Alternatives to privilege (1 of 3)

June 23, 2011

Given that Frank Furedi and his comrades over at Spiked and the Institute of Ideas are consistent in their moralisation of debate, it was with no little irony that I read his dismissal of those critical of A.C. Grayling's New College of the Humanities as having "a moralistic tone" ("Grayling cries freedom", 16 June). Once he suggested that the government was a "regime" imposing a "state-run monolithic model" that UK universities ought to shrug off via a "free" (or, more accurately, independent) university movement, all sense of irony dissipated.

Does Furedi really think all UK universities are the same? Certainly more could be done to acknowledge, promote and celebrate the sector's diversity, and the good reasons for it. But his criticism of his colleagues' investment in, passion for and defence of UK higher education does not seem to offer any of these things.

On the same spread, we were also offered an idiosyncratic take on the tuition fees debate ("Martini belt buckles: how the wealthy lost the battle against fees"). The author, George Watson, appears to think that all those who attend university are, de facto, "the rich". Yet merely attending university seems a strange criterion for identifying the rich.

His argument seems to be that those who can afford to pay (and protest) tuition fees (at the current level) are manifestly "well off". Therefore, it is acceptable to put up fees further as (self-evidently) they can afford it. This seems an odd way of looking at things.

Plenty of students struggle to afford the cost of higher education as it stands, as evidenced by the increasing number of undergraduates who work during term-time.

Higher education is not currently the privilege of the rich, as it all too recently was. Let us work to ensure that the UK does not return to that state of affairs.

Nathan Emmerich, Queen's University Belfast.

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