My Mother says I always said ‘when I go to University’ from a very young age. She said it used to please her but also quite amuse her that I was so decided on that future when I couldn’t tie my own shoe laces.
My parents and grandparents are and were widely read, interesting people with diverting hobbies but it was not usual to go to University when they left full time education and certainly in my Mother’s case she would very much have liked to go to University but was effectively discouraged by her school and parents from doing so because it would serve no real purpose.
I did go to University and I cannot imagine who I would be today without having had that privilege. I genuinely enjoyed immersing myself in my chosen subject. I don’t pretend that I sat up until the early hours devouring medieval history books, of course I didn’t (unless I had a deadline), but I did and do love the subject I chose to study- and I may yet go back and pursue postgraduate study. After some long, sleepless nights, a great deal of long hand and even more typing, many cups of tea, a frankly silly number of fines from various London libraries and with a bit of luck and a bit of wit I graduated.
I thought about staying on at University, I had a place to, but I didn’t- I went out into the big wide world- and the person I went out as was so different to the girl who started that degree I cannot tell you. She had found a love for art, she had worked on a radio station, she had attended academic conferences and spoken with Professors as equals- and yes she had drunk whole rivers of alcohol and eaten her first pot noodle. In short she had found what it was to be her. Some of that could have been learned in the school of life but those three years are so precious to me I cannot put a price on them- and I hate that anyone would ever be asked to.
I may be an idealist but I do understand that British Universities need to be well funded to retain the best lecturers and provide the best libraries and so on. There is certainly also some truth in the fact that some people who attend University now don’t appear to necessarily have the desire to be at anything more than a glorified finishing school. Furthermore I certainly see that if you cannot achieve two A levels of a decent grade you should perhaps not be pursuing higher education. However each case is different and I don’t believe in anyone being shut away from anything in life, least of all the possibility of bettering themselves.
I don’t agree with tuition fees full stop. I don’t believe in a price on any form of learning. The idea of children not being offered a decent start in life because an education cannot be paid for disgusts me- but depriving people of University is, if not quite that cruel, then like taking people to the edge of what they might become and then not letting them through the gate. The most able people should be able to go to University to study without having to mortgage their future. They should be able to read philosophy and then go and work in a shop if they want to, rather than being in so much debt that they have to pursue a career in an industry they might despise and be utterly unsuited to.
I might not have gone to University if the current proposals had been mandated when I was doing my A levels. I might have wrestled with the idea and decided I couldn’t justify the cost. You could argue that means I didn’t want ‘it’ enough but I would argue if you say that you have never really known financial pressure of any kind (I hasten to add I have known very little financial pressure, but I understand what it is to have to consider money in a real sense).
I don't believe in violence of any kind but I understand why the protesters today are so angry. I believe in words and I wanted to write down what I was feeling. This could have been more of a rant but I have tried to be measured.
Basically I want to live in a country that values learning above money- and that doesn't want to go backwards to a time when only wealthy people could afford higher education. I hope the politicians who didn't have to give a second thought to whether they could or couldn't afford to go to University learnt some humility and social responsibility somewhere on the road they took to representing their constituents and their country.