I know Scottish students at Scottish universities pay no fees, although they do still have student loans. As far as I understand it, Scottish students at English universities pay fees, as do English students at Scottish (and English) universities. Plus loans. I could be wrong there, it's a long time since I was in a position to be affected.
What the Welsh Assembly is proposing is to pay the fees of Welsh students at any university, also to pay the fees of anyone from anywhere in the EU, except students from England.
Well, if they pay the fees for EU students, then since England is in the EU, is it legal to exclude only that EU region from their generosity with other people's money? Either we are all in the EU or we are not, and as far as I can see, England has a strong case to say that they are not. Throw out the Westminster parliament that seems to prefer every other EU region over the one it's situated in, set up your own government and stick two fingers up at the EU. Including the Welsh and Scottish, perhaps also the northern Irish mini-governments.
I was born in Wales to Welsh/Italian ancestry and now live in Scotland. I also went through university in the late seventies and early eighties and so ended up with no massive debts as a result of my education. From that standpoint, I have no axe to grind with either student fees or anti-English discrimination but it puzzles me. How can parts of the UK demand preferential treatment for their occupants, while another part, the part that houses the UK government, cannot? We are not yet separate nations and we are all part of the EU. So how can Wales legally fund students from all over the EU, except England?
If they said 'We'll fund students from all over the EU, except Poland', there would be hell to pay. The EU parliament (how many of these do we need? It seems to me we'll soon have an MP each) would step in at once, President Rumpelstiltskin would take time off from weaving Euros into gold, and the Welsh Assembly would be decried as 'racist' by all the usual suspects.
Yet they can extend their offer of other people's money to all and sundry and say 'Not you' to the English and nobody seems to mind. There has been no EU announcement decrying this action as racist and not in the spirit of the EU at all. The Lefties are content, even the English ones, because they are all barking mad and still playing 'beggar-thy-neighbour' from their kindergarten days.
And what is the big deal with getting a degree anyway? I have two and I'm not rich. In fact, all that time in education means I didn't start paying seriously into a pension until I was past 21. Those contemporaries who left school at 16 and started as apprentices have at least five more years of pension built up than me. Most of them are richer than me too. Plumbers, electricians, plasterers, joiners - skills that are always in demand and command good money. Me? I'm a specialist. When nobody needs what I do, I'm out of work. Sure, I can charge well for it when I am needed but there are spaces between those times when I have no income at all. So I can't splurge the money for that last big contract on a fancy car or leather suite. It has to last a while, and I never know how long it has to last.
Hell, those who left school at 16 and stayed on the dole have their NI contributions covered by the taxpayer. They have more pension than me!
A degree does not guarantee a good job. It does not make you redundancy-proof. You do not walk in to a higher management position, no matter how many degrees you have. Getting on to a degree course and failing it is pretty much the end of your life. Nobody wants to employ a failure. You're better to drop out than drag on to that final failure. Either way, you'll owe huge amounts of money and have no means of paying it back. You also have a three-year gap in your CV with 'fail' stamped in it and that will never, ever, go away.
If you're not suited to higher education and you blag your way in anyway, you're going to mess up your life. It's not 'elitist', it's logic. There's no point saying 'Oh, the university failed me and now I'm unemployable'. No, the university didn't fail. You did.
There are few people as smart as Stephen Hawking. I'm not one of them and I doubt anyone else reading this is either. He's lucky he had brains because a career as a steeplejack just wouldn't have worked out for him. I couldn't be a steeplejack either. Put me somewhere that high and it's not bird crap you'll be dodging. Some people are comfortable with climbing up very tall things. Others are not. Those that are not, don't apply for jobs like slater or chimney pot maintenance operative, or whatever the current PC term is.
Some people are suited to the specialist world of academia, and it is specialist. The first degree is a general one. At that point, many possible jobs are open but far more are now closed. Why? Because you have a degree. Factories won't give you work because they'll think 'oh, he'll clear off as soon as he gets something in line with his degree'. They want staff who will stay after training.
Likewise for any job outside your chosen subject. You have a degree in that subject, therefore you are interested in that subject, therefore you will leave any other job at the drop of a hat. That's how employers think.
Then there's PhD, at which point you are a specialist. My first degree was microbiology. I could have gone into brewing, pharmaceuticals, food testing, medical/technical, environmental, oil industry, all manner of things. The PhD closed all those doors. I am no longer a microbiologist, I am an intestinal microbiologist with expertise in ruminant and nonruminant mammals. I know a little about poultry guts but reptiles? Insects? Fish? Crustaceans? No idea. It really does become that specialised.
In the current world of food panic and fake doctors fainting in jungles, I am in demand. That's just down to luck. If hospitals enforced proper cleaning and hygiene, one of my more lucrative lines would close. If everyone went back to my grandmother's day, cooked everything thoroughly and didn't break down in a panic at an occasional dose of the trots, I'd be right out of business. Good old Gillian McKeith has everyone scared because few people realise that you can't tell anything from just looking at one single poo sample. Bristol score notwithstanding, one sample tells you nothing. Those little-and-large cleaning women have you all in a tizzy because they managed to find some bacteria in your kitchen, using appalling aseptic technique to collect samples. I'd be scared if there were no bacteria in the house, it would mean the whole place was being continuously irradiated or full of something extremely toxic.
So whether that degree is useful to you depends on whether the subject you chose is in demand. It also depends on whether you actually want to learn, and whether you are suited to learning that subject. I am reliably informed that UK forensic science courses produce eight times more graduates than there are jobs available, so if you're on one, you'd better be top of the class.
There is no point demanding that all these kids go to university. Most will come out of there behind on pension payments, in serious debt and actually worse off in the job market. The Tiny Blur's insistence that fifty percent of the population have degrees was and is absurd. Degrees in crochet and the social implications of Red Dwarf are degrees, but what use are they? What is the point of producing many multiples of qualified people for whom no job exists, and for whom non-degree job entry is now closed? And here we have the Welsh Assembly crowing 'Go on, boyos, we'll fund your degree in organic leek knitting or daffodil supremacy or sustainable dragon hunting no matter where you do it, and no matter where you're from, as long as you're not English, isn't it, butty boy?'
Prospective students, consider this. The politicians do not care whether you get a job at the end of your degree. They do not care if you are successful, or if you spend the rest of your days asking us if we want fries with that. You are a tick in a box, a target met, a degree in Utter Uselessness awarded. Once that target is done you can sink into specialist obscurity forever as far as they are concerned. They really don't care about you. You have one life - are you going to live it as directed by someone else, or are you going to do it your way? Look this up - where did Alan Sugar go to university? Yes, he's a git with hair designed by a scouring pad manufacturer and a face that bulldogs consider 'pinched', but he's a very, very rich git. So what degree did he get?
The Welsh Assembly came into being after a referendum that returned a resounding 'don't care' result. It happened anyway because, like those EU pretend referenda, the public consultation was a sham. Now they think they run the country and that they are entitled to take money from people and do whatever they like with it. A sort of mini-Wastemonster, but with druids and terrible gassy beer. They also believe that it's okay to discriminate against one particular EU region and that nobody in the EU will object to that. They seem to be right about that part so far.
I'm not English but if I was, I'd be looking for a Cromwell about now. Never mind these regions claiming independence from England.
England needs independence from them.