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Student tuition fees was the big issue in English politics today. Clegg defended his position at PMQs, while the NUS marched outside. There was potential to damage the coalition, particularly with the politically opportunist change of heart on fees by Labour.

But then it all went wrong for the students: the protests descended into violence and confrontation, and the news channels were filled with students expressing astonishing levels of entitlement. Students justifying their bully-boy tactics made for pretty unpleasant listening. I felt great sympathy for the people working in the Millbank Tower and at 30 Millbank, and in the surrounding area.

The students' message appeared to be that they want taxpayers to give them money, and if they don't, violence will follow. Isn't that a protection racket?

What a nasty bunch.

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I know that you're a Tory and I'm not :), but I'll be curious to hear about the march from the student perspective (and not the media's) tomorrow. One of my second-year lit student organised our college's student entourage at the rally today; he was the one who arranged the coach etc. (I teach him tomorrow.)

Also, some of my teaching colleagues attended. I'll be interested in hearing their perspective. Like me, they're UCU members. I did think about attending, but the sad thing is I don't dare to miss much time as we can't fall behind -- there's so much to teach; I rarely take sick days also and feel bad when I do have to take a sick day. I don't feel bad about missing for an exam board course simply because they help us aid students. We're given tips and information that otherwise isn't received.

I will watch the news at 6pm. I've not seen anything before now as I've been teaching all day. There's been little opportunity even to read work email today -- it's been that busy, alas.

Edit: Ah, it sounds as if it started peacefully and mostly was peaceful until a small minority went wild. *sigh* There's always someone who has to ruin it. :(

Edited at 2010-11-10 06:02 pm (UTC)

I know someone who was on the march..but he was pretty annoyed about the NUS failing to keep things under control etc

Isn’t there a certain inevitability that a protest march against on a topic that fosters outrage in participants is likely to degenerate into violence?

I work in academia, I believe very strongly in the public funding of higher education, and right now even I'm finding it difficult to muster any sympathy for the students' cause.

Of course, the vast majority of the students were engaged in a peaceful, reasonable protest - as is their democratic right. Unfortunately, there's always a small minority (on both ends of the political spectrum) who are more interested in being militant than achieving their stated goals. It looks like they got sufficiently motivated today to screw everything up for the rest of us. The tragedy is that they've probably done more to destroy the argument for student funding than anything Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Blair could ever have done.

I hope they take the cleanup, repair and policing costs out of the student budget. If it is important enough to the students to protest then I think they should be prepared to foot the bill.

Would it not make sense for organising bodies, in this case the NUS to have to put up a good conduct bond before there public meeting. If it passes of peacefully they the money is returned. If not it is used to cover the costs. This would encourage organisers to keep things under control.

I mean you cannot organise any other type of event without paying for public libality insurance.

I hope they take the cleanup, repair and policing costs out of the student budget.
What student budget? One of the many things that students and academics are cross about is that the Browne report recommended that funding for teaching in all but a few subjects (science, engineering, and possibly but not definitely mathematics) cease entirely, the costs to be paid by the students themselves via a two- or three-fold increase in tuition fees.

Maybe the NUS could cover the bill? After all, they arranged the march.

An idea I agree with, what subjects are useful? Science, engineering, medicine, law. We need those so fund them to keep the numbers up, otherwise if you want to do a more hobby type subject with limited job opportunities then you can choose to and fund it yourself.

But even if the student is paying fees, who is really paying? Why we are, well in the short term. The student is getting a loan, backed by the government as a very low interest rate, so it is government debt. I think it is really just a physiological difference in whether the future debt is tied to the individual or to the country as a whole.

The main crux of the debate is that the fees are tripling unexpectedly. If they weren't raised, do people think it's right for the family to pay for their childrens university tuition now. In all the main Asian econnomies, only the family pays for the child's further education. It just doesn't occur to them that it should be paid for by taxes of others. Why can't we get that state of mind here?

Because education should be available to those qualified to make something of it, and that would price people with unfortunate or unsupportive families out of something that ought to be a right.

I'm more than happy for my taxes to support others' educations, as mine was supported for me. There are some uses of tax money that may be more urgently needed at times, but I doubt whether there is a better long term use of a nation's tax money than funding education.

Should taxpayers fund higher education for all? Or education for those who could benefit from it, for those who are deserving, for those who are academically able, for those who have potential?

And education in every subject? Or only in those that have a social or economic benefit?

When you were funded through higher education, universities were for the minority of school-leavers, and you were academically able, and you worked hard and could take advantage of the education on offer. The massive expansion in higher education in the last twenty years has seen many encouraged into light-weight subjects at second-rate institutions. If we could lose the dross, we’d have more taxpayer’s money to spend on real education.

Up to the age of 18 (A-Level) yes but university education is expensive. There are many responsibilities in being a parent and one should be to save a uni fund from the week your child is born as it's you who decided to have the child. Collective responsibity to pay for others people's children's uni education is not a good use of public taxes. Major companies should set up scholarship schemes so that very poor families who wish to send their child to further education can apply for.

It's not just the individual graduate who benefits from their education, the entirety of society does. The most obvious benefits are economic in nature, but one certainly shouldn't underestimate the non-economic side-effects of a highly-educated populace.

I'm certainly happy for my tax money to be spent on funding education for everyone, to as high a level as is useful to them; furthermore I have no objection to people learning less practical subjects, as long as they learn something. And if a more vocational route suits some people better than a traditional academic one, then they should be allowed to do that too. There are many far less useful things that our tax money gets spent on, at least education provides a decent return on the investment.

It also keeps school-leavers off the dole queue. I wonder whether that is the biggest motivation behind the expansion in student numbers in the past decade.

As a compromise, I suggest that the family pay half of the tuition but only for the first two children. Any further children must be fully funded by the trust fund system of the scholarship system for the poorest.

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