The Vice-Chancellor for my university has been publicly advocating the move to greater tuition fees. Although I do understand that universities in the UK are underfunded at the moment and that this needs to be addressed, I find it completely at odds with the government’s apparent wish to get 50% of people into tertiary education.

I also disagree quite a lot with the sudden changes that are being proposed … in South Africa (where I grew up) parents know from when their kids are born that if they want them to go to university they need to save significant sums of money so that they can fund this. My parents realised early on that I would be bright enough and saved accordingly. Then the universities charged fees but also had a variety of scholarships, to deal with everyone from the very bright, the disadvantaged right the way through to the sports superstars of tomorrow.

What this move will mean is that anyone in the next ten years who wants to get a degree without ending up in tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt (currently you leave a four year course in ?12 000 debt … and fees are set to triple!!) will need to be from a rich family. It is also likely to lead to further increases (once ?3.5k fees is the norm) and to price-differentiation between universities, the like of which you see in many other countries.

Although better funding will mean that universities can offer more facilities, employ more/better staff and so on, I imagine it will lead to much greater commercialisation as well. And I think the worst thing that can happen to academia is for it to become something run just like a business. What sort of escape will that be for all the academics?

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I think I am starting to ramble/rant … maybe a comments war would be more appropriate.

Tuition fees were the top scandal in today’s Queen’s speech but a lot of the other reforms look eminently sensible … especially the civil partnerships which I have commented on before.