Posts Tagged ‘Student Grants’

‘I’ Newspaper on Labour’s Plans to Liberate University Regulator from Market Forces

February 16, 2019

Today’s I for Saturday, 16th February 2019 has an article by Florence Snead on page 4 reporting Labour’s plans to overhaul the universities regulator, and remove the free market ideology currently underpinning its approach to higher education in the UK. The piece, entitled ‘Universities ‘should not be left to the mercy of market forces’ runs

Labour has unveiled how it would overhaul the higher education system as it claimed the system’s new regulator was “not fit for purpose”.

The shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will criticize the Office for Students – established by the Government in 2018 – in a speech today at the annual University and Colleges Union conference.

She will say the regulator represents a system “where market logic is imposed on public goods” and where “forces of competition run rampant at the expense of students, staff and communities.”

Labour said it wants the regulator to report on diversity in university staff and student bodies and to take action to make universities “genuinely representative of the communities they serve”.

Staff should also be represented on the regulator’s board to ensure their views are heard, it added.

The party said it would also ban vice chancellors sitting on their own remuneration committees.

Ms Rayner is also expected to address the issue of universities being on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously revealed by I.

“Students would be left with immense uncertainty about their futures and entire communities would lose one of their major academic, economic and social institutions.”

Universities minister Chris Skidmore responded: “Universities know they can’t trust Corbyn as his plans would crash the economy, mean less investment in our higher education, compromising its world class quality”.

Actually, if anything’s trashed our world class education system, it’s been the Thatcherite programme of privatization and free market ideology. Scientific research at UK universities has been hampered ever since Thatcher decided that university science departments should go into partnership with business. Which has meant that universities can no longer engage in blue sky research, or not so much as they could previously, and are shackled to producing products for private firms, rather than expanding the boundaries of knowledge for its own sake. Plus some of the other problems that occur when scientific discoveries become the property of private, profit driven industries.

Then there’s the whole problem of the introduction of tuition fees. This should not have been done. I was doing my Ph.D. at Bristol when Mandelson and Blair decided to do this, and it’s immediate result was the scaling down of certain departments and shedding of teaching staff. Those hardest hit were the departments that required more funding because of the use of special equipment. This included my own department, Archaeology, where students necessarily go on digs, surveys and field expeditions. This means that the department had to have transport to take its staff and students to wherever they were excavating, provide digging equipment, although many students had their own trowels. They also needed and trained students in the use of specialist equipment like the geophysical magnetometers used to detect structures beneath the soil through the measurement of tiny changes in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, as well as labs to clean up and analyse the finds, from the type of soil in which they were found, the material out of which the finds were made, chemical composition of various substances, like food residue in pots, so you can tell what people were eating and drinking, and the forensic examination of human and animal remains.

I’ve no doubt that this situation was made worse when Cameron and Clegg decided to raise tuition fees to their present exorbitant level. Which has meant that students are now saddled with massive debt, which may make it difficult for some ever to afford to buy their own homes. Student debt was already an issue just after I left college, when the Tories decided to end student grants. After the introduction of tuition fees it has become an even more critical issue.

Then there’s the whole issue of proper pay and conditions for university lecturers. This is nowhere near as high as it should be. A friend of mine in the ’90s was one of the Student Union officers at our old college/uni. He told me one day just what some of the highly skilled and educated lecturers were earning. And it was low. Many of them were on part-time work, and I think the pay for some of them was at average wage level or below. And that was then. I’ve no idea what it’s like now. I’ve come across reports of a similar crisis at American universities and colleges, where the pay for the managers has skyrocketed while that of teaching staff has fallen catastrophically. And this is all part of the general pattern throughout industry as a whole, where senior management has enjoyed massively bloated pay rises and bonuses, while staff have been laid off and forced on to short term or zero hours contracts and low pay.

All this has been done in the name of ‘market forces’ and the logic of privatization.

I am not remotely surprised that British higher education is in crisis, and that an increasing number of colleges and universities are facing bankruptcy. This was always on the cards, especially as the population surge that inspired many colleges and polytechnics to seek university status on the belief that there would be enough student numbers to support them, is now over. Market logic would now dictate that, as the universities are failing, they should be allowed to collapse. Which would deprive students and their communities of their services.

The structure of British higher education needs to be reformed. The entire Thatcherite ethic of privatization, free markets, and tuition fees needs to be scrapped. Like everything else Thatcher and her ideological children ever created, it is a bloated, expensive and exploitative failure. My only criticism about Corbyn’s and Rayner’s plans for the unis isn’t that they’re too radical, but that they’re too timid.

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Jeremy Corbyn on Arms to Saudi Arabia, the Environment, the Living Wage and University Education

September 24, 2018

This is a short video from RT of just under two minutes, in which the Labour leader gives his views on Britain selling weapons to Saudia Arabia, Donald Trump’s disastrous attitude to the environment, the living wage, and that university education should be free.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

Addressing the Labour party conference, Corbyn states that whilst he obvious wants us to send all the aid necessary to deal with the consequences of the war and the bombing, the best thing to do is to stop the war altogether and to begin that by ending our supply of arms to the Saudi coalition that is undertaking that bombardment.

