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Thursday, 11 November 2010

A revival of student altruism, or a new age war?

One fact that the mainstream media seems to have missed about the student protests yesterday is that very few of those smashing up 30 Millbank will be personally affected by the tuition fee increases; these were not future students, but current students, many no doubt in their final year, and will have enjoyed tuition fees pegged at a maximum of £3,290 pa. The new fees are not due to come in until 2012. Even stranger was the contingent from Glasgow Uni featured in the press pics; Scotland currently charges no tuition fees at all. So if they were not protesting on their own behalf, what were they protesting for?

I have long been disappointed at the serious work-focused attitude of modern students. Instead of getting sozzled and experimenting with sex and Sartre the modern student seemed a dull dog, preferring to twiddle with their entry-level laptop in Starbucks than plot stoned revolution. If all that is changing, if a new zeitgeist is blowing through the grume encrusted halls of residence that brings altruism, political engagement and a clamour for change, I am truly encouraged. 

I wrote in 2009 about the potential for intergenerational conflict that the recession brought, that economic measures geared at preserving the privileges of the older generations would be deeply resented by the new Generation Y. David Willetts' seminal The Pinch, published this year, made much the same point. Could yesterday's little skirmish presage the building of a larger battle?  


BashTheMsm said...

i tend to think that these are not spontaneous demonstrations at all, but they are organized by the usual suspects, left wing parties and unions, which have a solid tradition and the right know-how.
this is a typical scenario, seen a lot before. when a entitlement cut or a tax cut is announced, the parasites go demonstrating and smashing things up, cuts are immediately watered down or withdrawn.
this is not a proof that students have a political coscience, is just a proof that schools have been heavily infintrated by the socialists and transformed in indoctrination centers.
students dont pay taxes and surely dont usually pay for tuition fees, their families do. they have no reason or right, let alone the knowledge, to go demonstrating and committing illegal acts.

Anonymous said...

The Glasgow contingent was particularly bizarre in view of the fact that Glasgow University is not in any way affiliated with the NUS but has two separate independent unions.

The bankrupt NUS has been foaming at the mouth to get its hands on Glasgow and the very full treasuries of its unions and this, understandably, has been fiercely resisted by Glasgow students who view the NUS with a healthy mixture of contempt, distrust and outright hostility.

I'm intrigued by the apparent willingness of some Glasgow students to affiliate with the NUS given that in every vote on the matter at least 93% of students have regularly and repeatedly rejected any involvement with the NUS.

Anonymous said...

7 years too late! The students should have taken to the streets when tuition fees were launched under Labour. Education, education, education - remember that slogan from errr, who was it now?...

Too late now. Universities will become the preserve of well paid non-job Guardianista lefties, well-off Tory 1%-ers and those that will never need to pay for anything anyway.

And as for the rest of us - the remaining 80+%? Yes, we are the middle England that a) has to stump up for all of this and b) are thought of as the cause of the problem in the first place.

50% of school leavers going to Uni? Pah! Feckin' bullshit from Labour as usual and being made worse by the coalision.

Coney Island

Demetrius said...

There is a fourth generation that has cause to worry. Many did not even have a secondary education, let along college or university. They also had 15 years of austerity blighting their childhood and youth. By their standards Generation Y are an incredibly rich and spoilt lot yet they are going to suffer as much as anyone.

malpas said...

"15 years of austerity"! Try 1947 on.

JuliaM said...

"Scotland currently charges no tuition fees at all. So if they were not protesting on their own behalf, what were they protesting for?"

For the return of 'someone else pay for my three years studying Klingon poetry and interpretive dance' of course!

Edward Spalton said...

A few years ago I was asked to debate the EU with a man from the Independent in Leicester University Students' Union. I was astonished how quiet and well mannered they were. Perhaps they were all reading accountancy!

I use notes because I am not a very spontaneous speaker and am also short sighted. So I left my specs off to read the notes. With neither a jeer nor a cheer to guide me, I could not tell how I was going down. There was no laughter from my jokes and I could not even see whether they were smiling or not!

However, I was gratified to carry the debate with a substantial majority.

They were a very pleasant group of young people but I was expecting rather more boisterousness.