Against 'free' higher education


There is a lot to be said for the wisdom that can come with age. Looking back at how little I knew just three years ago - before I joined the ASI - it is shocking to think how little I knew. Go back a bit further and the trite nonsense that I was spouting at university makes me shudder. At least I was not alone; the place was choc-a-bloc with students, whose grasp of the real world was limited in many weird and wonderful respects. This was not helped by the fact that the majority of academics were living in Never Land. Ignorance ruled.

It therefore does not surprise me that Opinionpanel Research have found that after the first two leaders’ debates, half of students were planning to vote Lib Dem. This is not a criticism of the Lib Dem policies overall (which are not markedly worse than the Conservative ones), but on the specific Lib Dem policy that many students like: vowing to scrap university fees over six years. In effect, a policy to redistribute money from those that will never benefit from higher education to those will.

The fact that most students are of the left, and so should be opposed to regressive taxation, makes the issue perverse, and worryingly I ‘d suggest it goes beyond ‘turkeys not voting for Christmas’. After all, they have already paid (or not). Despite the easy access students have to credit, somehow 'free' higher education has come to be seen as a right. It is time for the debate against subsidised higher education to enter the popular debate. The question is: Are any politicians brave enough to face down the historically riotous students? Perhaps they should, most are too lazy to vote.