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DiN Debates: The House would make all forms of higher education free
DiN Debates: The House would make all forms of higher education free
In most of the world's wealthier countries primary and secondary school education is free. Higher education means any education after that – degrees at university are the most common, but it also includes vocational qualifications like UK NVQ, Higher National Diplomas and some types of apprenticeship. Most people who go through higher education have to pay for it, and it can sometimes be quite expensive. Despite that, higher education is becoming more popular than ever before. In America, around 50% of children go to university after leaving school. In the UK, the number is close to 40%. That doesn’t count vocational qualifications, so it’s fair to say that more than half of children do some kind of higher education. Should the government pay for it?
In this debate, you should think about what education is for and who gets the benefits. Is education about learning specific knowledge or skills, or does it have more general benefits? Which is the most important part of it, and is it important enough that the government should pay for it? Also, is education good for the student, for the country or for both? Does that affect your answer on whether the government should pay?
A mistake that many opposition teams make is to say that free education would cost too much. If the proposition can prove that free education is a good idea, then we don’t care that it’s expensive. Unless you can prove that you can get the same benefits more cheaply, or that the high cost would actually stop the policy working, it’s probably better to ignore that argument. (You’ll see an example of the first of those in the points below.)
|Points For||Points Against|
|People will have better career and education opportunies||Even if university is free to attend, poor people will still be excluded|
|A better educated workforce is a more skilled workforce||If university is free, people will be less likely to make sensible choices about the qualifications that they study for|
|Higher education allows people to experience other cultures and new types of political and philosophical beliefs||This proposal will reduce the quality of the courses universities offer|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
People will have better career and education opportunies
Everyone deserves the same opportunities in life, whatever background they come from. Some people lack the resources, like access to money or a stable home environment, that others take for granted. A lack of these resources can by someone's family background, their nationality or immigration status and many other factors. It is only fair that the government should give these people help to access higher education.
Qualifications are important for getting a job. They are a good first step for people who want to improve their own lives. This means that getting a place at university can be a particularly important opportunity for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. But these same people are unlikely to be able to afford it. If they apply at all, it is likely to be to a cheaper course which is less respected by potential employers.
Making education free for everyone would make sure that everyone can apply to the same courses and have the same opportunities.Improve this
Of course governments should help people who need extra assistance, but that doesn’t mean education should be free for everyone. We want people to have the same opportunities. So we need to make sure that people who have access to fewer resources or who have fewer opportunities to study effectively than the majority students who apply to university can get education if they want it. But all it takes to do that is to offer scholarships, subsidies and grants, and we already do this. Many countries give disadvantaged students the opportunity to explain their situation and to apply for extra money to make up the gap between them and other students.
Maybe we should be offering more scholarships, but giving them to every single person is not needed.Improve this
A better educated workforce is a more skilled workforce
If education was free, more people would get qualifications. Qualifications are an important part of getting a job, which everyone wants. Also, being at university is often seen as fun, and a chance to start living your own life, so lots of schoolchildren want to be able to go (and vocational colleges are similar). The only thing stopping them at the moment is the cost, so by removing that we help them go.
People having more skills is a good thing. It means they are able to work better and do more complicated jobs. For example, we can employ lots of people in engineering, which would be a very good way for our economy to compete with the rest of the world. And even if we don’t focus on a specific subject like that, being better educated will make you better at whatever job you do.
The more people go through higher education, the better it will be for our economy.Improve this
Even if we want to specialise in certain jobs, there is no way for the government to make this happen. The most they can do is encourage those kinds of companies to set up, which will create jobs, but even that doesn’t mean people will do the right qualifications. We can’t rely on that happening.
