Why Higher Education Should Not be Commodified


The current government are currently in the middle of the biggest changes to university education this country has ever seen. Southampton Students for Education loudly and clearly oppose them. However, we are extremely worried about the complete lack of debate on campus about the implications of these changes for young people and the wider implications to the whole of the education system in England. Beyond the increasing of fees to £9,000/year, students simply are not aware of what is going on. We think it is incumbent upon SUSU to, like us, oppose loudly and clearly the government’s damaging changes to universities.

Firstly, let me outline Southampton Students for Education’s position on one element of the government’s changes to Universities and why we are against it. In every subject, barring the more costly to run subjects due to laboratory and equipment costs, public funding for teaching has been cut by 100%. There is virtually NO PUBLIC FUNDING FOR TEACHING ANYMORE.

It is therefore a fact that undergraduate degrees have been privatised. They were previously funded by everyone who lives in the UK; they are now funded by the individuals who undertake an undergraduate degree through the £9000 fees. We worry that this privatisation of education is going to have a really damaging effect on the relationship between lecturers and students and the way people view a university degree.

It is pretty obvious that anyone who pays £27,000 for something is going to treat what they have bought as a commodity, that they’ll want to make an economic return on in the future. As such, there is a danger that people will only consider the economic benefit that a degree can provide, rather than viewing it as an education that has a wider social good. This is certainly the government’s intention – there are only two mentions of the wider benefits of university education in their policy document [called a White Paper]whereas there are countless mentions of why we need universities for the economy and to create wealth. At the moment universities are an immense source of social pride here in England. They foster critical thought, scientific curiousity, artistic creativity, technical wizardry, empathy for others. However, the changes the government are making are in real danger of smashing apart the social good universities provide and replacing this social good solely with a consideration of the bottom line of profit and the economy.

Furthermore, we find it unbelievable, that at a time when there are one million young people unemployed; when the economic outlook for the next few years is grim to say to the least, we are told that our peers are going to have to take on an eye watering amount of debt to study something that is being reduced to having no value outside of your future earnings. You are told throughout school ‘work hard, pick the right A-levels, get good results, pick the degree you want and you’ll have your pick of a job’. However, people are finding that this is not the case. There is a whole cohort of young people – graduates, apprentices, workers – who have been completely let down and the commodification of university education is going to further damage young people’s future.

We are really disappointed that this dramatic and damaging transformation of universities is not centre stage of the current SUSU elections. We strongly believe that our student representatives should act as a strong advocate for the public value of universities. However, at the moment they are not doing this, as awareness of the wider implications of the privatisation of our education is very low amongst students across the country and here in Southampton.

Southampton Students for Education protesting in Highfield

Southampton Students for Education

What we stand for: – Fight to maintain the teaching standards at Southampton University. – Oppose the changes outlined in the Higher Education Bill. – Support lecturers in industrial action.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do and want to get involved in any of our events you can find us on facebook here:

And here is an interesting website about the ‘Campaign for the Public University’ that has the support of loads of lecturers around the country.



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