Before I begin with this, let me just clarify that I mean English ones. I will move onto the French ones at a later point.
Now, those of you who know me will know how much I hate them. I think it all started when the government (don't worry I'll keep this old chestnut short and sweet cos I know the last thing anyone wants to read is a POLITICAL rant - angst will do just fine, thankyou) introduced the whole '50% of school-leavers should go to university' bullshit. Oh, hold on a minute, there aren't enough universities to cater for that many people.. Quick! Polytechnic colleges, you are now nearly all offically universities and and allowed to award degrees! Wonderful! What the government (sorry - I'll finish this bit soon I promise) somehow failed to realise is that the country does not NEED 50% of this generation to have academic qualifications! Allow me to turn to a recent statement of mine:
"A-level results. Whatevs. If it were up to me, 75% of UK university places would be reserved for international students; the remaining 25% given to only the best British students. Those who don't make the grade would then be forced to do normal, respectable jobs that were good enough for their parents, such as builders, electricians and dental nurses. Problems would be solved across the board: less unemployment, less debt, more money coming into the country".
As an aside, do you know how much overseas students pay for the chance to have a British education and be introduced to the concept of a pub crawl? Well, it's a lot of £. They take university seriously because they, for the most part, come from places where a university education is a privilege, not a commodity. So, once they've finished their Master's degrees in Mass Communications, they mostly return to China or wherever they've come from, and put that degree to good use like figuring out a way for the Chinese population to be able to access Facebook, or something.
But I digress. Back to the lecture at hand: Right now, our universities are, I would estimate, something like 95% British students, 90% at the very least. I maintain that right now only 20% of THESE students should to be in university i.e. dedicating their time to the pursuit of knowledge, and not getting drunk every night, making a lot of noise during antisocial hours and "facebook raping*" each other.
Oh and don't even get me started on the Student Loans Company. To potential students, the loan is advertised as a great deal: it's ONLY charged at 1% interest and you don't have to start paying it back until you're earning a certain amount per year (can't remember the exact figure but it's around 15k). So, this 1% that everyone who takes a loan pays (I estimate around 85% of students) from the moment they take the loan (i.e. all the way through their degree course) is PROFIT for the company. Who owns the SLC? Why, the government of course. Need I say more? I won't.
Now, when I was in primary school (not the private one), my teacher once told my parents that she thought I'd be one of the only pupils in the class to go to university. Now, I'm not saying this to boast (although I was one smart kid - pity I discovered alcohol), but to explain that, back in 1995 or whenever this was, people had a more realistic view on things. In no way did she mean that the rest of the class were to fail in life, only that they were more cut out for different career paths, ones that would not involve over £25k of debt and a degree that was not worth the paper on which it was written (sorry for the tired old cliche but you know it's right).
In short, what I mean to say is that it is really rather cruel to goad weaker, less academically-inclined pupils into thinking that university is for them, when it is quite simply not. I remember in school, in the final year, filling in university applications and writing a personal statement (wtf?) was part of the curriculum. This was a big school that had over 400 pupils per year group, and of course they did not all go to university, but those who did not, or did but did not really want to should have been given alternative options at this stage so as not to lead them in the wrong direction.
As university fees continue to rise (an undergraduate degree will cost over £9000 per year from next academic year onwards), the only change that might possibly take place is that potential students from poorer backgrounds might think twice about whether they really want to let themselves for this. Will the system become like that of the United States, where higher ranking universities charge as much as possible because they can? God help us all if this were to happen. Until our society shakes off this intellectual/academic snobbery we will not be able to advance, only dig ourselves deeper into the mess that has been created.
P.s. I realise that this reads like a GCSE English Language essay, albeit a very high level one.
P.p.s. I dare someone to use this as their Personal Statement.
*I wish this expression were dead.