Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

No Argument, Vince - Just Coalition Cant and Puerile Propaganda

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

No Argument, Vince - Just Coalition Cant and Puerile Propaganda

Article excerpt

Fred Inglis responds to the secretary of state for business' defence of the 'swift and absolute destruction of the idea of a university'.

There appeared in these pages recently some 900 words of emollient, complacent and, it must be said, insolent prose purporting to "argue" that "the coalition's ... controversial reforms are delivering a more progressive and sustainable system" ("Bruising but beneficial", Opinion, 15 November). The insolence is plain in the assumption made that the readership is incapable of rational criticism, cannot see for what it is the damnable incompetence and incoherence, let alone moral poverty, of present policy in higher education, and would allow to pass this unembarrassed eructation in the most ordinary of MA theses.

No doubt business secretary Vince Cable did not dream up this dreadful stuff from under his preposterous fedora, but handed the task to some eager beaver in the office, already stoned on the cant of policy cannabis. But it is Cable's name at the top of the page and his the responsibility for its shameful effrontery.

For a start, the piece nowhere acknowledges just how complete is the chaos in university life caused by the "controversial reforms". There is no mention of tripled fees, a rise unmatched in university history and unimitated by any other nation. No figures are given for the assertion that "there are more loans and bursaries in place for those from poorer families" (this claim turned out to be simply false or insupportable in the first five admissions offices randomly tried out for verification). The succeeding sentence, held up as evidence of "progressive sustainability", is the merest gibberish: "loans will be repaid only once graduates have jobs and are earning more than Pounds 21,000 a year" - such a sum being well below the national median income and surely a disappointment to anybody with a decentish degree in, say, nursing or engineering. Our creature then goes on, "This means that more will never ... pay at all", from which fatuous observation it can only follow that "more" graduates will remain at or below Pounds 1,750 a month, before tax and for ever.

One has to brush aside such repellent sentences as this: "Sadly, some wilfully distort the facts about higher education funding to try to score cheap political points." But the points are not cheap - they are terribly expensive: Pounds 9,000 per student per year, plus the withdrawal of all state cash from the teaching of the humanities, and that's just the beginning.

At the moment, so much turns for university managers on the grotesque inadequacy of the official surveys of student satisfaction, sanctimoniously cited for approval by Cable. …

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