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Sorry Kids, Cameron Just Killed Your Future

The British government should be indicted for high treason. I surely hope it feels the heat from the recent student riots. When a bunch of privileged toffee-nosed boffins (aka the UK cabinet) decide to amputate the educational ambitions of their less financially fortunate countrymen they deserve to have a bonfire lit underneath their political agenda. With luck, this will be a slow-burning flame to engulf their silly tripling of tuition fees which will without doubt deter many a person from going to university or if they do, plunge them into so much debt that they are their unable to be economically active long after graduation. For a prime minister who studied economics at university, surely, Cameron knows that consumption is the beast that feeds economic growth.

Britain’s global competitiveness in 10 or 20 years will not depend on balancing the budget today but on the human and intellectual capital we build up between now and then. That capital will come, only, from a well educated workforce. The argument that not everyone needs a university education or that not every degree is “useful” is at best irrelevant and at worst disingenuous. A university education is “useful” not purely for the technical subject taught but for the process and method of learning and of solving problems which is what economic development and growth is all about. The world has changed since when a British education put you at the top of the heap. The less developed countries are raising their stock of educated people at a rate unseen before now. If we don’t limber up, they’ll catch us and then leave us behind.

Instead of stopping our kids from going to university we should be thinking about how to deliver a more cost effective university education. We could use technology like the internet for a start. The problem is that once people miss university at a young age it takes a herculean effort much later to go back to studying when weighed down by the responsibilities of family. And in an increasingly technologically-oriented world, not having the requisite knowledge and skills to (create and) use technology to solve our challenges be they social, economic, military, medical, energy or other is bound to diminish Britain’s economy, esteem and standing in the world and, in one extremity, relegate the country to the 21st century equivalent of the dark ages. We do not need the 10% richer upper class alone going to university plus a few lucky poor students on compassionate scholarships. We need as many as are able of our youth to be highly educated and, then eventually, for the most part we hope living and working in Britain at a level of productivity comparable to anywhere else in the world. The government just dimmed the lights on that future.

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