1993 might not necessarily be that long of a time ago to many people, but in terms of further education it feels a lifetime away. In this time UK students have gone from paying nothing for a University education to paying upwards of £9,000 pound a year. Although in reality, ‘paying’ is not the optimum word.
Glancing through online articles for a bit of inspiration, it soon becomes apparent that education statistics have become much more saturated in recent years. The rise in earnings before students need to start paying back loans has increased, but even the mere talk of student loans, finance and payback can be collected up as evidence for one thing; further education is a neo-capitalist commodity. Universities would be little without students, we are the people who provide a reason for the government to supply them with thousands of pounds to teach us each year. For this, we expect a standard of education which matches this expensive tag; even if we aren’t the ones directly paying it.
The financial pay-back system for student loans in the UK is far better than that in, for example, the USA. Students get the money for their course loaned straight to their University and whether they pay any money back depends on how much they earn in the future. Paying for an education this way essentially removes the elitist factor of the University lifestyle. The fact that in just over 20 years the UK has gone from free university to £9,000 a year is proof that an increase in tuition fees has almost always been on the agenda, whether it be a Labour or Conservative Government. It was free not so long ago, yet the powers that be have seen fit to make paying for this next stage of education. Protests over the increasing fees have reared their head every now and again, but they have perhaps fallen on deaf ears in parliament.
Even in 2018, with all the assurance that most student loans don’t get paid back anyway, people are put off going to University due to having the £39,000 or so hanging over them. This of course being the total after course fees, living costs, text books etc. the argument of is education a commodity is a strong one when using this idea as evidence; it often requires a lot of money to not just get onto a course but to get by at University. If you find the right course it is 100% worth it, however that is another argument altogether.
In the UK everyone expects a good level of education. It should be a given right that every single person can have the opportunity of a decent education. When looking at Universities, should it also be a given that if people want more education they should have to not only pay for it put make it so expensive? The sharp increase in tuition fees can surely not be justified, especially considering the often-simplistic methods of lecturers. Few students would have not at least once thought about how their tutors seem to be reading straight from a slide show. That doesn’t quite make Uni feel worth the thousands of pounds it costs to get you sat in that lecture hall.
Essentially, University Education is a commodity, there’s no other way of looking at it. However, it is more widely accepted that some career paths require a degree to meet criteria. The system is improving in the sense that the payback system isn’t as flawed as some necessarily believe; but it does feel a million miles away from having free University education. Paying for the qualifications for your dream job is perhaps most positive way of thinking about it.