Today’s lesson in the basic fact about our universe that there are costs and benefits to everything. Those free lunches simply do not exist.
If we’re to send some vast number of young people off to university then there are going to be vast numbers of young people at university. Quite why this should surprise people is unknown but there we are:
Down with 'studentification': how cities fought for their right not to party
From Bristol to Nottingham, university towns across the country are facing up to the negative impacts of large student populations
If we’re to send 50% of the age cohort off away from their parents for 3 years then we’re going to have 50% of the age cohort off away from their parents for three years. It’s not necessary to be a particularly assiduous student of human nature to catch that this is going to mean loud parties, lots of drinking, staying up late and all the rest of that.
The term “studentification” – coined by the academic Darren Smith in 2002 – refers to the impact student bodies have on the cities around them. For all the vibrancy a large influx brings to a local culture and economy, the indirect consequences can be profound: family homes make way for buy-to-let HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy), bars and fast-food outlets replace primary schools, and “street blight” takes hold as properties lie unkempt and deserted outside of term-time.
There is a useful solution of course. Start charging the students - perhaps financed by loans - the costs of their education and perhaps we’ll have fewer of them doing economically non-useful courses in grievance studies. If people are doing economically useful things then obviously, we’re happy enough to put up with the costs.
Our definition of economically useful being, as always, that the benefits are greater than the costs. Again, as ever, we’re trying to find the optimal balance between student education and studentification. Which, again again as ever, is something we find out from the interplay of market forces.