A letter a day to number 10. No 1,499

Friday 22 July 2016.

Dear Mrs May,

In your first speech as prime minister you said, ” If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.”

On Tuesday the Higher Education and Research Bill passed its second reading. Included in this bill is the ability for ‘universities to raise tuition fees in line with inflation’ if they ‘can demonstrate good teaching through the new teaching excellence framework’.

I guess we’re so used to market forces as god that it is easy to miss the point that education should not be market led nor rewarded on a market basis and worst of all that education as a consumer product is utterly misguided and wrong. It means a tiered education system with the bottom line being the ability to pay and in such a system inequality will reign supreme.

As a working class ‘boy’ I was the first in my family to obtain a university education, but that was back in the day when there were such things as student grants. What is particularly relevant, as a working class ‘boy’, is that I simply would not have considered university at all had I been rewarded with a mountain of debt, but had I done so what is certain is that I would have opted for the least financially punishing option.

I’m not sure how you hope to attract working class people into the university system, it is looking far from attractive from where I sit. Debt based education is hardly the road to aspiration where, perhaps, thoughts of home ownership might figure at some point in a housing market that is entirely out of control. I wonder in what way you think that a life time of servicing debt in the kind of neoliberal unrestrained market world we live in is a smart or educated idea?

Banks and interest rates are merely a siphon of wealth upwards. Usury is an outdated, outrageous, practice by banks making obscene profits from people’s lives and aspirations. At the very least, if you want to make a difference, then end usury and make financial loans fee based at the very least and protect education from the money sharks and ensure student debt is not subject to interest or fees. What price education, eh?