Not everyone has to do the same thing

June 5, 2008

Controversy on the BBC breakfast news this morning about drop out rates from Universities. Looks like its about 14% entrants leave early. The official spokesperson came up with the classic phrase used by government officials in trouble: We’ve got to redefine what success and failure is. She also provided a terribly patronising series of comments mostly in the form of platitudes. In the past many people from working class backgrounds made it into University through scholarships and then, in the sixties and seventies where education was fully funded if you were academic enough to make it we got massive social mobility.

About 5% of the population went to University in those days and you were not considered a failure of you did not go. It was a recognition of the need for investment in research and intellectual development that a civilised society should provide, and a recognition that such investment is necessarily limited. We also had vocational courses and polytechnics which added huge value to a diverse system. All the Polytechnics are now rebranded as Universities and everyone is meant to go to university (measuring success by numbers not quality). We have created the conditions for failure. Also we can’t afford to fund it properly so student loans are the solution which of course rewards the Middle Class.

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