Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Rights and Privileges

I thought about writing on this topic in the summer when the news was aflame with students protesting not being able to get into university due to lack of places available but with recent changes in university education and me having time off, I will finally get this off my mind.

There were lots of unhappy students faces plastered on tv and newspapers for being turned down by universities and comments being made that the government cuts in funding is taking away people's rights to learn.

Right to learn?

Every child has access to free schooling till they're 18 - in fact you can get access to study for those qualifications at any age however, is university a right? In my opinion, no.

Completing secondary education will give you the basics needed for life however many jobs often require additional skills and these can be either taught through vocational studies (often with links to industry) or through colleges/universities.
To me, a university is a place to gain further knowledge and insight into a field where you will learn and gain skills that will be beneficial to society. It's an intellectual pursuit with the endgame being able to implement the knowledge in practical problems. For example whereas through vocational studies, you may learn to put an engine together, through university, you should be able to understand the theory behind it and use that knowledge to potentially create a new solution.

Courses are limited and anly those that show the capability to excel should be admitted, whether it be to a vocational or theoretical course - it's a privilege which you earn through working hard. So in a finite limited resource, only the best should be given the chance. If you were denied, ask yourself why were others chosen? What did you lack? If you are determined to get through, show it by improving yourself. Universities are a place to enhance talent - you need to earn that recognition, not have it for granted.

With the recession, the number of people applying increased (~69000 more than last year) - were students honestly thinking that it would be easy to get in? How arrogant must you be to demand a place when there are at least a thousand others with the same grades as yourself?

Whilst on topic of university intake, what are your opinions on universities being assessed on the level of intake from state schools?

I find it a rather sorry state of affairs if universities are being assessed on this. As an institute of learning, they should only be focused on taking in the brightest and most capable of students, regardless of background. I agree that those who come from more privileged backgrounds are able to access better education however there are plenty of grammar schools that are accessible to everyone. Rather than targetting the universities, why isn't the root cause assessed? Certainly, give those with aspirations of university from underprivileged backgrounds, access to universities - by improving the education level and exposing them to a greater breadth of activities and skills. It's not just a matter of how intellectually bright a person is, it's how they carry themselves too. Inter-personal skills and attitudes are developed at university but those from under-performing schools will not have had the chance to exercise it unlike their counterparts in grammar or private schools. These are the long term problems that need to be tackled rather than just forcing universities into admitting a percentage of students from secondary schools which is only best as a short term plan.

And now university fees have also risen. What was once a heavily subsidised institution, university education is being expected to be funded more by those benefiting from it... but was this surprising?

Universities have been calling for more funding for over 20 years to be able to compete in the international market. We have some of the best and recognised institutions in the world but in order to maintain and improve, more money was required. So fees were first introduced in 1998 - a big step away from free higher education, with a maximum annual fee of £1000 and in 2004, this was raised to £3000. Six years later, this has once again tripled to a maximum of £9000 to help fund university education.

The tuition fees aren't up front payments but scaled according to earnings - this hasn't changed but the uproar is by the amount. Most graduates will be in careers that will allow them to earn far more than they would have otherwise ... over the course of ones career, is the fees not worth it?

What is the fuss about?

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