Also, if your qualification is not linked to what you do afterwards it doesn’t help you – or at least, not very much. For example, someone who does a degree in Mathematics and then goes to work as a lawyer has wasted a lot of time. They might have gained a few skills from their degree, but they could have learnt these skills much more quickly and much better without it. The government should only support qualifications which are actually useful.Improve this
Higher education allows people to experience other cultures and new types of political and philosophical beliefs
People normally go to school near where they live, so they will spend most of their time with other children who are like them. Most areas are made up of similar families. The similarities can include many things, such as average income, ethnicity, and religion. If you go to university or college, it is likely that there will be students from a much wider range of backgrounds. Having everyone mix like this makes them more likely to be tolerant of each other.
Also, for many children, their time in university or college is the first time they live away from home and start learning how to do things for themselves. This is a very important part of making your own life. It is particularly useful to do this before you start working, because if you have a job you have much less spare time and small mistakes can get you fired.
Higher education helps make students ready for life, and we should encourage it.Improve this
Although both of those things are true, both of them can be done just as effectively in other ways. Many people do gap year programmes or go travelling around the world, which has exactly the same effect. These other programmes are quicker and cheaper. So it would be more effective to make gap year programmes free, and anyone who wants to go through higher education can do that afterwards.Improve this
Even if university is free to attend, poor people will still be excluded
Unless the government plans to pay for everything each student needs for the whole duration of the course, there will still be some things the student has to pay for: accommodation, food, travel, social life etc. This money has to come from somewhere. For some people, their parents will help them pay for this, but this still leaves people from poor backgrounds.
What will happen under this proposal is that all rich people will get qualifications but no poor people will. This means poor people will never be able to get a job and will suffer forever. This is unfair: everyone should have the same opportunities no matter who their parents are and where they come from.
This policy only helps rich people, and they don’t need the help.Improve this
Just like we do at the moment, we will offer extra support to students who need help with living costs. We will make sure that they are able to go on these courses if they want to. Making the courses free helps rich students too, but the poor students are still getting most help.Improve this
If university is free, people will be less likely to make sensible choices about the qualifications that they study for
At the moment, people have to decide whether a qualification is useful for them, whether it will help their career and whether they can afford it. Some people decide that they don’t need it: maybe they want to start their own business and don’t need a degree for that, or they want to work in a job which has its own training – for example, a florist – and so a qualification is a waste of money. But if people can get one for free, they will not think. They’ll just do it automatically.
For people who don’t need a qualification, the time spent getting one is wasted. Also, the money they spend on living costs will be wasted. And of course, they are wasting the government’s money and taking up a place on the course that could have been used by someone who really wanted it.
It’s better not to encourage everyone to do qualifications, so that only those for whom it is right actually do so.Improve this
Firstly, many people already “don’t think” about qualifications but do them automatically. That happens for a lot of reasons; for example, many companies will only hire people with a degree. Making them free doesn’t make people think any less.
Secondly, getting a qualification is never a waste. The life experience you get, the people you meet and the skills you learn always stay with you, whatever job you do afterwards. University in particular is a great way to meet and understand people from different backgrounds, which is definitely worth doing.Improve this
This proposal will reduce the quality of the courses universities offer
If the government is paying for all these courses, it will need to make sure it is getting good value for money. So it will challenge the providers to keep costs as low as possible. The providers will be forced to agree, otherwise the government can take away their license to offer these courses. They will constantly compete with each other to get the cheapest price, because if anyone else is cheaper than them the government will demand to know why. Everyone will be looking to save money.
Also, universities and colleges will compete for the best results. At the moment, if results are bad colleges can just blame the students. But governments have to make sure they are spending their money wisely, and if the results are bad then the public will complain. So providers will have to try and get the best results for the students.
Although lower costs and better results are both good things, it’s quite hard to have both at the same time. Lower costs means things like larger class sizes, fewer teachers and no careers department, which all make the education worse. So the system will tear itself apart and no-one will get any education at all.Improve this
There are a few ways we could stop this, and here is one example: don’t give the government any say in how universities and colleges run. Let them be private businesses, separate from the government. Make a new organisation to decide who can run these courses. All the government has to do is pay for them.
As long as we make sure to look for quality, everything will work out well.Improve this