The Environment

Corbyn explains that Donald Trump is saying that he wants to walk away from the Paris climate accord and tear up all those decades of environmental campaigning that got us over that hurdle to that place, are totally wrong. Corbyn states that our movement has to be as strong on environmental protection and eco-protection as it is on social justice, because that is the way we protect the future for all of us.

The Living Wage

He declares that he does not think there is anything particularly extreme in saying a living wage should be for all workers at ten pounds an hour. You should have rights at work from the time you start your work.

On University Fees

He admits that Labour’s proposal is expensive, but he thinks it’s the right way to invest our money. It was to end college and university fees in order to make further and higher education free for everyone that wants to undertake it.

These are excellent policies and are certain to draw fire from the Tories and Blairites. There was a piece in the I this weekend about the massive growth in British arms exports. It’s supposed to have grown by 83 per cent last year.

And it was under Thatcher and Major that student grants were axed, and tuition fees introduced under Tony Blair, though they were raised massively by the Tory – Lib Dem Coalition.

As for Trump’s position on the environment, this is almost omnicidally dangerous. Some environmental scientists, according to the press, believe that we may actually only be ten years away from the tipping point where global warming is irreversible. We have to protect the environment, if we are not to bequeath our children a ruined, poisoned, dying world.

Now watch the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the right-wing press go absolutely berserk telling everyone that this’ll all be bad for the economy, that businesses won’t be able to afford it, that it’ll make our exports uneconomical, and repeat all the old tropes about ‘high spending Labour’ and that this will lead to more tax rises ad nauseam. Of course, none of this will be connected to the fact that very many Tory MPs have strong links to the arms and petrochemical industries, and that too many MPs across the House are millionaire managing directors. Quite apart from the fact that any tax rises Labour may make will be placed on the extreme rich, not the poor, who can’t afford it. It’ll be the complete reverse of what the Tories and New Labour have done.

The Difference Between Tories and Labour over Misogyny and Offensive Jokes

October 23, 2017

Mike’s put up several pieces over the past few days commenting on the recent ‘dead cat’ scandal the Tories are manufacturing over a joke Clive Lewis made at the Labour party conference. In one event, one male volunteer asked if he could take part on his knees. Lewis replied that he could, and jokingly referred to him as ‘bitch’.

This complete non-event, which no-one present objected to at the time, is now the subject of a storm of fake indignation from the Tories and their Blairite enablers in the Labour party, like Jess Philips, who is accusing Lewis of sexism and misogyny. One Tory female MP, Nusrat Ghani, wants an early day motion to debate Lewis’ horrendous comment.

A friend of mine used to be a member of the Conservative party, right up until John Major said baldly that students only went to university to avoid going to work. He was at the same College I was, and worked extremely hard, as did so many other students despite the propaganda pumped out by the press. You can probably remember the stories – students are all lazy, don’t do any studying and just use their grant money to get drunk. Realising that the party he’d supported had nothing but contempt for him and others like him, he left. Discussing the state of the Tory party, he quoted the old saying, ‘the Tory party is an organised hypocrisy.’

And as Mike has shown, it certainly is. In spades. He has provided quote after quote from Tories swearing at constituents, and making racist and very sexist comments. One female Tory MP was caught repeating the figure of speech ‘N***er in the woodpile’. One of the most horrendous hypocrites has been Paul Staines, of the Guido Fawkes blog infamy. Despite his professed horror at the use of the word ‘bitch’, Staines has bandied it around fairly freely himself. Mike quotes a couple of young women on Twitter, who were seriously maligned by Staines and his followers. One was accused by Staines when she was 17 of having got her place in Momentum through providing sexual services, and another was similarly hounded by his slavering followers when she was 19.

In fact, the idea that Staines has any respect for women is incredible, considering his political connections. Back in the 1980s, Staines was part of a Libertarian group on the fringes of the Tory party. This group were so extreme, that one year they invited the leader of one of the Central American Fascist death squads to be the guest of honour at their annual dinner. This were the same death squads that raped women, and sexually mutilated both their male and female victims. But now the poorly fellow is terribly outraged by the jocular use of the word ‘Bitch’.

This government has certainly been no friend to women, despite the attempt to portray the selection of Theresa May of Prime Minister as the Second Coming of Maggie Thatcher. As one of the female commenters on Twitter quoted by Mike has pointed out, the Tories have closed rape crisis centres. They also inserted a rape clause to justify not paying child benefit to women, who had a third baby through sexual violence.

And on the subject of rape and women’s reproductive rights, Jacob Rees-Mogg went off and said abortion couldn’t be justified at all, even when the child was conceived through rape. For which Mogg, now also being touted as the next great Tory leader, was also pilloried.

And the hypocrisy comes particularly thick and fast in the shape of Boris Johnson. Mike’s provided a number of comments from Blond Bruiser, which shows just how deeply prejudiced he is. In one of them, he says that women only go to university to find husbands(!) Well, yes, people often meet their future partners at Uni. But most students, female and male, go to university because they enjoy the subject they want to study, and hope that pursuing it will enrich their lives as well as hopefully lead to better career prospects, if not a career. For example, it has been projected that soon the majority of people in medicine will be women. And it’s very clear from the number of female doctors and other medical professionals that they studied medicine because they wanted to be doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychiatrists and therapists, not because it was simply a nice way of meeting a prospective husband.

