Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

You may wonder, is studying at a university truly beneficial? According to the review, it may not be worth it if students end up going hungry.
Culture TV and Radio

You may wonder, is studying at a university truly beneficial? According to the review, it may not be worth it if students end up going hungry.

Comedian Geoff Norcott is facing a difficult decision between allocating money for his son’s future university education or purchasing a new car presently. While the premise may seem simplistic, the film “Is University Really Worth It?” delves deeper into the subject matter. Drawing from his experience as a former secondary school teacher, Norcott reflects on how he enthusiastically promoted the New Labour ideology of “education, education, education,” urging numerous students to pursue higher education. However, with the current state of austerity measures, labor disputes, exorbitant fees, and the commercialization of education, he questions whether he would still hold the same beliefs today.

To determine if getting a degree is worthwhile for Little Geoff, Norcott visits various universities in the UK. However, the use of corporate and financial language complicates the matter. During his time at the University of Brighton, he joins students in a demonstration against campus closures and faculty job cuts. Norcott appears uneasy and admits he is not one for protests.

The students eloquently and persuasively express their perspective, providing more context to sensational tabloid headlines. Their frustration is directed towards university management, not their lecturers. The reason for universities’ financial struggles is unclear. Despite the wealth at the top of these institutions, students do not feel the effects. Norcott, who identifies as center-right, acknowledges his belief in the self-regulation of the free market, but even he recognizes that something is amiss in this situation.

The cost of attending university, originally established by the Labour government, has been increased by the coalition government and Nick Clegg’s inconsistent position. This has contributed to the shift of universities towards a more business-oriented model. According to Norcott, degrees are now considered products and students are treated as consumers. As a result, this has caused disruption in the traditional purpose of higher education institutions. Norcott also addresses the issue of grade inflation, questioning the sudden doubling in the number of first-class degrees awarded between 2010 and 2020. Is it because students have become significantly more intelligent, or does the emphasis on education as a commodity give disproportionate control to the consumer? Additionally, a lecturer who has blown the whistle shares an interesting account of being instructed to pass students regardless of their quality of work.

Norcott meets a medical student who is living on a £20 budget for food every two weeks. One issue with the current student loan system is that instead of evaluating the finances of the student and potentially reducing fees for those who are economically disadvantaged, the system assesses the income of their parents. As a result, students from lower-income families are left with larger loans and more debt. Norcott inquires about the medical student’s calorie intake and she expresses doubt that she is consuming enough. This highlights the state of the healthcare profession in this country. Norcott acknowledges that he is no longer able to make jokes in this situation. In another instance, a lawyer representing students who are suing their universities for not receiving proper education during the pandemic reveals that he is considering sending his own children to universities in Europe due to better value for the cost.

Numerous inquiries have been posed, yet there is a shortage of solutions. Brexit is not addressed, the issue of high living costs is briefly mentioned, and the pandemic is acknowledged as a minor hindrance instead of a major global catastrophe.

In the spirit of being unbiased like the BBC, Norcott travels to Sheffield. On campus, the atmosphere seems positive and a local city council member highlights the advantages of having universities in the area. However, after thirty minutes into the program, the importance of learning is only mentioned for the first time. The majority of the show tends to favor broad categories. While certain degrees, such as medicine, dentistry, law, and veterinary science, are deemed necessary for a specific career, everything else is presented as opposing trade skills and viewed as unimportant or even wasteful. Yet, ideas and imagination are fundamental for progress in all fields, and it is evident that a former English teacher turned comedian would understand this. Education should not be restricted to those who can afford it.

Nevertheless, it is thought-provoking. Norcott adds some humor with his “students, eh?” bit, but the overall tone is grim because it not only reflects the state of universities in the United Kingdom, but also the state of the entire nation. This trend is evident in various industries, serving as a warning that prioritizing profit over people has consequences. So rather than asking if university is truly valuable, the question becomes how do we remedy this situation?

Can education at a university truly be justified? The documentary, “Is University Really Worth It?”, was broadcasted on BBC Two and can be accessed on iPlayer.

Bypass the advertisement for the newsletter.

Source: theguardian.com