University Challenged

Posted: 8th February 2011 by Get No Happy in Angry Rants, Politics
Tags: ,

China announced today that it will demand all ISPs operating in the country hand over all search data collected on their customers. In addition the party chairman announced from now on the various security and police services could intercept and analyze all electronic traffic of their citizens without warrant and with very little cause. Oh wait they didn’t, it was the Labour (and Tory) party last year.

Why begin with this? Well, party because it suggest that, to many, (The Labour Party, the press, activists and students) the distinction between a freedom-stomping edict by a tyrannical government and a tedious announcement by a liberal democracy is whether the reason for it concerns a city square massacre or protecting Simon Cowell’s royalty payments. So I think this is worth noting for it’s own sake.


Your unauthorised access of copyrighted material
has been reported to the police

Also, it must be remembered that when the bill was announced (then later passed) there were no mass protests or marches or inconsequential minor assaults on royalty to herald its arrival. Thus, as someone who emailed, wrote and drunkenly ranted about the DEB to anyone who would listen (and gained a nice collection of MP letters in the process), I’m a little bitter the mighty cadre of students who bravely cut class earlier this year didn’t really care about one of the biggest assaults on personal liberty ever seen, orchestrated by th Dark Lord himself at the behest of an unpopular and morally bankrupt party who knew their days were numbered. However threaten to make them (Us I suppose) pay for something (eventually, if it’s useful) then suddenly it’s to the barricades before you can say October Revolution.

Suppose this really is why I’ve avoided commenting on the Coalition’s approach to higher education: Not because I agree, I don’t, but the fuss was excessive, especially when the alternatives were either a smaller HE system (but that’s unfair!!!!) or a graduate tax – ya know, paying an extra tax when your income goes over a certain threshold, but forever. Now however the Death Star of social engineering has once again entered the orbit over the higher education base on Yavin 4. Labour spent most of their 13 years in office (THIRTEEN YEARS remember) trying to turn universities into social cement mixers, but I was really hoping their departure would be the end of it. Alas not


Yes, lay the foundations for a devalued HE system,
but make sure it’s spread equally… *Satire*

Now, this is not to say the top universities don’t have a role to play. For instance should it be shown that while, say 90% of top A-Level students from non-state schools apply to Oxbridge, but only 10% of top State pupils apply, then this could be seen as a legitimate issue that universities should deal with. Clearly they either don’t advertise to those schools enough or state students are intimated by stereotypes of student life at such institutions. However, State student not having the grades to get into the top universities is a very different problem that is nothing to do with these institutions. This is like blaming the estuary bridge for the detritus floating beneath it. It’s one thing to suggest lack of access and inequality is due to nepotism or snobbery, but its quite another to suggest that simply having high entrance requirements is a sin universities need to be purified of.

Universities are at the end of the chain, not the beginning. The problem isn’t unequal access, it’s unequal primary and secondary education, unequal parenting and social norms. Attacking only the final & terminal stage of an illness is not the way to cure or prevent it in the first place. To shamelessly misquote myself Kicking open the gate of Rome to the barbarian hordes didn’t mean they could build aqueducts. Demanding lower standards while wielding the financial-penalty axe to affect a ideologically desire socio-economic mix doesn’t alter the circumstances that generated the perceived inequality. But I suppose forcing some faux-egalitarianism on ‘elitist’ institutions is much easier and more crowd pleasing than attributing failure to people rather than a faceless ivory tower, and not to mention a gentle sop to those appalled by Lib Dem support for the tuition fee increase.


The financial-penalty axe takes on social injustice

Everyone should have an equality of opportunity when in comes to entering higher education. This means admittance being influenced by nothing more than the grades required. The variables that affect these grades are the responsibility of many people: The state, the local authority, the local community, the parents and yes, the student, but not the universities themselves.

I suppose what hurts the most is this comes after I made an impassioned plea in Mr Clegg’s defense. The betrayal!

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