THE BLOG

A Millennial View: 2017 Was A Bad Year For Universities

08/01/2018 11:10 GMT | Updated 08/01/2018 11:10 GMT

Universities are motivating forces for social good but recent incidents have sought to damage that undisputed title.

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Last year universities faced allegations of greed and selfishness, but we must recognize it’s not the students that are guilty. It’s the organizations themselves and the elite few that that are the obstacle.

The advance in Vice-Chancellor pay is not surprising – power has flown straight to their heads – and they’re not quitting. Vice-Chancellors across the country seek to exploit their positions for personal and political advantages.

It’s worrying that they spend their vast volume of influence to throttle any defiance to their affluence. Even in addressing this, I refuse to judge my university online. I wouldn’t choose to be like The Farthing Five.

An arrangement on top level pay seems to have been achieved, but it won’t be adequate, whatever the following may be. Under the Conservatives these elite officials will simply become richer – one way or another – and if we accept a Labour regime in the next year, suddenly nothing will be resolved. They will seek to appease universities as their battalion of student Labourites are taught to maintain our broken two-party democracy.

Students are not the sole group that are grappling with this issue. While Vice-Chancellors are being served an average of £275,000 a year, university staff will never reach a £10 living wage and the gender income gap will never close.

If that wasn’t rough enough, the outlook of tuition fees has become uncertain and unstable as the cap, interest rates, the selling of student debt, maintenance grants and repayments are all being evaluated by the Government. As these figures stalk economic uncertainty among working-class students, our safe spaces have come under assault.

Recently, the universities minister Jo Johnson suggested universities were attacking free speech, but this is not the case. Safe spaces and no-platforming policies are excellent ways of protecting people from violent and oppressive groups on both sides of the political spectrum. Examples of universities banning some groups include the Socialist Workers Party and National Action.

Those who administer this discussion should be elected union representatives - determined by students - not the institutions or government ministers. Free expression is a remarkable ideal, but that doesn’t necessitate your right to hate speech or violence. You don't get to put others at risk for your ideological gain.

To top it all off, free school advocate Toby Young was assigned to the board of the Government’s new universities watchdog on Monday. Not only is he inexperienced, but he has described working-class pupils who secured places at Oxford as “universally unattractive” and “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates” in his 1988 book, The Oxford Myth.

Toby Young is nothing better than an overblown, upper-class ableist; he slammed schools for being inclusive of wheelchair users and shunned Special Needs departments in schools. Despite Theresa May’s intentions to usher this cheerleader in as the voice of teachers, he will never develop into the voice of the students, and despite persistent attempts to suffocate us, we students have hope things will change.

Unfortunately, despite best efforts to stop universities being a playground for the establishment, students will remain reluctant consumers. To change this we require democratic universities, 10:1 pay ratio and free education, to break the current cycle.

I leave you with this beautiful and well-known quote by Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela