Pricing Our Young People out of Higher Education
Byline: DAFYDD WIGLEY
WHEN I first went up to Manchester University in 1961, our tuition fees were fully paid by our local authority. We received a maintenance grant of pounds 300 a year, worth over pounds 5,000 in today's money, subject to a parental means test.
This seems light years away from today's debate. Students have to face thousands of pounds in fees - a millstone around their necks. Potential students from poor or large families will shy away from such debts. Many young people - capable of benefiting from university - will turn their backs on higher education.
Potential doctors, teachers and lawyers may choose to follow less ambitious careers, which don't need years of university study. Career paths will be determined by finance, not by personal potential or the needs of the community. What a catastrophic waste!
Creating a target of 50% of all young people attending university was silly. The UK Government adopted this policy contrary to civil service advice. It refused to countenance the reality that every child is not born with the same level of academic ability. Many youngsters, misdirected to university, might have benefited more from skill-training relevant to the jobs-market.
How should higher education be funded? I would prefer a modest graduate-tax rather than the spectre of huge personal debt. If Universities in England charge fees without any upper limit, universities in Wales can't carry on regardless. The cash has to come from somewhere or running costs slashed. Higher education in Wales has already missed out on resources over the past decade - a direct result of Treasury under-funding public services in Wales. …