We **** Need ** Education

Thousands of students marched to protest education cuts

10,000 students marched to protest against education cuts

Healthcare and education. 99% of people would agree that both are services of vital importance. As a nation, the NHS is one of our best assets and the very right of every single citizen of the United Kingdom to free medical treatment is one which many take for granted. Is that wrong? In a word, no. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services. It is perfectly possible to both expect the state to provide healthcare, whilst appreciating that we in this country are fortunate enough to live in a land where it is our right to have access to such services and that we are in the global minority with this.

Free education is a right too. Our right. The right of every person in this country. At least, for those between the ages of 4 and 18 it is. This week’s student protests in London dragged the ever-present issue of student fees back to the fore-front of the nation’s collective mind and highlighted the problems of graduate employment as well as the staggering financial implications which arise from university and higher education courses. I know someone who marched and I know how passionate they were, and still are, about the need to shine a light on the mess that is education finance in the UK. I saw them apply to uni, I saw the nerves the weekend before they left and I saw them return after their first term having the time of their life. But today I saw a photo of them marching over Westminster Bridge – student union banner in hand – and I was proud. It’s disappointing that the students campaigning this week are unlikely to still be students if and when any legislation is introduced to combat the dramatic rise in fees which was introduced in December 2010, but this in itself proves the commitment of many to a cause which effects everyone. Earlier this month, students from Oxford University, Oxford Brookes and other local schools and colleges protested against David Willetts, the Minister of State for Science and Education, giving a talk in St Peter’s College to the point where the proceedings inside were forced to be suspended as the chants from outside may it impossible to continue.

Pinning down exactly whose “fault” tuition fees as an entity are is difficult, predominantly because they have been introduced gradually. In 1960, fewer than 200,000 British students attended university. This figure had doubled by 1980 and risen to 650,000 by 1990. In 1997, New Labour decided that the state could no longer provide for the 1.15 million students studying beyond secondary educational level and so introduced an annual fee of £1000 for university courses. Fees were required to be paid upfront and maintenance grants were ousted. In 2003 this system was revised; £3000 per annum but with loans and some maintenance grants available specifically for students. Returning to the General Election of May 2010, it is clear that student fees wasn’t a campaign issue parties wanted to push; though when the NUS launched a campaign aiming to achieve the support of every MP by encouraging them to sign a pledge which read “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees”, many MPs (the majority, Lib Dems) jumped at the opportunity. Perhaps not so coincidentally, every Lib Dem MP who got elected in the election had signed this pledge.

As you and I both know, these promises, if not intentionally empty, were broken. Really quite dramatically and with new, extortionate fees. £9000 per year is the highest amount a university is allowed to charge and all but a very small number are doing just that. The upshot of this is that, for the average three-year-course student, around £35,000 worth of debt will be accumulated during their studies and £27,00 of that will be for their education. Depressingly, at the same time the UK has seen a 40% cut in the teaching budget which begs the question of where our fees are going if not to raising teaching standards? The line fed out by government that “increasing fees will cut the deficit” is a simplistic statement and one which doesn’t quite add up. It is costing the government more than ever to keep students at universities as the trebling of fees has had the knock on effect of causing student loans and their cost to soar. It is now crystal clear that the argument needs to be made that university education is just as important and integral a public service to and for this country that the National Health Service is. Preferably, sooner rather than later.

Why? Because we don’t need no education.


The Unpleasant Truth

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some places in the world that can evoke such a profound sense of calm and tranquillity that the thought of terror and crime sweeping through a city only a couple of hundred miles away seems absurd and impossible. Yes, I’m talking about the London riots, which at the point of writing this have spread from the awful scenes at Tottenham to Enfield, Hackney, Dalston, Islington, Lewisham, Peckham, Brixton and even Oxford Circus. Wow. I only needed to read the details from this article on The Telegraph’s website to realise just how much of a problem it was all becoming.

Any other weekend of the year I’d have loved to be in London – you only need to read my post of last week to understand that – but right now I am so grateful that I don’t live in the capital. It doesn’t mean I’m not still in a state of disbelief and shock though, especially when people I know are there themselves, as the disturbances seemed to come straight out of the blue onto every news channel, website and newspaper. Glancing across at my copy of today’s I the front page headline reads “Free for all: looters cash in on riots”. How sad. What a terrible picture of Britain it paints – not only to the rest of the world but to the residents of the UK as well.