The most recent offensive comment uttered by BoJo was about Libya and the prospects for capital investment despite the carnage wrought by the civil war raging there. Boris stated that he had British investors lined up to turn the town of Sirte into the next Dubai ‘after they’d cleared away the bodies.’ This cavalier reference to the police and civilians shot down in a battle with Islamist militants understandably upset a lot of people. It was even denounced in one of the Libyan parliaments. But the last thing I saw about it on YouTube had the headline that Boris wasn’t going to apologise.

He should. But he hasn’t.
Lewis, on the other hand, has. And according to the I today, Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the comment.

And so we’re back to Tory hypocrisy, as amply supported by Mrs Nusrat Ghani.

For the various comments and Mike’s response to them, see

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/22/never-mind-clive-lewis-what-about-the-racism-and-sexism-alleged-of-these-scottish-tories/

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/10/21/this-is-not-the-state-of-british-politics-but-you-should-still-be-sickened-strong-language/

The Robbins Report and the Expansion of University Education

March 16, 2016

The expansion of higher education and its extension to students from working class backgrounds was a policy that had its origins in a Conservative government. This was the Robbins Committee formed by Harold MacMillan’s government, which produced a report in 1963. This argued that higher education should be made available to everyone, who had the ability. They were assisted in this by the massive growth in secondary education, and the growing need for an educated class of technicians and workers for industry. The Labour party under Harold Wilson was also planning to found 40 new universities.

Sullivan, in his The Development of the British Welfare State, writes of this

Into this maelstrom of political activity, emerged the Robbins Report in October 1963. Its most important recommendation was that ‘courses in higher education should be available to all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’ In effect, this was to mean two things. First, that all candidates with good enough A-level passes would be eligible (thus satisfying the ability criteria). Second, however, it meant that local authorities would be committed to funding all candidates accepted by higher education institutions. For the recommendations of the Anderson Committee that all students in higher education should be grant-aided had been implemented while the Robbins Committee was sitting.

The implications of the Robbins proposals were momentous. First, the report assumed a 50 per cent increase in the number of higher education students by 1967, turning into a 250 per cent rise by 1980. As the bulk of these were to be in universities, new universities would need to be built. As the need for technological development was recognised by the committee, the Colleges of Advanced Technology, (CATs) were to be translated into universities. (p. 148).

Among its conclusions, the Report stated ‘But we believe that it is highly misleading to suppose that one can determine an upper limit to the number of people who could benefit from higher education, given favourable circumstances.’

‘[J]ust as since the war more children have stayed on at school for a full secondary education, so in turn more of their children will come to demand higher education during the 1970s…’

‘This in itself is … no guarantee that the quality of students will be maintained if there is an increased entry. There is, however, impressive evidence that large numbers of able young people do not at present reach higher education….

‘The desire for education, leading to better performance at school, appears to be affecting the children of all classes and all abilities alike, and it is reasonable to suppose that this trend will continue…

Finally, it should be observed that fears that expansion would lead to a lowering of the average ability of students in higher education have proved unfounded. Recent increases in numbers have not been accompanied by an increase in wastage and the measured ability of students appears to be as high as ever.’

(From Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty years of Britain’s Welfare State, 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 125).

It’s to SuperMac’s credit that his government did open up university to people from the working classes. Since Margaret Thatcher’s time, the Tories have increasingly wanted to shut it off to students from poorer backgrounds. Higher education has been privatised, funding cut, and student grants abolished. Instead they’ve been replaced with loans, which have escalated to exorbitant levels beyond the ability of many students to pay as free education has been abolished. Bliar’s government took the step of introducing tuition fees nearly a decade ago now, but it was Cameron’s coalition government that raised them to £9,000 a year. And many universities have been pressing for further increases.

What this means is that graduates and former students now live with considerable debts, to the point that they may never be able to afford a mortgage. This is despite Nick Robinson, one of the Beeb’s newscasters, leaping about the TV studio trying to convince everyone that student loans were going to be free money, because you didn’t have to pay them back if you didn’t earn a certain amount. Robinson’s enthusiasm for student loans is only to be expected. He was, after all, the head of the Federation of Conservative Students at Manchester University, and another link between the Tories and the BBC. When Bliar was discussing introducing student fees in the 1990s, there was considerable concern that this would make university too expensive for poorer students. The result would, in the view of one university spokesman, be that universities became a kind of finishing school for wealthy former public school pupils.

I don’t know if that’s quite happened yet. There are still many thousands of pupils willing and eager to go to university. However, with tuition fees rising to the tens of thousands and no funding available for those from lower or middle class backgrounds, it does seem to me that the Tories are aiming at taking us back to the situation before 1963. Four decades of Thatcherism is undoing SuperMac’s work, and higher education is being increasingly selective on the basis, not of talent, but of wealth.

Which is what you’d expect from a government led by toffs.