Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I do not find this persuasive 
Barbara Ellen reports 

How quaint that the Conservative party is planning to punish naughty children by taking away their mobiles. Labour is proving much more hardline: taking away the educational futures of tens of thousands of British teenagers, who will be denied university places this autumn.

This shortage of places, between 60,000 and 80,000, has been caused not only by cutbacks, and higher numbers of young applicants, but also by older applicants, "mature students", who have lost their jobs and want to "sit out the recession" at college. Well, fine, so long as the younger applicants get priority.

Admittedly, I am biased. I am one of Britain's beleaguered Pots (parents of teenagers) and this is a headache too far. Don't our young already have it tougher than recent generations? And, while I have nothing against mature students, surely they should be given places purely because they want to study. Otherwise, all we are doing is enabling the government to hide appalling unemployment figures.

It is almost reverse ageism - the young being bumped out of their rightful places so that universities can be employed as higher education catacombs for the fiscally dispossessed. Suspicion deepens when one hears of Brown's response to the crisis - the creation of a measly 10,000 places, with priority given to "maths, science and engineering".

Brilliant, except it would be surprising if there was a shortage of places in such technical subjects, though, if they had the relevant qualifications, these may be the sort of degrees mature, probably male, students would go for. What a coincidence.

I suspect there may be other reasons why the government may wish to give priority to "maths, science[,] and engineering" than to directly conspire to deprive Ellen's offspring of places reading sappier subjects. I'm not going to engage in fashionably smug sneering at "humanities graduates"[1], but stuff like this makes you wonder...

[1] Why is so much opprobrium directed at "media studies", BTW? Why is this subject derided in a way that related subjects like "political science", "history", and "english" aren't?


pj said...

The opprobrium against media studies is the perception, in some cases justified, that all you need to do is watch TV all day.

This is a minor update to the disdain many have felt about English, where all you do is read fiction all day.

Which, is, as far as I can see, the reason people at Oxford have to read Chaucer. It takes the fun out of it, making it a proper subject.

Political Scientist said...

Ah, education-as-suffering, that makes sense. No pain, no gain (as the unfortunate bloke who had to teach me about tensors used to say)

Until recently, reading English at Oxford meant you had to study Anglo-Saxon, at least in the first year. This thought used to cheer me up no end en route to a 9 a.m. lecture.