17 March 2009

Cathecism of Cliché (Higher Education Edition)

How do university vice-chancellors seek higher tuition fees?

They push for them.

Whom do them push?

David Lammy.

What would such an increase represent?

A hike.

The press really do poorly conspire to dramatise bureaucratic exercises. Push me here, pull me there - a sharp hike for all lollygaggers - and a generous pot of debt for every foolhardy cretin who gets A*AA in their A' levels. Given that most of the gurning faced lags of the media are graduates of some character - many of them blessed with three or four years of English literature - the predictable, endless, empty-headed troping is enough to cause one's blood vessels to implode as a consequence of extreme hypotension. Alas, the rumours of my emancipation from extreme busyness have proved grossly overrated. However, I can't resist a small discursive outing in response to the peeping canard of student funding, which has proudly waddled back into the Scots and wider UK political discussions. Via the Numpty - I see that wur ain parliament resolved the aforesaid last week:
That the Parliament recognises the importance of the higher and further education sector; notes the outcome of the New Horizons: responding to the challenges of the 21st century report and the need to involve key stakeholders in discussions about the funding of the university sector; believes that Scotland's students have been let down by the SNP government's failure to deliver on its manifesto pledge to dump student debt; notes the Supporting a Smarter Scotland consultation on student support and rejects all of its proposals for not adequately addressing student hardship; expresses serious concern at reports of childcare and hardship funds being stretched to breaking point across colleges and universities in Scotland; recognises the calls of the NUS and other student representatives for a £7,000 minimum income guarantee but believes that a £7,000 minimum income for all students in Scotland is unachievable with the funds allocated for student support by the Scottish Government in this spending review period, and calls on the Scottish Government to come forward with new proposals that focus the available resources at the poorest students to genuinely address student hardship in Scotland.
Wee Claire Baker referred to "Scotland's poorest students" during the debate. What interests me is quite who these people are, what markers might be used to identify them, and what counts as hardship? From my experience - in the absence of a fat inheritance - students are hardly flush. Governing here, then, is bankers' willingness to shell out to undergraduates in the expectation of the capaciously remunerated character of their future employment - or in alternative social strata - whether parents can be shoehorned into dipping into the family income to fund their kids' education.

While I don't want to minimise the barriers of social capital faced by these "poorest students", from my own experience the principle of parental reliance claims a few scalps of its own to boot. Student loans paid out (at the bottom rate) run to about 900 quid a year, now spread out across the months of term. Enough, round about, to pay for 3 months rent in a student flat in Edinburgh - probably not including the leckie and gas - leaving bugger all for anything else. Implicitly engaged in the calculation was what was described in my day, rather demurely, as a "parental contribution". Folks I've known, for whatever reason, blessed with mean mouthed mothers and fathers - themselves sufficiently flush to stump up, but tight-fistedly refusing to do so - face particular problems. State expectation of continued parental support assumes certain facts to be in evidence in families, another extension of the ongoing responsibilities accruing by consequence of insemination.

I would argue even to try to identify Scotland's poorest students - assuming we are speaking wholly financially - requires an inclusion of some wean's claim against the parental patrimony. Save for the small - probably profoundly small - section of students who have inherited - we are all asset and income poor.

No comments :

Post a Comment