Vince Cable faced next to no questioning on his hugely controversial plans for a
graduate tax on Today this morning. Instead he was allowed to make an annoucement, was thanked as "Doctor Cable" by a reverential Jim Naughtie, and left to trundle back up Mount Sinai
where the BBC seems to think he lives.
There are plenty hard questions to ask. The main one is what I regard as a national scandal: young people being missold useless degrees that benefit neither students nor society. They get fed this
line, about how graduates earn more, and are led to believe that the letters MA after your name mean an extra £7k or more, for life. You can bet such studies merge together Oxford degrees in
Science with media studies courses to claim that the degree – not the subject or institution – is what matters.
Media studies is a particular bugbear of mine. I was talking to the head of a large newspaper company the other day (not one I write for) who said that no media studies graduates worked anywhere in
the whole company. In my own case, no employer has ever asked even if I have a degree – let alone if it was a 2:1 or what it was in. Two of The Spectator’s (excellent) staff started out as PAs.
Journalism is a trade, people are judged by their output. You really are only as good as your last story.
And yet you now get some unis offering an MA in Political Journalism – as if, armed with this degree, you go off to work in the lobby. Similar cons operate everywhere in higher education. The
college heads pick a job people want to do, offer a course in it, all on the often false basis that a degree in the subject will better enable you to do the job.
I have yet to meet anyone with a BA in journalism in journalism. Even my own postgrad was useful only insofar as it taught you shorthand, and helped you break into the work experience cartel.
There are hundreds more such degrees, being mis-sold to young people who would be better off (and get further, faster) going straight into work.
Cutting these useless courses, for the benefit of all concerned, is the most logical response to the funding squeeze in higher education. And if we stop abusing the dreams of our young people in
the process, so much the better.