The U.K.’s Spoiled Brits

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Next Thursday, December 9th, the British Parliament will vote on plans to raise university tuition fees to GBP 9,000. It may not sound like much to Americans used to tuition as high as $30,000, but British students, who are used to minimal fees, have been up in arms for the past few weeks. And both student groups and academic trade unions are already organizing nationwide protests on the day before the vote. A massive rally is being planned to take place outside of Westminster Palace on the day of the vote itself.

This will be the latest round of student actions against the government, which has been looking at different ways to cut its fiscal deficit—including reducing the reliance of British universities on public funds.

To some observers, these protests are little more than the expressions of pampered students with too little coursework, too much pocket money, and a penchant for pulp violence. Yet, more generally, they are also a symptom of a state-induced moral crisis, the result of decades of welfare-state policies that have eroded the ideas of self-reliance, personal responsibility, proportion and restraint—all noble (but nearly forgotten) British virtues.

But perhaps a brief recapitulation is in order.

The student mobilizations planned for next week are a follow-up to protests and mobilizations that have taken place during the past few weeks. The first wave of protests took place on November 10th, when 50,000 students (and some junior faculty) marched toward Westminster. Events that day quickly turned violent and when the mob reached the headquarters of the Conservative Party, students broke through police barricades and vandalized the building. More than a dozen people were injured and at one point a fire extinguisher was thrown at police from the roof. Property damage ran into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Outside, the increasingly surly mob burned effigies of Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) and his Deputy, Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat).

On that day, Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), a left-wing student group, announced that this was “only the beginning”. Inciting the crowd further, he had called for “an unparalleled response” to the government’s plans and promised a “new wave of action”. That second wave of action took place on November 24th in London and at universities across the country.

At issue are proposed changes in higher education funding as suggested in an independent review prepared by Lord [John] Browne of Madingley, the former CEO of BP. The report included vague—yet fiscally conservative—recommendations for reducing the budget deficit by changing the funding of higher education.

Separately, as announced by Michael Gove (Conservative), Secretary of State for Education, the government is considering other contentious actions, such as cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, a scheme that pays young people to attend classes and study, and the abolition of AimHigher, a program designed to widen participation of under-represented groups in higher education by raising “aspirations and motivation”, strengthening “progression routes into higher education” and improving the “motivation and self-esteem” of young people.

But it is the possibility of a tripling of undergraduate tuition fees at British universities that has most raised the ire of students. Currently, Brits and EU residents pay less than £3,300 per year in tuition. (A few years ago there were no fees at all.) Scotland and Wales fall somewhat outside of the debate: Scotland still has no tuition fees and a Welshman attending university in Wales pays nominal annual fees of around £1,200.

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  • Joe

    The difficulty stems from the insane labour party decision that 50% of young people should go to university. since it is generally accepted that only about 10 to 15% of the population have an IQ level which equips them to undertake and benefit from a PROPER university level of study the inevitable consequence was the dumbing down of the pre-university examinations and the entry standards for university (to ensure the requisite numbers were attained and the "diversity" and "inclusiveness" criteria beloved of the PC brigade were also covered)

    This was compounded by the decision in the 80's top turn many colleges of further education and polytechnics into "universities". These institutions previously did a good job in providing vocational courses for people (often on the basis of working as well as studying) which actually equipped them to do a real job. Now they provide second class degrees of questionable status. The result is that many graduates now work in jobs for which a degree is not required having incurred significant debt (£20K plus) on obtaining questionable qualifications.

    When a small number of students went on to tertiary education the state could afford to pay for/subsidise their courses. Expanding this to meet social engineering objectives inevitably results in a fiscal problem, particularly if the universities cannot charge a realistic fee level.

    Net result: a drastic decline in general academic standards in the UK and a struggling tertiary education system! It all reinforces my opinion that most things are better if government doesn't interfere.

    • Michael

      This is absolutely correct, though I don't agree that polytechnics are, or ever were, second-class institutions. I attended one and in 1984 graduated with a degree in German and Economics every bit as respectable and academically rigorous as you'd find in any university.

      The problem was that, after I graduated, I found that my degree – and all my education – was about as welcome on the job market as a criminal record. It is not only that no more than 10 to 15% of the population have an IQ level which equips them to undertake and benefit from a proper university level of study.

      It is that many of the academically able 10 to 15% are not so rich that they don't have to work for a living, therefore it matters very much that they are spending the first three or four years of their adult lives acquiring 'universal knowledge' but not 'useful skills' which are best learned on the job and at vocational training colleges.

  • Lady_Dr

    The authors are to be congratulated on their clear analysis of the situation. And Joe as well. Yes, government interference is a real menace. The same thing has happened in the USA where marginally illiterates are often accepted into university. The requirements for passing any given course are repeatedly being dumbed down because of this.

