One of the arguments that keeps coming up whenever anybody objects to making individual university students fund all their own tuition fees and accumulate unprecedented levels of personal debt goes like this. Why should somebody who empties the bins or cleans offices down around the minimum wage be subsidising the higher education of middle-class kids, who will go on to earn far more money than they could ever dream of?
Now there are plenty of counter arguments to this; for example the deterrent effect of £25,000+ of debt on the bright child of a hard-working refuse collector or office cleaner considering a university career, but something else has also occurred to me. There's a related subsidy that the enthusiasts for high fees are strangely quiet about.
If, as the high-fees enthusiasts insist, there's no justification for the poor subsidising the comfortably-off in this way, why haven't they campaigned with equal conviction to remove the charitable status (AKA tax breaks) of elite private schools, which is a far more outrageous example of money being siphoned out of the pockets of the poor to subsidise those rich enough to buy their children a gold-plated education / networking opportunity? The numbers involved and the savings to be made are a lot smaller, but the level of injustice is far greater and the excuse for maintaining the status quo (the few token scholarship pupils), far weaker.
Mind you, it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to work out why this particular dog didn't bark, given where most of the cabinet went to school.
I'm grateful to the author of the Notes from a Broken Society blog, for this post which got me thinking about the issue (it also contains some good blogging on the dire influence of the Tabloid-Political complex on our national debates).