I feel that all those smug people who, having themselves enjoyed a free tertiary education, are now so determined that students should pay for their education, should expiate their hypocrisy by belatedly paying up for theirs. Come on now, Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, Clegg and Cable, even ‘Lord’ Browne, and all the rest of you comfortable, sanctimonious high-achievers. You’ve all had the benefits of being taught, for free, at the finest universities. You all have done well as a consequence. Let’s see you front up now, by volunteering to pay an open-ended, retrospective tax for the full effective period of your earnings since then – based upon whatever rate you elect to impose on the nation’s young. If you fail to do so, I for one will brand you hypocrite.
To expect students to go deep into debt, in their teens, is merely another form of the previously widely-derided principle of hypothecation. Students ‘pay’ for their education in the form of tax paid over a lifetime of work. The more successful pay more because they earn more; well, durrrr! Education is an investment by the nation. We don’t ‘need’ media studies graduates, golf-course managers and charity-workers. We will need properly technically-skilled graduates in useful disciplines which will enhance the country’s earnings over the coming decades.
I have boys in their teens; one wants to study engineering and the other seems to be heading towards a career in medicine. In the absence of a sensible, far-sighted educational policy, I will be tempted to advise them to take the education, and then emigrate from this blighted, benighted, short-sighted country. Their skills will be in demand around the world. As far as I am concerned, subsequent governments can whistle for repayment of their loans. Let them sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.
When I dabbled on the edge of economics, many years ago, one of the earliest lessons learned was that nobody can borrow cheaper than a government. Let’s see the government have the courage to invest in education. If everybody’s tax rate has to go up a notch, who can possibly object? We are, after all, all in this together.