My experience of the National Union of Students was that they were a rather self-indulgent and self-aggrandising bunch who most members of the university despised. They spent most of their time grandstanding about racial and gender equality in a University which had (rightly) bent over backwards to ensure racial and gender equality for decades and they spent the rest of their time trying to boycott Israeli academics (presumably on the basis that there was no point attacking nations which oppress women or lock up gay people when you can vilify ones with pluralistic universities, freedom of speech and the rule of law). I admit they give out lots of condoms in Freshers’ Week which is rather useful, although mine was stapled to a leaflet so kind of pointless too.
Let’s be frank. Student politics is for children. And today’s protest is no exception (although the children in question are now rather violent and inclined towards arson).
So let’s all take a big (adult) vow not to listen to them.
The Coalition’s proposals are eminently sensible on the whole. It’s right and proper, as a matter of principle, that those who will benefit from university education should be the ones who fund it. Why should someone who chooses to go out to work at 16 years old and start a business have to pay for half of his peer group who choose to study for three years? Why should someone who will reap the financial rewards of being a lawyer or a doctor not shoulder some responsibility for their costs and training? Generous bursary provision and a culture of philanthropy where ex-students contribute to their alma mater is a likely consequence of all this – just look across the Pond at the excellent schemes in place in America. But even without these protections, the scheme itself contains a number of safeguards, such as the following:
1. The student repays the loan over 25 years and according to their ability to pay.
2. Graduates earning below £21,000pa would not pay any real interest on loans.
3. Outstanding tuition fee debt that cannot be paid will be written-off after 25 years.
It also means, undoubtedly, that our universities will be better funded, will produce better research and will turn out better graduates.
So - even if CCHQ gets a bit of a battering today - the Coalition should stick to their guns in the knowledge that they are doing the right thing.