Wednesday, 3 May 2017

University fees are set to rise

again. This is not unexpected of course. The response to the news is also not unexpected.
I worked my way through teacher training college. I had to. I couldn't pass the medical to get one of the teacher training allowances. Physically I was as fit, if not fitter, than the students who smoked. You weren't allowed to consume alcohol under the age of 21 back then but plenty of students found a way to get some of that too. I didn't drink alcohol then and I still don't drink alcohol now...I am allergic to something in anything alcoholic and it makes me feel itchy all over. No thanks. No, I failed the medical because they thought someone who couldn't use chalk to write on the then blackboards couldn't teach. I found ways around that.
There was no "student bar" because of the alcohol age. Students didn't have concerts - unless they organised the concert themselves. I wouldn't have had time to go anyway. I was a "junior housemistress" in a boarding school for girls and my hours there were arranged around my other commitment which was volunteering one day each weekend during term time in a residential nursery school for profoundly deaf children. I loved doing the latter so it was no hardship to give up that time. As for the other, I just accepted the need to do it if I was going to get a job of any sort.
My brother managed to get a scholarship but it didn't pay his fees. He finished the year before fees were, for a while, abolished. Universities became crowded. Anyone and everyone who managed to scrape in could go - and it seems they did. The age to buy alcohol dropped. "Student bars" appeared on campuses across the country. 
The whole nature of universities changed. My brother and his friends had fun of course but they were there to work too, to get an education. They knew they had to get assignments in on time, that they had to appear at lectures and more.
I went on to university in London. There were only post graduates there. Most of them took life pretty seriously. Most of them wanted to be there - although a few had been sent by their governments to study.  Yes, there was a bar. I actually went to it once but prowled out pretty rapidly. It was full of cigarette smoke. The best students must have gone occasionally but it was more like the local pub than a raucous student bar. 
Later I did another degree at another university - and yes, the students used the bar. Some of them, discovering alcohol in a big way, did not complete their degrees. Perhaps they would not have done it anyway but ready access to alcohol didn't help. By then I was a "mature age" student and had to help sort some of the alcohol induced problems out. I was, of course, working my way through the degree by tutoring at the same time. The view among the staff I came across was that the student bar was not necessarily a good thing.  I never went there. I never actually went into the student union area there or at the next university I worked in. I just didn't have the time even if I'd had the inclination.
Now there are complaints from students that not only university fees are rising but the cost of alcohol on campus will rise too.  I want a good university education to be available to the best students - whether they or their parents can afford to pay fees or not. I am much less interested in seeing alcohol, subsidised by student union fees, being available on campus. I wonder what would happen if there was no access to alcohol on a student campus?  What if they raised the drinking age to 21 again? It isn't likely to happen but it might have interesting consequences.


Holly Doyne said...

The age and accessibility of alcohol have absolutely nothing to do with students doing their work or completing degrees. Those that are motivated will make it. Those without discipline or looking for an excuse will not. I know this sounds cruel, but I am willing to bet in the next few years many more immigrants are going to finish than "native English origin" Aussies. The former group has family and expectations behind them and absolutely no time to stray.

Those that don't want to be there - but it is an alternative to getting a job.....

I put myself completely through school. Never partied, never drank - had not the time, inclination or money. I viewed those activies for the lazy or those who weren't paying themselves through

Anonymous said...

Actually subsidised alcohol really is a problem on Aussie university campuses. It's available for most of the day and well into the night in most places. Young students away from home - many away from home for the first time - tend to face huge amounts of peer pressure to drink and they don't know how to handle it. It's more of a cultural thing here than in the US. Chris