YES - Anastasios Doukas
There is a common ideology which is particularly prevalent amongst the modern
right: that nobody should pay for something which does not directly benefit them or their future. You see, as Noah Chomsky puts it, the establishment, in an effort to preserve wealth inequality, attack the notion of solidarity itself with arguments that sound logical but are nothing short of fallacious.
Firstly, a more educated work force in a country does not only benefit the individual but also benefits the economy and the standard of living of those around them. Without a more educated workforce the skills deficit currently present in the UK market will continue to grow and limit economic growth. Human capital and investment in it has been shown to lead to a significant rise in GDP, which cannot be explained by reverse causality (i.e. that regions with a growing GDP just open more universities).
Secondly, just because one does not directly have a personal benefit does not mean that we should not contribute for the future of the less fortunate. We need to ensure that other people can enjoy opportunities which have been systematically denied to them throughout the years. Just because we were lucky enough to win the birth lottery does not mean we should ignore those who did not. Society has undergone and is undergoing a massive change. With looming automation putting all or most low-skilled jobs at risk, university should be provided for free to ensure that people can contribute and survive in the years to come. Tuition fee abolition is the only way to ensure that the people that usually partake in those jobs get the necessary skills that they need. The government hides behind the fact that the number of poor students in university is the highest it has ever been to avoid any type of reform on the system.
Yes, it is true that the numbers of poorer students are the highest they have ever been. However, a higher demand for university degrees in the workplace and a higher population both contribute to the aforementioned fact. When people quote the above they refer to a total number of students enrolled which is not an accurate way to look at a rise of a certain group in universities. The real question to ask is: will abolishing the fees increase the percentage of people from poor backgrounds in university? Will it help with the abnormally high dropout rate? Scotland, Germany and many other Europe an countries show better and fairer results for the ones that weren't as fortunate to be born into wealth.
Students from poor backgrounds are not only more likely to go to university but they are more likely to graduate and escape the cycle of poverty as a result. High school and even elementary school used to be something that one had to pay for back in the day but because society changed, and more education was needed to keep up with the times, it became widely available and free for everyone. It is time to do this to our universities, to finally allow for more people to pursue their dreams and aspirations. This is not a waste of money, it is an investment for a brighter future for Britain and for all of us that call this country our home.
NO - Kit Taylor
I disagree with the idea that student fees should be abolished, as it simply isn't a realistic scenario. Some may argue that a ban on student fees will make life a thousand times easier, however, I would like to highlight the extreme disadvantages we would face in a post 'feexit' world.
So, how would the abolition of student fees play out? One might argue: "Fair enough, we ought to be funded by the government the way that schools are." May I draw your attention to a petition only last week where over a thousand headteachers marched to Downing Street to complain about the governments lack of spending on schools. Teachers in North Yorkshire reported chunks of the ceiling falling out and narrowly missing someone. Schools are struggling to function, even with the financial support of the government.
Let's say we add our universities to the long list of things the government can manipulate. Who can say that universities will be top priority for funding? It is absolutely possible that our universities will be pushed aside with the rest of our educational facilities, left with little funding.
Let's say the university prioritise buildings in their tight budget. At least there will be no accidental renovations...But where would that money come from? If universities are required to pay tutors and lecturers, who would cover spare finance? We are all aware that York's mental health facilities could already use more funding for the amazing work they do, but a lack of such funding means month-long waiting lists. It is a worrying possibility that funding could be drawn away from the pastoral services to fund the 'more necessary' parts of university life. Services in the city of York are available, but are met with waiting lists three times as long. The university needs a certain amount of funds to survive effectively, and this amount is not available from the government.
Let's say the government begin to prioritise universities. This solves funding issues, for us. Money has to come from somewhere. The NHS has just celebrated its 70th birthday swarmed in a series of cuts. Having interviewed many members of the NHS, I was dismayed to hear that they are not allowed to discuss how immensely budget cuts affect them.
This is a horrifying example of 'Big Brother-esque' censorship. If universities were subject to this kind of censorship, how would anything ever be solved?! If a strike took place, funding could be stretched away from emergency services to us.
Alternatively, we could have the power to fund the university ourselves. Admittedly, paying for education is not something preferable. But it is a necessity to keep higher education at the quality it is; to maintain our academic and pastoral services. We need to keep control of it, because no one else will.
Bursaries and scholarships are available and encouraged, and being from a low socio-economic background myself, I know the stresses of student finance. A student loan is the best loan you will ever have. You only pay it back when you are able to, while it unlocks an entire world of opportunities, impacting the rest of your life.