Saturday, November 23, 2002

I'm still really angry at the government's plan to introduce student top-up fees of up to £10,500 a year in Britain. As a recent graduate myself, I still understand the fear of debt that our leaders appear to have forgotten. They say that we should look upon our education as an investment, like a mortgage. Well, there's no way in hell that I would want to come out of university owing up to £42,000 (for a four year course, as mine was). I just wouldn't have done it. And what happens when you leave? Do they really think that graduates could afford to pay off a student loan and a mortgage at the same time? Students are already living in poverty and coming out of university having debts of up to £10,000 and these proposals can only make it worse. I was lucky, I was in the last year to get a grant, and my parents were able to support me through university. Not everyone can afford that.

And beyond that, the pressure to get a good job and pay back the loans seems to lead to focus on more practical courses, such as engineering and science. What about the soft sciences and the arts? Sure, we all joke about Arts students, but we need philosophers and artists in our society as much as we need engineers and scientists. And what about the ideal of doing a course for the sheer joy in learning? Is all that to be lost in this focus on money?

I accept that during my time in university, I was a burden on the taxpayer, and I'm happy to repay that in my own taxes. I'd accept a graduate tax as the least worst option available to us now, but top-up fees seem utterly wrong to me. At least it's heartening that there are some ministers in government who agree with me.

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