"Education, education, education" once screamed the formerly mighty Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for 10 years. The previous Labour administration wanted 50% of the country to go to University, an incredibly noble notion; one which they hoped would propel the UK into being one of the top educated countries in the world. A flawed dream though, they forgot one thing... More than 50% of jobs in the UK do not require a degree or other higher education qualification. You don't need a degree to stack shelves at Tesco, to flip burgers at McDonalds, nor to drive a bus etc. So, you make the process of getting into University easier by relaxing the syllabus and introducing more and more vocational courses (Exams aren't getting easier as such, just the process to pass them). More students mean more places at University are required, more courses are created. The old system of government grants for students to go to University has to be scrapped, 'top-up fees' are introduced so that everyone can go to University; although they now have to pay. From a young age you drill into children how wonderful University is and how they ought to go one to get a better job and a better life for themselves... you've just created one massively flawed and unsustainable system.
Every child in the UK for the past 10 years has grown up and been conditioned to think that going to University is a god-given right. They're wrong. It's a privilege. Education up until the age of 16 is a right; after then it's hard work, determination and money. It's that last point where most of the disagreements concerning University spawn from.
Let's flashback about 20 or so years ago. University education, for most, is free. It works on a grant system. Local governments sponsor their students through a University education, a wonderful system. Why can't we do this now? Quite simple, half the country demands to go to University. 20 years ago it was much harder to get into University; less places, less courses, meant that less people could go. The lesser amount of people you have wanting, or being able, to go to University the cheaper it is to send them all. Flash forward 20 years and half the country starts demanding that they have the right to go to University to 'get a better life' for themselves; it doesn't take a economist to work out that the same system simply isn't sustainable. Hence the introduction of top up fees.
If you're a home grown student going to University in England in September 2011, you'll be paying tuition fees of around £3,500 a year; not exactly as ideal as the old system, but a worthwhile investment. Wait a year and enrol in September 2012 though and you're in for a shock of £9,000 per year. This sharp rise in fees has angered many and it's actually the people who shouldn't be going to University in the first place who are complaining.
Prospective Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Chemists, Physicists, Computer Scientists are jobs that actually require a degree. Why do they require a degree? To put it simply, because you need a heck of a lot of training to be one of the above, if you don't have the necessary qualifications then you just can't do the job. These are professions that require training and qualifications no matter the cost. Students of these professions are also aware that they will either get golden handshakes in their future jobs, which will pay off their student debt, or it makes economic sense for them to study for such a qualification. Students studying Media Production at the University of Worcester, or those studying David Beckham Studies at Staffordshire University, DO NOT need a degree or qualifications. It is quite often these students who you will see protesting the streets of London and lobbying the government for their 'god-given right to a higher education.'
Tuition fees in the United Kingdom have been raised, quite simply, to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you're screaming "How can I ever pay back that debt? It's not a worthwhile investment" then don't go to University, to put it incredibly bluntly. The only reason why you should have a degree from a higher education establishment, is if you actually require one to do your job. The more people who have a degree directly devalues the point of them. It's educational elitism. A degree now almost means as much as a GCSE. Everyone has one, it's toilet paper. The increase in tuition fees will cause a dramatic drop in people studying for undergraduate degrees, this is something that I personally am happy for. Finally those studying David Beckham studies, or those pissing about with cameras for three years of their lives on taxpayers money, will finally realise that perhaps they don't actually need a degree after all... A drop in University applications will eventually resort in a drop in tuition fees as we slowly move back to the educational elitist system that we had before.
A small little disclaimer before I sign off. I spent three years at Staffordshire University (pissing about with cameras) studying for a BSc in Film Production Technology. My degree level education was incredibly subsidised at the taxpayer's cost and you know what? I didn't actually need it. No one needs a degree in Film Production Technology, it's a course that could be taught at a college and be graded as a diploma, it doesn't require degree status. In the 2010 elections I voted Liberal Democrat and personally I'm a Liberal borderline socialist; however after much reflection on the higher education system over the past few months, I guess I've managed to prove Marx right: "Scratch a liberal, find a fascist."
You don't need a degree in David Beckham studies, stop complaining and welcome to the real world. The line for social benefit is to your left.