Goodbye Social Mobility
On Tuesday I attended the graduation ceremony of students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and was immensely proud of these students, many of whom are friends. People I’ve shared time, notes and many a dancefloor with. And it was indeed a happy time for all.
This was somewhat tempered by the Dean of Faculty, Professor Martin McQuillan, who gave an impassioned speech on the humanities and the arts and the removal of provision for these by people who didn’t have to face the obstacles they’re now putting in front of today’s students. He spoke of the injustice of this, the great irresponsibility being showed by the government that proclaims “fairness for all” and then he spoke of hope. Hope in the graduands of the day, for their resilience and their mettle will help to ensure the arts and humanities do not die or simply become the domain of the higher middle class.
Never has there been such widespread fear and outrage across the board, amongst both students and staff. The picture being painted for Higher Education’s future is the bleakest we could have possibly imagined. In essence, we are being used to prop up the financial sector. And that is exceptionally irresponsible.
Yesterday the government announced a rise of tuition fees to between £6,000 and £9,000. With a claim that any institution wishing to charge beyond the £6,000 point show evidence of widening access. I wonder what more evidence they require, beyond what many institutions have already been doing? There are many institutions, Kingston, London Metropolitan and Middlesex, to name but a few that are already known for their work in widening access. So I cannot help but think this a move to create a two-tiered system, where students will then have to make University choices based on how much the degree costs. And of course the assumption will be that the more expensive the degree the better the programme, in effect marketising Higher Education. And only people from the higher echelons of society will even think of trying to gain entry to the institutions on the higher tier.
On paper, they claim that this system is more progressive. Well, students and staff across the board right now say otherwise, they’re saying this is a regressive system. This is an unhelpful system. This is a system that returns us to a time when not all could access Higher Education. Is this what the government meant when they proclaimed fair access for all? Did they really mean to say “Higher Education is not your domain” for this is the message they send out.
As a result, I call on all students, all staff, all members of the community who are as passionate about this as we are. All who are as incensed by this as we are, to come and march with us on 10 November 2010 through Central London. Join many students and staff from across the country as we proclaim and ask the government to put themselves in the shoes of the people whose lives they’re changing. More information can be found at www.demo2010.org