Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faced with...

... fees of £9000 a year...

... I don't know if I would have had the guts to take on that level of debt
... I don't know that if I'd left the decision until I was more sure of myself, that I could have taken the hit on my earnings
... I don't know whether it would have paid off in the long run
... I don't know whether the pressure to 'get value' would have trumped the need to grow as a person
... I don't know whether I would have felt the freedom to continue exploring my learning after university
... I don't know whether I would have done a postgraduate qualification
... I don't know that it would have been worth it.

I just don't know.

I do know that fees of £5000 a year from the Open University would have put my employer off sponsoring me.  Which would have closed the door to the tutoring I started the year after my first course with them (I already had a degree from another university).  Which would have closed the door to progression in a career that really did suit me.  Which would have meant that I wouldn't have been able to take the higher degrees I needed for the profession I'm in.  Which would have meant I wouldn't be working in Higher Education now.

Debt.  Value.  Money.  Fees.

Learning?  Changing lives?  Those factors are apparently, are now secondary to everything else.  We talk about improving 'employability' - and I get that.  Now.  To an extent.  But, I don't know that my 17 year old self would have understood it.  I don't know that I understood terribly much at that age.  When I graduated, aged 20, I don't think that I'd made that link either.  I think I probably thought the degree itself was the thing which got me the job.  It didn't.  But I wonder if it would have been better had I carried with me the panic that this was a once-only 'investment in my future' and, on finding myself on a degree which I couldn't really cope with... well... what would I have done with that?  I can't see that version as better.  I also don't like the version which says 'explain better to 17 year olds what they're taking on and the responsibility of their choices will be more solidly based'.  Because the 17 year old version of me is nothing like the 36 year old version.  And to be tied to the choices I made then for good?  Well... that is a scary proposition.

If life long learning is about flexibility and growth... how does shackling people with debt and the pressure of high-stakes choices encourage that?

Faced with fees of £9000 a year, I'd question the worth of Higher Education.
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