University spots not for sale: U.K. PM

Cameron right to slam idea to create additional PSE spots for students who can shell out the coin
British Prime Minister David Cameron came out swinging yesterday against a recent idea to create a two-tiered university system in England.

On the heels of a heated debate this past year, rife with large-scale protests over rising tuition at many of England’s universities, Universities Minister David Willetts appears to be putting salt on an open wound with his latest idea to sell university spots at a premium. Willetts is the same man behind the soon-to-be £9,000 a year price tag that’s coming to the country as soon as September 2012.

But Cameron isn’t having anything to do with it.

“The government’s policy is absolutely clear. University access is about being able to learn not about being able to pay. There is no question of people being able to buy their way into university,” he said yesterday.

Rightfully so, and perhaps unsurprisingly, student groups in the country are not happy with Willetts’ idea — regardless of how well-intentioned the idea may have been.

“This creates a two-tier system that allows the richest, less able applicants a second bite at the university cherry and denies low- and middle-income students the same ­opportunity,” Aaron Porter, president of the U.K.’s National Union of Students, told the Telegraph.

Education is an increasingly contentious issue. American studies have pointed out that education is no longer the fool-proof life investment it once was. But it is still a necessary step to moving forward in the professional world. These days, the chance to attend post-secondary education — especially the most prestigious institutions — are more about the networking opportunities than they are the educational opportunities.

In Canada, the children of wealthier families are already more likely to attend a university. Being able to brush shoulders with the children of the wealthy and successful can be a big opportunity to advancing in the world. The U.K. proposal to have wealthy students buy their way into privilege does nothing but deny those who would earn their way into privilege. That’s unacceptable, and David Cameron made the right choice in shutting it down.