Wednesday, December 03, 2003

University Top-Up Fees

There is considerable debate in the UK around so-called top-up fees for university tuition.

On the POSIWID principle, one purpose of top-off fees is to split the Labour Party.

Some Labour politicians argue that top-up fees promote social justice, because the better-off students will have to pay more to attend the posher universities. This is therefore a redistributive policy.

Other Labour politicians argue that top-up fees simply make it more difficult for poorer students to attend the better universities, and so this is socially divisive.

As well as indicating internal contradictions in the rhetorical system of "Social Justice", this also reveals an ambiguity or ambivalence in the underlying purpose of the universities themselves, .

1 To provide a mechanism for kids from poorer backgrounds to engage in a little social climbing.

2 To provide a mechanism for better-off families to maintain their social position.

Of course, universities do both of these – but perhaps they used to achieve BOTH of these purposes more effectively than they do now. Lots of Labour politicians benefited personally from this form of social climbing themselves, and feel uncomfortable about kicking the ladder away and preventing others following them. POSIWID is not a simplistic analysis here.

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