Notes: On the Continuing HE Debacle

Higher Education is in dire straits. And not just because of cuts, but also because the sources of “critique” are severely lacking.

A report released on 28th of Jan by Lord Browne’s “independent” review somehow managed to come to the conclusion that University students would be willing to pay higher tuition fees for courses that lead to the highest-earning jobs. According to the Guardian:

The researchers found students, particularly those from the poorest homes, were willing to pay higher fees for courses that would lead to high-earning jobs. The majority of the 81 university applicants who were quizzed could be “sold on the idea,” they said.

Of course this simply demonstrates what we have said from the start: that the review is a sham – just as the Postgraduate Review also ongoing is a sham. But, still, there’s a certain illogicality to this that I do find surprising: the researchers found that the poorest students were the most willing to pay higher fees. Surely even the most braindead must ask themselves, “yes, so they’re willing in theory, but can they actually afford to pay these fees in reality?” Beyond that they might ask, how is it that the politics of a generation has been so manipulated that they will actually support policy that works against their own interests? Or perhaps instead, how is it that an investigation was so manipulated that it arrived at such distorted conclusions? (One friend has suggested that, given the low number of participants, perhaps they simply interviewed the members of one University’s Labour and Conservative party Societies).

Of course, the criticism levelled by both NUS’ Wes Streeting and UCU’s Sally Hunt (who almost word for word echoed each other) that such policy would leave poorer students hunting ‘for bargin basement degrees’ is also valid. But, note that neither question the basic validity of the review and the review process itself, nor dismiss it as not only a sham, but also as being fundamentally undemocratic. Furthermore, both allow that students fees are viable in themselves, and focus merely on  achieving a (slightly) better distribution of HE. Neither point to the basic contradictions inherent in the HE system and in our current system of government, nor call for:

1/ Immediate action
2/ A complete overthrow of the HE system
3/ A complete overthrow of the State

If they could even call for the first two, that might be enough. If they could even offer some sense of a unified critique of the HE system and of the governent, that might be enough. Instead they put the power and ability to bring about change in the hands of politicians, and in doing so they sell out their members. In a very real and actual sense both the NUS and the UCU are complicit with the current system, both are lackies of the State who only serve to bolster the government’s legitimacy and authority by providing a pseudo-opposition – i.e. the image of an opposition that does not, in reality, even provide the beginnings of a critique, presenting the debate instead as a series of isolated problems, each demanding its own individual solution.

UCU and NUS should completely cease to cooperate in any manner with the HE reviews, instead concentrating on producing and disseminating a review produced by their members (and strictly not shaped by “their” own argument – i.e. these bureaucratic institutions have become drastically separated from those they supposedly represent).

But, as I have said before, we cannot wait for or rely upon the reformation of these bureacracies. It is time for students, academics and university staff – and the populace more generally – to take matters into their own hands.



Sally Hunt of UCU on Left Foot Forward… why are all union leaders essentially Labour party supporters? Whatever happened to the REVOLUTION?


~ by Wit on February 8, 2010.

One Response to “Notes: On the Continuing HE Debacle”

  1. Hmm that’s amazing but honestly i have a hard time understanding it… wonder how others think about this..

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