A useful background to the idea of student fees and loans is that the people doing the studying should have skin in the game as to whether their study is actually economically valuable for the rest of society. I know this because I’m on the periphery of the group of people who made the argument.
Further queer interpretations of Jane Austen’s oeuvre may well be fascinating for both student and teacher but they’re not the sort of thing which adds value to the bus system in Macclesfield. Therefore the users of the bus system in Macclesfield should not be taxed for Jane Austen queer studies. The student, the one gaining the enjoyment, should be carrying the cost.
How we measure this value add, well, we’ve a method for that. Called the market for the labour that has been so trained. Where the training adds value then the wages paid will be higher than the cost of the study. Thus the benefits – the higher wages – are going to flow to the student, stick the costs on the student and we’ll get economically rational decisions.
Maybe. But that’s probably the best we can do in aligning incentives.
So, why would anyone be against this?
Every adult will be entitled to six years of free study under Labour plans for a radical expansion of lifelong learning, as part of its vision for a cradle-to-grave national education service.
In a speech in Blackpool on Tuesday, the shadow education secretary Angela Rayner will pledge that a Labour government would “throw open the doors” to adult learners to enable them to study and retrain throughout their lives.
Under Labour’s proposals, any adult without A-level or equivalent qualifications would be able to study for them for free at college, with maintenance grants available for those on low incomes.
The six-year free entitlement will also cover undergraduate degrees, higher national certificates, foundation degrees and diplomas of higher education in areas including engineering technicians, nursing associates and professional accounting technicians.
Well, if your voting block includes absolutely everyone in the country who teaches grievance studies and the softer arts then this alignment of incentives isn’t desired. Because making economically rational decisions isn’t going to create the flood of youngsters your voting block can be employed to leach off. Therefore you’ll want to tear up those incentives, won’t you?
With the interesting happenstance that every academic of education in the country will scream in delight at your jolly idea. ‘Cuz there’s lots of Tories in that sector too, right?