Sunday, 5 December 2010
Bonfire of the Humanities?
'Widening Participation', 'Inclusivity', 'Equality and Diversity', 'Student Experience'.
These are the terms I have to conjure with every day of my working life within a University.
Yet what when the 'student experience' we are trying to provide is undercut by a Government determined to triple tuition fees, close libraries and youth clubs and continue selling off playing fields?
What if this leads to a nation where the Arts and Humanities become a luxury as no one can afford to anticipate a degree where they do not have the highest chance of employment at the end, whilst such under-funded departments are simultaneously cut and shut owing to lack of demand?
Is this not a kind of 'apartheid' on those who can afford it least, not to mention our national cultural life and riches in the form of future historians, philosophers, latin scholars, writers, sociologists and artists? As for talk of a 'graduate tax', do graduates not already pay greater income tax by dint of winning the better-paid jobs? Besides which, why would graduates wish to pay back many more times the cost of (even an inflated) student loan until they die?
As it is, many young people cannot afford to leave home, leading to the so-called 'boomerang generation', still going back to Mum and Dad throughout their 20s and even 30s. 37 is now the average age at which an individual first gets onto the property ladder, and even then, often only because they have been subsidised by their families in order that they can stretch to it.
Small wonder we are seeing longer delays before marriage and reproduction take place to the point that some women who might have wanted children are missing the boat altogether and the middle class are being squeezed the most in trying to pay all their bills and bring in two salaries to cover the mortgage as well as afford children, childcare and pay back their tuition fees.
I believe we are coming to a stage where we have to ask ourselves if society is not for people, then who or what, is it for?
This society is increasingly pricing itself out of the market for many, without even offering us security and sufficiency of employment, yet it expects us to carry on spending as if there is no tomorrow.
This government has to date given all the appearance of two overgrown schoolboys playing with a large train set and saying to one another 'I wonder what would happen if we closed this station' or 'I wonder what would happen if we tripled the fares on this train?' with the disinterested fascination of two boys who fail to notice the figurines are real and who have every expectation of a consequence-free playtime.