University funding and fees are newsworthy subjects at the moment. For those of us who are employed by a university this interest is naturally magnified.
So what are my thoughts on the topic?
Well, the problem as I see it is that pretty much everyone seems to expect to go to university these days. Having more students is bound to cost more, and money doesn’t grow on trees*. The obvious solutions are
- Get more money
- Have fewer students
- Make the money stretch further
Personally I wonder if option 2 might not be the best way to go. Why are most of these young people so keen to go to University? Is it because of a deep-seated love of academic learning? A desire for a career in their chosen subject? If those are their reasons then yes, they should be at University, assuming they have the brains and aptitude. My problem is with the large numbers who are coming to University only for The Experience.
The Experience usually covers
- Living away from the rules of parents and school
- Learning how to survive, i.e. feed self, wash self, make self get out of bed
- Interacting socially (and probably sexually) with other people of similar age
- Drinking (combine with the point above)
- “Finding” self
- Following the herd, while at the same time pretending to be unique
So my proposal is that fewer people should go to university and the rest should be given The Experience without the need for the universities to pay out on tutors, resources, facilities etc. for nearly as many students as they do at present. You may wonder how I intend them to get The Experience without going to university; I propose that due to the reduction in student numbers there will be a lot of unoccupied student housing. Simply locate all the genuine students in one place and rent out the remaining halls of residence and student houses to those in search of The Experience.
Once the Experience seekers are all in one place they will pretty much look after themselves without too much disturbance to the real students. The universities will still receive income from the halls of residence, the neighbours of the halls won’t even notice the change and the would-be-students are free to pursue their own goals.
It might be necessary for them to have small loans in order to finance their time in the Experience halls – this could be managed by the Student Loans Company and administered in exactly the same way as the genuine students’ loans.
Concerning the desire to “find” oneself at university, it seems rather “more luck than judgement” determining whether or not a person stumbles across themself during their time at university (or even during their time in The Experience). Instead I would propose that the country needs a universal system of counselling and psychotherapy to ensure that everyone is provided with a map or guide to assist them in finding themselves. It might be prudent to utilise some space in the now emptier universities to carry this out.
Between their 17th and 18th birthdays everyone would have a chance to be psychologically assessed and then referred to the therapy most suited to their needs. Where the universities found they were now employing too many staff they could be retrained as therapists, assessors or administrators for this new service.**
Funding for this scheme might be somewhat of a problem, I concede, and I’m working on a solution. However I think it would be found that the improvement to the nation’s psyche reduced the number of sick days taken for depression and stress, thus reducing SSP payments and perhaps taking a little of the strain off GPs. It might also, as the generation in question go on with their lives, lead to better parenting, more pleasant behaviour in society and a happier nation, each of which is bound to aid the economy in different ways.
I’m not sure how to conclude this post. I doubt that the government will accept or act on this proposal but if they wish to use these ideas I hope they will feel free contact me to arrange my fee. 🙂
* Money doesn’t grow on trees unless you are the Student Loans Company which kindly sends my annual debt statement in an envelope with a picture of a tree on the back to elegantly symbolise the growth of the interest on my debt.
** It occurs to me that it might also be prudent to make young people “pass” psychologically before being permitted to apply for a driving test, partly in order to reduce congestion on the roads but mainly to prevent young people causing accidents trying to impress their friends (low self-esteem) or through road rage (anger management problems) or by parking on level crossings (suicidal tendencies). This would obviously be somewhat controversial and I am not thoroughly supporting this idea myself, merely mentioning it.