Students in higher education are the key to the future there’s no doubt about it. But what happens when students are deterred from going to university or further education because they are scared, scared of the fact that they will be in debt for the majority of their life. The £9000 tuition fee rate in the UK is a constant IOU to the government and once we start earning hard earned money of over £21,000 we have to start repaying that debt with interest! Students are already a vulnerable group in society; we don’t need more fears about the future!
Students in the UK are now one of the most likely sectors of society to experience indebtedness for the majority of their life. Stiglitz (2009) for instance, states ‘if you do not get incentives right, you get bad behaviour, and part of the problem with the financial sector is that incentives are constantly bad’. This has been seen by the 2010 student protests outside the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s cathedral after the coalition government raised tuition fees to £9000 per year. Clearly the incentives were bad. The rise in tuition fees was to try and boost the economy and stop cuts elsewhere, but instead, the government has alienated a massive emerging generation and caused their indebtedness for life. The protests prove Stiglitz’ point about the tandem ‘bad behaviour’. Unfortunately for the students nothing has been done and this austerity has made a lose- lose situation.
But why is indebtedness occurring? It’s fair to say the neo liberal model has a big part to play in this with the increased market flexibility and competition which is leading to an alienated group in society. Watson (2005) argues that when reviewing neoliberal and general economics there seems to be the theory that ‘human affairs are distanced from the act of conscious thought’. This can also be argued by the likes of Marx, who would interpret neoliberalism as being an upmost factor within capitalism that causes a lack of class consciousness and therefore leads to a lack of human action, as the citizens are unaware of their oppression. This was obviously not the case in 2010, however lately there have been fewer protests in the UK and many students are just accepting the fate of paying ridiculous amounts of money to hopefully achieve something in the future.
This table indicates that since the rise in tuition fees in 2010, the amount of people attending university, whether it being an undergraduate or post graduate course, numbers have fallen. So what does this mean for the indebted students? The most probable answer is, we will become an underclass, as Standing (2011) reiterates, students don’t have employment security, they live off zero hour contracts and are alienated at work due to a ‘Fordist pattern of drab full-time jobs and subordination’, anything to help pay off the debt. The world system of today thrives off this pattern and it won’t get any easier for students and it’s unlikely we will not see a fall in tuition fees anytime soon.
Gov.uk (2014) Student Finance. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/repayments [Accessed 11th December 2014]
Higher Education Statistics Agency (2014) Free online statistics. Available at: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/stats [Accessed 5th December 2014]
Standing, G (2011) The Precariat: the dangerous new class. Bloomsbury Academic.
Stiglitz, J (2009) The global crisis, social protection and jobs. International labour review (Vol 148) pp 12-13
Watson, M (2005) Foundations of International Political Economy. Palgrave Macmillan. Pp 38-39