    I got my B.A. and a certificate in London 30 years ago. One term I had a room-mate who complained bitterly about how little she received from the government and how unfair it was – yet somehow she managed to go on vacation to Turkey for a week. While I was up and out the door at 5:30 am to work before classes and back to work in the evening. It was unheard of and strange to the British but I had no choice and valued an education. I now have a doctorate and hated teaching because of the entitlement mentally in the USA. No wonder they voted to destroy America with the communist-in-chief. They didn't know any better as too many of them are barely literate.

  • USMCSniper

    The Britishacademics and British government deserve condemnation for turning a population of proud and independent people formerly at the forefront of industry and invention into a parasitic crowd of arrogant beggars who really believe they are entitled because they are entitled.

    Standby, Americans, nanny state is coming soon to your neighborhood.

  • waterwillows

    In the government's drive to make sure that every single moron in the country was equipped with a 'degree', they have caused a lot more damage than just is the universities. The 'papered' graduates are now in charge of much that affect the daily life of the people. With wisdom and discernment not their strong suit, it is a sorry day for the population. We have too many fools and not enough chiefs.

  • Maggie

    Tuition fees should be raised to stop this self-perpetuating spiral which has brought universities in the UK and in Europe into the sorry state they are currently in. In the name of equality of opportunity and affirmative action modern universities produce masses of pseudo-intellectuals whose little brains are only capable of appreciating philosophers (or rather philosophes) like Rawls, Sen or Nussbaum and then themselves become scholars (?!) by reproducing this nonsense.

  • cgerber

    Coming out of East Germany during the late sixties it has finally arrived, I enjoy watching sociialist paraisites destroying themselfs even to the detrement of my family self being. Since I have all to lose. I love the saying by Col. Jessup " You want the truth, you can't handle the truth, you want me on that wall, you need me on the wall, and I really don't give a damm what you think your entitled too" Socialism is going down it doesn't matter what they protest, once there isn't any monies left ,who your going to call gost buster" CHINA" This is just the beginning. Wait and see once the US Dollar collapses!

  • posse101

    maybe they can get the same low life scumbag Muslims, who rioted last year and turned over cars in France to help them. did i forget beat up old ladies too? yeah i guess i did. what about getting those smelly Arabs who celebrated Sept. 11 so fervently in London Square chanting "Death To America." maybe they can show up too. mix in a couple of miscreants who killed people to protest the publication of the mohammed cartoons and we could have a real barn burner.

    and don't worry peasants… CNN will be there live to show us all the protests with some shmuck like Wolf Blitzer reporting with the raging fire and violence in the background.

    but alas people, don't fret. after the camera stops shooting Wolf will get chauffeured back to the executive suite at the Palace Hotel where he'll call room service and order some surf and turf (over easy) and then he'll turn on the news and watch the replay broadcast of how "in the field" he thinks he is. life is good huh Wolf?

    • Jacko

      I was in Paris during the 67 student riots and met British professional agitators who in leading the students in their revolution. Much of it was organized by foreign mercenaries.

      • posse101


        yes you're absolutely correct. it has been going on for quite some time now. these professional protesters (dupes) are paid for in large part by George Soros type funding, international answer type funding, the united nations type funding, and the saudi controlled, wahabbi sect of islam type funding. oh and i almost forgot the charming mrs. kerry or rather, mrs. heinz type funding.

        most americans in this country either refuse to believe this or are too stupid to do the research necessary to keep track of these groups and whom they fund. most of these useful (homegrown) idiots continue to blame America for these pre-fabricated and choreographed riots, thus taking the side of the protesters without even stopping for a moment and thinking that their own position aligns them with our idealogical enemy who has sworn to see us dead!

  • cgerber

    I think you need to hire Reinhart Heydrich he will help you with your indecisve decision problems or the USA current TSA adminsitrator can help it's his relative, they both had and have all the answers!

  • William_Z

    There's only two options, pay to play, even if you have to borrow or get a job. If you can't afford the fee and can't find a job whose fault is that? Hint: Britain has been regulated into oblivion, it's called socialism…

  • cgerber

    I love watching the the moronic Welfare states (countries) destroy themself. Haven myself come out of East Germany in late sixties these result are not surpising. Maggie said it best, everyone agrees the welfare state is unsustainable, next you run out of everyone elses, monies, and then the only thing left is what the day is that. It's very close. Like Col Jessuppe said it best " You want the truth…. You (they) can't handle the truth. You need me on that wall you want me on that wall! "We realy don't give a damn what your all think that your entitled too" It's only going to get better Britian, remember the late fifties and early sixties.

  • Lightning Jack

    What a shining illustration confirming the eventual outcome of European socialism and its ideological twin, the cradle- to-grave welfare state, which actually makes people worse.

    Great Brittan has only itself to thank for creating a society of narcissistic, hedonist life- suckers who believe that a higher education should be everyones right, irregardless of the consequences, and as long as someone other than themselves pays for it.

    Is it any wonder that Great Brittan's socioeconomic downfall will only continue as its collectivist entitlement programs reward non-productivity, especially people with too much time on their hands, and ultimately destroy that nations work ethic.