I am lucky enough to be one of a select group that don’t pay fees to attend this university. The Scottish government has kindly given me a free ride. So every time I find myself complaining of overcrowded tutorials, unhelpful lecturers or a general lack of communication, I remind myself that I’m not actually losing anything but time by being here. The same can’t be said for the vast majority of students here who pay £9,000+ annually.
If it were not so culturally established that universities be expensive there would be outrage. Imagine for a second, a society where higher education was free at the point of use. If exorbitant fees were suddenly legislated for, people would take to the streets in protest against having to bleed ourselves dry financially to afford an apparently necessary education. The idea that a university education must come with a price tag is a destructive cultural idea. But, in some ways, we are lucky here. We should be grateful, because at least we don’t have to pay the ludicrous tens of thousands of dollars that our unfortunate friends across the pond do.
But what are we actually paying for? When students have tutorials in gaping lecture theatres, with a student to tutor ratio of 25:1, it’s hard to remember. We are pumping funds into the body that is the University of Edinburgh, often with little to show for it ourselves. We are paying for a prestigious crest on a piece of paper after 4 or more years, a crest that will magically make us employable. We are paying for a name that is older than the United States of America. We are paying for a ranking – no longer even a top twenty ranking, according to this year’s QS World University Rankings.
So, is it worth it? Why does a third year English Literature student from the US pay over £14,000 annually for six contact hours a week? Surely the answer should be that there is no place in the world that students would rather be; that we pay for the privilege of studying and exploring our passions. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Few people go into areas related to their degrees; few remain truly enthusiastic. Let’s face it, most of us are here because we were told that a degree was necessary, and we are lucky and privileged enough to come here – and maybe quite clever, too.
A major selling point of this school is that having “The University of Edinburgh” on your CV will attract future employers, and consequently you will benefit; you will fare much better in the cold and unfriendly graduate job market. A university degree appears as necessary as a high school diploma these days. We are paying for the privilege of being employable, of starting out on an even footing. The start line is moving further and further back, and we are crippling ourselves financially trying to keep up.
The practice of charging exorbitant fees for an education was valid when universities were purely for an exclusive club of academics. Now however, more and more jobs require a university degree, yet with fees continuing to rise university is becoming less accessible to the general public. If we lived in a perfect world of rainbows, jobs on every corner and passionate students, it might be worth some people paying huge sums of money for the joy of learning. However, we don’t – and the piece of paper at the end is not worth the money.
Image Credit:Bob Bob