The 9th December 2010 felt like an important day in the UK as the coalition government passed legislation in the House of Commons allowing universities to raise tuition fees on students.
The law will help universities cover a funding shortfall caused by an 80% cut in the capital allowance made from central government to the country’s institutions of third level education. This was made in Chancellor George Osborne’s recent Comprehensive Spending Review.
Following public complaints, politicians of all parties have spent a great deal of time in recent weeks talking about moderating measures to account for worries about access to education for the poor, class and social mobility as if they were the most important thing about this piece of legislation.
I’d argue this is distraction. The key thing is the passing of responsibility of payment for education from the state to the individual.
Issues around social mobility and the kind of person able to benefit from a university education are only unpredictable effects of this clear philosophical or ideological choice.
It is possible to justify this as a coherent thought or policy – large parts of the Conservative party believe that there should be a much smaller number of people in UK universities.
In this respect, it is regrettable they did not get an outright majority at the 2010 General Election to carry through their belief. The foolish Liberal Democrat party are now carrying the can for them.
If you are looking for reports of the riots that erupted in London during the course of the day, the BBC have a round up here and you might also usefully read some of the social networking sites for reports from the mainly peaceful protestors.