It seems ironic – in a bitterly disappointing way – that this time last week London was celebrating “One year till the games begin”. If, just twelve months before the Olympics are due to start, a minority of London residents are spending their weekends setting fire to cars and buildings, destroying shops and businesses and looting anything in sight, then surely this raises questions of whether it is a stable environment to hold the biggest and most respected sporting event in the world in? Shouldn’t we concentrate on trying to build a better relationship between the people of London and the Police and make them understand that respect for each other is the key to solving these issues before bringing in thousands, if not millions of tourists who will no doubt infuriate them even more by clogging up the public transport system and making it impossible to get anywhere in the capital in the amount of time it would normally take? I think so.

Oh great. Now I’ve just heard that it’s spread into Birmingham. What is the world coming to? Not only is it a case of these so-called ‘protesters’ not caring two hoots about the people whose homes, property and livelihoods they shatter but what are they actually rioting for? It all seems a bit fishy to me and I’m glad for the constant information feed I’m getting from the likes of BBC news and Twitter. No doubt we haven’t seen or heard the end of it yet but I sincerely hope that the Met have realised that they need to get themselves in gear and control it.

There is a little hope that those involved may be convicted, however, as Blackberry have stated that they will cooperate with all requests from the Police to assist with naming those who used the Blackberry Messaging service to organise the riots. In an article in The Telegraph which gives more information about Blackberry’s assistance, Research In Motion gave this statement: “Similar to other technology providers in the UK we comply with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and co-operate fully with the Home Office and UK police forces.”

Hopefully my next post will be filled with occurrences much less unpleasant.

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London…

London. One of the most iconic cities in the world. Dirty, busy and oh so exciting. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in the capital recently and although it’s still my home country it feels like another world. People there live their lives at a faster pace than anywhere else I’ve ever been and there is a constant feeling of needing to get to places, to achieve aims, to be on top of everything. Summer is the best season, in my view, to visit London. The sun casts a warmth and energy onto every fibre of the city (as well as making you feel like you’re an extra in an exceptionally cool film) which quite literally buzzes with a constant anticipation of shows, exhibitions, festivals, markets, film premieres, breaking news and world events.

No trip to London is complete without an excursion to the Victoria and Albert Museum, affectionately known as the V&A, which is both known and greatly respected for the quality of its exhibitions and displays. I was torn between two exhibitions in particular: the life and work of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto and  The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. When it came down to it I just couldn’t resist the opportunity of marvelling at intricately designed clothing collections and so to the Yamamoto exhibition we went! Now the last exhibition I had the pleasure of viewing at the V&A was Grace Kelly: Style Icon in July of last year, and I enjoyed it so much that I felt inspired to write what came to be my third ever blog post about it which you can read here.

Before my fateful visit I’d had a vague idea that fashion was something I’d be interested in pursuing in some respects, but sitting there, watching old film footage of the Princess at her many events and parties, and surrounded by glass cases crammed full of original couture dresses from the likes of Chanel and Dior which had obviously been designed and created to perfection – I knew that I wanted to be involved with the fashion industry. I felt completely comfortable and utterly content – like I had arrived at where I wanted to be. It was with these memories in mind that I entered the Yamamoto exhibition and I can honestly say that if it was Grace Kelly who sparked my fashion ambitions then it was Yohji Yamamoto who reinforced them.

To read the full description of the exhibition then I urge you to visit the V&A site where it is explained in full detail. All I will say about the exhibition is that it proved to me that off the peg, mass-produced fast fashion will never be able to compare to real design and craftsmanship, and also that Yohji Yamamoto really changed the fashion perspective of certain styles being suited to one gender only. This was minimalism in the flesh (or rather, fabric), and the one quote that stood out to me the most of the hundreds in the exhibition was this: ” ‘White is the absence of colour, black is the presence of all colours.’ What a unique concept – what a unique designer. I leave you with these thoughts and photos of the exhibition from the V&A gallery. To see some incredible photos taken live from the catwalk show then take a look at Jill’s wonderful post.