It’s amazing really. When I was a kid it was free to go to university. You even got grants to contribute to living costs. And you could work in the summer without being penalised for it by having your grant cut. I only went to uni for 3 weeks when I was a kid. The subjects were dull, I’d already been to college for 2 years to do A levels, and I was already in a fairly active rock band. So to me, it didn’t make sense to go to a boring pointless university. Before my life as a trainee rock star really took off I applied a couple more
times, got in, but never actually attended any course.
I got busy meantime with real rocknroll existence, actually being paid to be a songwriter for my band, and getting money from cool record labels for rehearsing, recording and buying equipment. College could not compete with that. Time went on and after rocknroll faded and the money ran out, I applied again, got in, but again never actually attended. It seemed so drab compared to what I had been doing.
But then much later, as options began to get less and less, I applied again. By now the courses were more interesting as computers and the web had taken off, and I could try my hand at that as I’d been making money with web skills after being made redundant at short notice from a small company I worked for. I got offered a place on a masters programme, but I had to pay. It was £4,500 for a 1 year course. My Mum lent me half the money and I used the last of my savings to pay for the other half. It left me about £500 total to live on. I got a distinction and the university offered me a part time teaching job just before I had no money left at all. The rest, as they say is history. The point of this is that going to university did save my life when it was at crisis point. It did make a huge difference. And I made the money back from the investment within six months of working.
Does this still apply now that fees are so high? Probably not, for a number of very practical reasons. If you are in need of life changing education, you would likely not have in excess of £25,000 to spare, or be able to get suitable credit for that amount, or want that sort of debt. So for grown up students who need to get a qualification fast, it’s become a non-starter. For youngsters from poorer backgrounds it’s also a completely unsuitable option, as having to carry a £30,000 debt is just not a good life choice. So who is this fee structure aimed at? Well, I can only see one demographic who can cope with it, and that’s the old less-than-ten-percent privileged young students who used to go to university for free back in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Back to square one, in other words.
Widening participation is now a thing of the past. University fees and debt are being used to prop up an increasingly failing capitalist consumer model which, especially in the UK, just does not work. Our obsessions of home ownership, car ownership and high university fees all force citizens to live with crippling debt. Credit card statistics show that the UK has 70% of credit card usage in the EU. No wonder the politicians want us out of the EU, who seem to know a lot more about running countries without such huge individual debt than we do.
This is a crime against our citizens, especially the youngest. I am finding it increasingly difficult to work in a system which now actively discriminates against those with no money. It is morally offensive. I thought I could achieve something worthwhile by working at a university like London Met because of the kind of students who come here. But they won’t be able to come anymore. So, apart from wondering who will actually come to London Met, or other similar places, I wonder why I should help those who don’t need or deserve my help. I don’t have answers to this but I know it’s going to get very ugly before it’s sorted out.