Thursday, December 09, 2010

Elitism in the tuition fees debate: left, right and centre

Following the tuition fees debate in the media I have been a little disturbed by some of the implicit elitism at work.(I have no problem with elite universities – higher education finance needs to ensure we can compete globally. My issue is with elitism: The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favoured treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.

On the left (or at least centre-left) we have blogger Marko Attila Hoare commenting:

the simultaneous expansion and dumbing down of higher education over the past two decades, and to the proliferation of Mickey Mouse courses and institutions, where third-rate students could take courses on East Enders Studies or Football Studies or whatever

In the middle at the Independent Mary Dejevsky asks:

Everything else is being cut, so why not student numbers?

I think I caught a Liberal Democrat MP suggest on Radio Four's World at One that fewer students would be better than higher fees.

On the right flank the Daily Telegraph reports that Conservative MP David Davis opposing the Coalition's fees plans as believes that the answer to higher education funding problems is a reduction in the number of universities and people attending them.

Whatever we think of the Coalition’s proposals, it is a pity that there is not a stronger recognition of the vital role that higher education can and should play in promoting social mobility. It is disappointing that a higher proportion of young people are now getting a degree in Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic than the UK. It is even more depressing than so many opinion-formers favour an even lower proportion here.

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