So the news reader on The World Tonight on Radio 4 told us that Cambridge University have announced plans to up their tuition fees to the new maximum of £9,000 next year. According to the BBC News website:
‘An internal report … argues that to charge any less than the maximum would be “fiscally irresponsible” and would raise doubts about the university’s “commitment to excellence”.’
Right, commitment to excellence. And to well-off families. And “fiscally irresponsible”? How can it be fiscally irresponsible? The fees are £9,000 precisely because the government wouldn’t be paying up nearly so much for tuition fees. They could charge less and the government wouldn’t put in more. If it’s about wanting to pay the most tax, well that’s the first I’ve heard anyone wanting to pay as much tax as possible! Could someone explain this fuzzy, unclear, unhelpful term please.
Also on the BBC last week, Richard Bilton did a good job in a documentary entitled, “Who gets the best jobs?” of showing how the top positions and best-paid jobs go especially to those privately educated and from well-off backgrounds. In other words, as the cycle goes around, a certain circle of well-off in this nation are feeding themselves and the wealth isn’t getting handed out, or down, in the way that it could be. (That’s a very curtailed analysis but is essentially true.)
While Cambridge would offer a reduction of up to £3,000 to students from poorer backgrounds, I wonder if they realise that for some this really won’t be enough. A simple reduction isn’t enough to encourage those stuck in the poverty rut to get out and try. Poverty really can grip some people and it’s going to take more than that for them to be seen as being in anyway ‘fair’, economically speaking.
But then, maybe they feel they can’t commit to economic fairness, and really “commitment to excellence” IS a way of saying, and to the middle class and to the wealthy elite of the UK and the world. I almost think that is their philosophy and if so, they should be clear about it. Gestures to offer a £3,000 reduction are really only formalities.
Still, I dare Oxford to be different…