Dean Machin’s article “Defining the variables: students who will earn more should pay more” (Opinion, 5 November) appears both misguided and misleading.
Already, we have a generation of students who have been told that the purpose of a university education is to earn more money, and who therefore are more concerned with marks and career outcomes than intrinsic interest in a subject. Differential fees based on average post-qualification incomes will only reinforce this message.
Machin also misleads about the prospects of philosophy graduates. Evidence from the US suggests that they are among the highest-earning humanities graduates. But one should study philosophy for its own sake; and career outcomes have at least as much to do with an individual’s drive and talent as with the subject they study.
Studies show a wide range of benefits to degree study, not merely economic ones, and not merely to individual graduates but to society. And while a degree is likely to produce a higher income, some graduates might find that their education leads them to the idea that happiness is not to be measured in financial gain alone.
Machin’s proposal would skew admissions. Students from affluent backgrounds might feel more able to pay higher fees, thus tending to entrench inequality. The message would be given out that lower-cost subjects were “time-wasting”, rather than valuable in their own right and often producing decent career prospects. We might find that philosophy will not be taught in such a climate. My own subject, drama, might be earmarked as one that could charge higher fees, given the need for studios and such, but it would not be regarded as leading to high earnings. We’d lose out on every level.
Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday. View terms and conditions.