The Green Paper which details how universities are to be fined if thier working class students fail to pass or get ‘good jobs’ is both encouraging and disheartening.
An article from The Sunday Times, in which they speak to Universities minister Jo Johnson, revealed how the government plans to judge universities on the performance of their ‘poor’ students. It also details how Universities could potentially lose millions of pounds worth of funding should they fail to meet the target.
Being a working class student, the news that the government is trying to work towards helping those that need help the most is welcoming. However once I take off my rose-tinted glasses it becomes apparent that the upper class dominated political institution has completely missed the point.
While exact details are yet to be revealed, from what we know this seems to be a quick fix solution to a long and complicated issue. While top universities should encourage more working class students to apply and should do all they can to support them, the onus should not be on universities to fix what is essentially a socio-economic problem.
If the government’s aim is to get more working class students into university and onto a good career path then they need to start a generation before; meaning they need to improve social housing, develop poor communities and create viable jobs for parents to make a decent living. Then they need to support children from pre-school up to college, creating an education system that focuses on the individual and not statistics.
They need to create a national policy aimed at alleviating the poorest members of society; address wealth inequality and invest in the working classes instead of driving up austerity. By introducing damaging cuts like those to student maintenance grants the government will push poorer students away, the exact opposite of what this Green Paper is looking to achieve.
In short in order to ensure a higher pass/success rate for working class students at university, the solution will not be found in punishing institutions and passing the blame. This is a long term problem that requires real long term solutions. What we have with this Green Paper feels like another hand out from the upper echelons of society to an Oliver-esque working class. To put it poetically, the working class does not need some ‘more’, it needs the ‘ladle’ so it can pour some itself.