant subject from a bad university.
It is a tragedy that the big debate of this generation about higher education is based on the cost and not the entry criteria. Until that debate takes place, there will be little improvement.