Thanks Cinzia for an interesting article. My perspective is that society should fund university education because society benefits from having more educated and capable citizens. Charging for education merely reduces opportunity for those whose families aren’t well-off, which is inherently unfair.

That said, society also has an interest in earning a return on its investment, as do individuals. As there are very few jobs available in academia, this means that most degrees need to be more than self-indulgence. Sure, I may personally be fascinated by the hermeneutics of post-polytheistic Rome in the 5th century but… it’s not exactly the best foundation for a rich and productive life. So it’s reasonable for educational establishments to focus more on subjects that offer more scope than those that essentially doom 80% of students to a life of cleaning up spilled liquids in supermarkets for minimum wage.

Unfortunately the UK educational establishment is rooted in liberal arts, dating back to the days when reading “the Greats” at Oxbridge was regarded as the pinnacle of intellectual achievement. This means the UK always under-values STEM (remember the old saw about “ignorant scientists?”) and over-values humanities. Hence half of all startups in the UK are created by technically-educated foreigners because the UK doesn’t have the home-grown talent. Hence thousands of students, like you, are sold a lie about the importance of the university experience.

Now I’m not claiming that all tertiary education should be vocational. But when there’s a grotesque mismatch between what universities provide and what we each need in order to be able to live and contribute to society, something is deeply wrong. Unfortunately, you’re an example of the problem and it’s not your fault in any way.

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