Jago Pearson: Forget cutting fees. Closing lousy universities will solve the student debt time bomb

Closing the bad universities and banning the non-academic degrees would solve the student debt crisis

Labour's cracked it. They've found the policy that will woo Middle England. They are going to reduce tuition fees to £6000 per year.

Hang on a minute though, that doesn't really cut the mustard. And nor will it work.

The truth is there are too many young people going to university. Too many for our economy, too many for the jobs market, too many going just to have a taxpayer subsidised party while idling away three years of their life.

I should know. I graduated last summer and met countless boozers in my time who shouldn't really have been there. They couldn't quite work out why they were doing a degree. Nor could I. Apart from the cheap union bar of course.

Crucially, cutting the number of undergraduates would solve the student debt time bomb. A university education should be an academic endeavour. It should be rigorous and well-respected. Not mediocre and sneered at.

Get rid of the useless degrees. And close the third-rate universities that hand out qualifications with even less credibility than Owen Jones' latest Lefty pamphlet.

Do that, and academically gifted school leavers will not have to pay £9000 per year. They won't even have to pay £6000 to fulfill their potential. Under such plans, the state would be able to afford the investment in the knowledge they would get substantial returns.

The people who actually benefit from studying at university will pay back society upon graduation, choosing to attend regardless of perceived ability to pay.

Mickey-mouse subjects at old polys aren't the answer to our social mobility woes. Grammars might be. Free schools can help. But the study of international travel and tourism management at Buckinghamshire New University will not.

It's a worthless qualification, it's one of the worst universities in the country and you need just CDD at A-Level for entry. Oh yes, you also pay £9000 in tuition per year for the privilege. No, thanks.

The fifty per cent target was a ludicrous Labour gimmick, just a cynical ploy to reduce the unemployment figures. And it is remarkable that the Tories continue to think they cannot feasibly make the case for scrapping it and rethinking the country's entire outlook on higher education.

We are all different. We shouldn't all be put in the same pot. We aren't all academic. And that's not a bad thing. So why treat us all the same?

There needs to be a perception change in Britain. An apprenticeship is something to be proud of. Work-based learning can set you on the road to a prosperous career.

And if you don't go to university you aren't a failure, a dropout or stupid. It's about young people picking the right path for them. Not all jobs require a degree.

On fees, I took a pragmatic approach. I was charged at the old £3000 rate and I took the loan as I couldn't afford to study without state support. I reasoned that it would be right for me to pay back the money, in small intervals and at a low rate of interest, so others can enjoy the education I had.

If I was borrowing under the £9k system I may even have been better off. The interest being lower, the threshold for repayment higher.

In that regard, the news that 45 per cent of students may never pay back their loan is actually testament to how progressive the coalition reform was - but also how crackers the whole system has become.

The taxpayer shouldn't be subsidising meaningless and worthless degrees at institutions floundering in the league tables. Young people shouldn't feel like it is the done thing to do a degree. And the academically talented shouldn't have to pay for their tuition at top institutions.

Closing the bad universities and banning the non-academic degrees would solve these problems.

It would be a tough sell. It would provoke a ferocious reaction from the crackpot NUS.

But would we care? I certainly wouldn't. It would be the right thing to do.

Jago Pearson
  • S MacDonald

    How sensible, been saying it for years (along with many others).

    • itdoesntaddup

      Same here – I thought this had been copied from something I’d written. Delighted to see this website hosting common sense articles.

  • IfItPleasethThee

    What you are saying is not a proposal but a cast iron certainty. Higher education is a complete bubble. Will cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth when it happens, though, and not only in Buckingham New Uni.

  • The_Average_Joe_UK

    Cast Iron Dave, doesn’t have the political nouse to put this to the country.

  • Davidsb

    It would be a tough sell. It would provoke a ferocious reaction from the crackpot NUS.

    Time was, you could tell a disastrous policy by the simple expedient of checking the stance of the TUC and the CBI. If both agreed on the policy in question, then it was guaranteed to be a shambles.

    Perhaps it’s time to add the NUS to that list…..