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What the public thought of the tuition fees debate

December 10th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized by

A bit of a lazy post for last-thing on a Friday.

The following are the emailed and tweeted comments highlighted by the BBC yesterday during their online coverage of the debate and protest.

I think they provide an interesting demonstration of the breadth of opinion, which is all-too-often portrayed (mainly by the anti-reform camp) as though it is a one-sided debate, with most of public opinion leaning against reforms that are being foisted on an angry nation by an isolated and unrepresentative government.

One caveat needs to be stated up front: the BBC will have chosen these views explicitly to give voice to the broad range of opinions, so nothing below indicates the proportions holding each view (though it is noticable how many do support the government’s position). Even so, the range – and some of the specifics – are very enlightening.

(Note that the numbers indicate the time at which it was posted, and some are clearly responses to earlier tweets).

  1. 1102: @jonathand tweets: “Good luck to those of you attending the protests today. Keep your fingers crossed!”
  2. 1106: Political blogger @dizzy_thinks tweets: “Why do the lecturers who believe in “free education” not forgo their salary and work for nothing?”
  3. 1113: Will Straw writes in Left Foot Forward: “The tuition fees rise will leave students of all backgrounds worse off.”
  4. 1110: Jaclyn Horrod in Keynsham writes: “I am paying for a course I want to study. That’s fair and right. If I end up making money from my chosen career as a mature student, then that’s absolutely fine. Frankly there is no universal right to higher education and the cost of the taxpayer funding the thing is outdated and frankly selfish.”
  5. 1121: Labour activist @BenMosley tweets: “Good luck to all the students and lecturers lobbying their MPs today. LibDem MPs should listen to the people and vote no.”
  6. 1117: Charlotte Hurrell in Lincoln writes: “While we understand that changes do need to be made to help the country’s crisis, this is not the way to do it. The phrase ‘mourning the death of education’ has been passed around and it certainly is true. This is not only the death of education, it is the death of our nation’s professional future.”
  7. 1136: Michael White, writing in the Guardian’s politics blog asks: “If an MP such as Tim Farron thinks the fees policy is progressive, should he vote against just because he once signed a pledge promising to do so?”
  8. 1128: Henk de Vries in Hull writes: “The proposals are not unreasonable. If this gets blocked by the Liberal Democrats it may provoke a general election, where Liberal Democrats will lose seats in favour of the Conservatives. The ultimate outcome of tuition fees after that is likely to be worse.”
  9. 1139: @postdocal tweets: “Going to be an interesting day at demo2010. Police horses warming up and getting riot visors in front of palace. Helicopters buzz above.”
  10. 1155: Jim writes: “Time to tax all the ‘old school’ graduates who had free education. Tax them £9000 per year for three years as well so everybody feels the same pain. That is fair.”
  11. 1201: @hesspartacus tweets: “Dear Government. You owe me nothing. I owe you nothing. Deal? Thought not.”
  12. 1207: Iain in London writes: “I’m a graduate on the current system and although there are things wrong with it, at least I’m paying it off and should be rid of it in five to 10 years. With these new plans most people will not get anywhere near paying off the full amount and this will end up like a permanant tax on graduates.”
  13. 1213: James in London writes: “Increasing numbers of students result in increased costs which the government is unable to pay. The money needs to come from somewhere. Asking those who benefit most as a result of further education is the fairest method of so doing. As such I support the fee increase since it is an investment from which the recipient benefits for the rest of their life.”
  14. 1212: @drbams tweets: “MPs – You can’t represent everything by a pound sign and nothing else. Cuts and higher fees are the thin end of the wedge.”
  15. 1231: Damian Thompson, for the Telegraph’s politics blog writes: “The Lib Dems are on the verge of Weimar-style implosion today. It couldn’t happen to a nicer party.”
  16. 1236: Josephine Hyde-Hartley in Bacup writes: “Education, like information, should and could be free from cradle to the grave in a truly progressive democracy like the UK. Like health care, education is a public good.”
  17. 1246: @Mandrew_IOM tweets: “Now is the time for MPs to decide if they want to lose their jobs in four years, or hold on to their dignity.”
  18. 1320: Brian in London writes: “It simply isn’t fair that binmen and postmen pay for students to study media studies through their taxes. It is surely fair for those students to pay, when their salary allows it in the future, for their own education.”
  19. 1341: Tiffany Smith in London writes: “As a PhD student and visiting university lecturer, I urge MPs to vote against proposals today for the future funding of Higher Education, in particular the withdrawal of public funding for the teaching of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I am deeply concerned both by the rapidity with which decisions are being made and the ill-considered assumptions that underlie the proposals.”
  20. 1346: Robbie Scourou tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay Vince Cable making a lot of sense, pity more students aren’t watching this… “
  21. 1352: Benjamin Bogdanovic tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay 200+ PCs on Horse Guards Avenue ready to intercept any marchers coming from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall.”
  22. 1407: JW in Thame writes: “I have two reasons why the bill should be passed. Firstly, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay for others to study for a degree when, secondly, there are many apprenticeship schemes, colleges and training programmes that provide similar, if not better, career training.”
  23. 1420: John, in Dundee, writes: “As a student I completely support the fee rise in England and if it should come, Scotland. The UK has spent too long spending money on luxuries it can’t afford and it’s only fair that students should give something back to the fantastic service many universities provide!”
  24. 1439: Ollie Micklem from Chelmsford tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay the offering of courses such as harry potter studies don’t deserve to be funded by taxpayer so the gov is right in the cuts”
  25. 1449: OE, London, texts: “As a medical student, the prospect of paying £40k to become a doctor would have probably led to me becoming a lawyer or banker. Talking to my friends, I am not alone in this.”
  26. 1454: Atina Shirvanian from Liverpool tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay as a history student in Liverpool my department has already faced cuts. Anymore cuts and it will face closure”
  27. 1459: Lisa in Liverpool writes: “I am for the fee rise, as it will encourage students to spend their time at university in a more productive manner. The increase in fees will increase attendance at university and increase the quality of degrees. What does worry me, however, is that with such a lengthy payback time and by allowing an interest rate to be imposed many students will be burdened with these repayments for life.”
  28. 1506: Paul Calzoni Weiss tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay I’m an American, I like the UK system because it is accessible to all. This measure will make the system American, not good.”
  29. 1511: Sean Byrne in Lanark, Scotland, writes: “I’m amazed that people think tuition fees are a good thing. The money spent by the government on the fees should be thought of as an investment the country as a whole benefits from. The graduates are our future managers and leaders and so generate the taxes through their hard work!”
  30. 1517: Amy Martin-Madeley in Cleveland, Ohio, US writes: “In a way I can understand the anger and resentment behind the protests, but having just graduated from a university in the US I cannot really sympathise with what in my view are still pretty cheap fees at £9,000 a year.”
  31. 1556: E Davis in Littlestone, Kent writes: “Shouldn’t all these protesting students be sitting at their desks learning, instead of making a nuisance of themselves and costing the taxpayer big money to pay for police overtime?”
  32. 1600: JC in Birmingham writes: “In response to Willam Hague’s insistence that students with lower paid jobs will be better off – we students do not want to graduate with extortionate debts of an estimated £40,000 only to be better off earning less. Surely this defeats the point of going to university at all?”
  33. 1613: Nick Jackson tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay To Mr Davis: Shouldn’t those office workers sat at their desks be protesting instead of sitting watching the UK fall apart?”
  34. 1624: Tom Waters in Cheltenham writes: “I’m a student, and I’m fully in favour of the increase in fees. The fact of the matter is that having a degree nets you an average of £100,000 in increased income across the course of your life. It’s fair that people pay for that privilege.”
  35. 1637: James Carlton tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay The students protesting really just do not understand, or do not want to understand the actual policy. An excuse to fight.”
  36. 1659: Simon Reed in Nottingham writes: “I wonder how many of those who received free university education and now say that it’s fair to increase fees will be donating 9% of their wages until contributions reach £27,000 to help reduce the deficit.”
  37. 1715: Chris Differ in Glasgow writes: “The Lib Dems are going against a promise they made in the run-up to this year’s general election. If the government goes back on their promise shouldn’t we all be on the streets demonstrating?”
  38. 1723: David Chatterton in Winchester writes: “On the subject of student fees, I have yet to see reference to the situation should a graduate decide to join the ‘brain drain’. If student loans are collected via income tax, how does the government intend to recover the amount if the student emigrates? Surely the current situation provides an added incentive to do so.”

