Open Universities?

The CUiSL class on 20 July on What comes after capitalism? was well attended and got the new term off to a lively start. The next class will be on 21 September, 7 pm at Ruskin House. The topic will then be Universal Basic Income – do we want it?

CUiSL is an open, free university which treats its students as a resource, not empty vessels to be filled by experts. It is therefore very different from what we have come to expect from commoditised university education. These differences have been highlighted by two items covered in news reports over the summer. The first is the report that I have personally had confirmed by the supposedly Open University: that it is refusing to accept students from Cuba on the grounds that the OU, a British institution funded by British taxpayers, lacks a license from the US Treasury Department’s Office for Foreign Assets Control to do so. Such supine acceptance of US extraterritorial jurisdiction is breath-taking and says much about the independence of thought we can now expect from that once noble institution. The second event is the ongoing debate on student fees and who should pay them. Writing in City AM today (23 August), Paul Omerod, Visiting Professor at the UCL Centre for Decision-Making Uncertainty, acknowledges that universities have no incentive to reduce their fees as to do so would signal that their degrees were less valuable than others. His half-baked solution is to offer discounts to students with higher grades. How this fits with the ethos that universities are businesses left free to charge “what the market will bear” defies logic. A better solution would be, as we have argued below, for universities to reassume their responsibilities for providing the nation with further education and research and for the state to pay fees and subsistance grants financed by progressive taxation, including that on graduate incomes. One useful saving that could, however, be made would be for future free university education to be confined to those educated in state schools. For as long as we tolerate private education, why should those wealthy enough to pay for private education (i.e. ‘public’ schools) for their kids be allowed once more to access state funded further education for free?

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One thought on “Open Universities?

  1. Dear Comrade – thank you for clarifying the ‘trail of evidence’ that clearly explains ‘why’ the so-called ‘Open’ University has taken it upon itself to openly discriminate against Cuban students simply because their country happens to be ‘Socialist’ and non-supportive of US-style (and predatory) free-market economics. Of course, I would add that even when higher education was entirely ‘free’ in the UK – many British Universities (including Oxford and Cambridge) continued to openly discriminate – only choosing students from what they considered to be good and solid middle class backgrounds (allowing the occasional ‘token’ working class student through). Even when the OU was founded in 1969 – under the premise that anyone (regardless of class) could undertake ‘distance’ learning part-time to earn degrees and other qualifications – it was never integrated into the ‘free’ British education system – and as a consequence, all its students had to ‘pay’ a ‘fee’ of somekind to attend. I think this demonstrates that the OU has never been anything but a vaguely left-leaning bourgeois educational institute, thoroughly opposed to genuine Socialist education. From its recent behaviour – we know see that it is thoroughly opposed to Socialist Cuba!

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