Tuesday, 22 September 2009

What gives the CBI a right to an opinion ?

Back in the dim and distant past when I was a student activist, student unions would be criticized for having policies on all sorts of things which we were told were none of our business. And from time to time there would really be a stink if students tried to donate money to worthy clauses like the striking miners.

Occasionally there was a smidgen of truth in these criticisms - back in the eighties passing resolutions supporting the armed struggle in Nicaragua or declaring the union bar a nuclear free zone were often a political fig-leaf for future New Labour careerists to ignore more pressing matters closer to home. But generally I would say that if ever there was a time to have an opinion on anything and everything it is when you are a student.

The same cannot be said of the CBI sticking an unwelcome nose into higher education.

Their proposals to allow free reign to market forces in universities is an outrageously reactionary piece of cheek on their part. To suggest, as they do, that university numbers be drastically reduced, that student loans are no longer subsidized, and that only 'useful' subjects are promoted would not only take higher education back to before the 1960's, it would introduce a new strain of philistinism unknown even in the elitist bad old days.

What make the fat cats of the CBI presume to think that have the right to say anything about higher education in the first place ? Only a mistaken belief that they are the true creators of wealth in society and therefore can dictate how this wealth is spent - or more appropriately 're-invested'. How fucking presumptious and arrogant of them: By sheer weight of numbers, by hard work and by tax, it is working people who create the wealth and whose children are getting the educational opportunities (albeit at a cost) that would have been unthinkable for the vast majority only a couple of generations ago.

And to add insult to injury when the CBI dare to question the numbers of students in higher education and to ridicule some of the 'new' subjects studied - it was the same industrial bosses who in the Thatcher era attacked the unions and with them the apprenticeship system. These were the bedrock of the skilled working class and thanks to this attack this group has now become an endangered species. So for their offspring going to university - even if it is to a former polytechnic for a so-called 'mickey mouse' subject - is the only option now of securing decent 'life chances'.

I thank my lucky stars that I was able to go through higher education in an era when it was still free at the point of consumption - I now fear for my own kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ars gratia artis should be applied a little more in this money- and business-obsessed society.