Failing to gain a university place used to be a common disappointment among those who applied. But those who applied were a very small percentage of those leaving school. Then the Robbins report and its recommendations embodied the policies and pressures for more university places and almost anyone who chose could enter a degree course somewhere in the United Kingdom, either in a new university or in an upgraded institution. Disappointment centred on which university, even on which faculty had not been achieved.
The collapsing living standards that are being experienced now in the United Kingdom are delivering one of their most cruel lessons this year. School leavers qualified for university entrance are being refused any university place at all. This is a devastation of moves towards social equality that have been in place and nurtured by all administrations for the last half century. Do not be misled by the disregard into which a university education has fallen from its very ubiquity; the voices that argue going to university is not worth the debts incurred; that a degree is now just part of an all shall have prizes educational culture.
Our children, the children of the wage-earning classes, are being pushed out of life-essential provision. Excluded from even the opportunity to illuminate the rest of their days. Unlike the working people of the pre-university mass provision times who had networks of learning systems through out the country - often funded by the unions or linked with the co-operative movements or local providence and mutual funding organisations - a culture of formalised discussion groupings led and lectured to by distinguished academics committed to continuous adult learning and general education, and the whole resting on the provisions of interlinked free libraries, this exclusion goes hand in hand with steep decline in local provision of public libraries and museums. Our people now face cultural silence.
That silence in part was engendered by the role of educational self-help being taken over by mass university education. Now the universities are moving beyond reach, grossly underfunded, and further impoverished by the closures of crucial departments that yet do not conform to New Labour's resource allocation criteria. And for which the feeder education from the schools has been steadily withdrawn. Should you be too poor to pay for your schooling you won't even know what has been taken from you; and if by some miracle of determination you obtain the necessary preparation, qualifications, you will find the faculties gone and the enormous loan needed now quite possibly unavailable to you.
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