5 Responses to “What the public thought of the tuition fees debate”

  1. Jock Says:

    1236: Josephine Hyde-Hartley in Bacup writes: “Education, like information, should and could be free from cradle to the grave in a truly progressive democracy like the UK. Like health care, education is a public good.”

    I wish people who don’t understand what they mean would not bandy around phrases like “public goods”.


  2. Psi Says:

    It is sad how many protestors appear to need an education. Sadly I think they could spend years at univeristy and not learn what they need to know, they need to get out in to the work place to learn the lessons they need.


  3. Tom Papworth Says:

    I agree. “Education… should and could be free” is an absurd thing to say. Education is extremely expensive.

    Now that we’re looking at specific examples:

    1155: Jim writes: “Time to tax all the ‘old school’ graduates who had free education. Tax them £9000 per year for three years as well so everybody feels the same pain. That is fair.”

    How is it fair to tax a teacher graduating in 1995 £9,000 a year when a 2015 graduate teacher will pay barely £800 a year. In fact, £9,000 in tax would bankrupt almost anybody.

    I do love the comment at 1201 by @hesspartacus, though. If only he was expressing a deep-felt view rather than what is, I suspect, merely a response to yesterday’s vote.


  4. Jock Says:

    Don’t know about it being expensive though – £239 buys you a year’s full subscription to all five levels of RosettaStone’s language courses.

    Hesspartacus is actually not a bad conservative leaning libertarian. There’s only “deep felt” people who post Reason.tv episodes on their blogs :-)


  5. Philip Walker Says:

    I love teaching undergrads. But I won’t be responsible for my actions if someone tries to force me to do it free.