Published on The National Student
Question Time, the 12th of November. The Stoke-on-Trent stage was set for a fiery debate, with news breaking about Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged ‘lack of respect’ at a remembrance day service, as well as revelations of David Cameron’s ideas for the European Union reforms.
These big hitting stories emerged and were discussed in the first half of the show. Yet, as the show progressed, talk moved to the NHS, junior doctors and, ultimately, students. A discussion that caused a variety of reactions, posing a fundamental question; are taxpayers opposed to students?
Sparked by the recent reforms Jeremy Hunt has suggested making to junior doctors’ contracts, which have been criticised as both dangerous and unethical, a medical student voiced the opinion that “the junior contracts are pushing doctors away. There’s been a decrease in medical school applications this year and an increase in junior doctors wanting to work abroad. I’m a medical student and I don’t want to stay in England if these plans go through.”
A fair enough statement that carried with it her own life aspirations, plans and ideas. Her outburst was placed in the room, and the audience seemed unsure how to react. Some faces appeared shocked, others astounded, whilst only a few seemed to support the young lady in her issues. Was this reflective of the British public?
The medic’s statement was met with complete and utter disgust by an older gentleman sat on the row in front of her, stating how “she’s getting trained by us, our taxes and now she’s saying she doesn’t want to work in this country.” This time the audience knew how to react, applauding enthusiastically.
It seemed that the gathered spectators, apparently a representation of the UK’s populace, agreed with the gentleman. How shocking that a student should want to leave this country for better opportunities after using our education system. Truly, what an act of rebellion against the nation we call home! For a student to want to fully maximise their degree, potential and career prospects the only option is to stay in the UK – or so the sentiments of the collected audience seemed to feel.
The interesting aspect is the apparent outrage the audience expressed against a student wanting to maximise her opportunities. What is it that is seen as shocking in a student wanting to gain the best opportunities? Have we not done since the age of old – wanting to expand, explore and go to where the best chances are? If the Romans had had the same mindset, the Roman Empire would never existed. What if NASA shared their views? Man would not have landed on the moon.
The world is filled with opportunities and chances; often far more appealing than those in our very own hometown – facts this gentleman and others gathered in the audience seemed to ignore.
It also linked effortlessly to the early discussion the debate had brought that was focused on the EU. The idea of open borders had come up, and here the medic was demonstrating one of its major advantages: an environment where students can take their qualifications and earn a living in an exciting, new location. How dare a student want to maximise on the opportunities that the EU can provide us? How dare she totally act within her own personal rights to want to work within the borders of a different nation, where pay is better, hours aren’t as strenuous and the profession has more prestige? What an abomination!
What the gentlemen also failed to realise was his own reliance upon people like her from different nations, coming to the UK so as to take up a role. As a nation the UK relies on thousands of skilled individuals from varying different countries – yet his single-mindedness concentrated wholly on the issue that his money was apparently being wasted on a nation such as France or Germany (who, incidentally, provide thousands of employees for the UK workforce as well as working closely in economics, politics and business).
To add fuel to this burning fire against a student taking her career into her own hands was the apparent outrage from a lady who screamed “and the £9,000 a year,” hinting at how the government was apparently wasting £9,000 of its money on this poor girl. A lump-sum only seen as a waste because she wanted to leave.
The debate on the £9,000 didn’t go further, but it should. The figure was raised significantly for everyone recently, and it is not a matter that students can talk about lightly. But to use that figure against students is, quite frankly, shameful. Did students want it to be £9,000 a year? No. Did students want the government to triple university fees so that we could be placed into crippling debt? No. Do students want the taxpayers to pay £9,000 a year to fund an education that was a third of the price a few years ago? Most certainly not.
So, to the lady who decided to raise this issue as an attack upon students – we did not choose this, want this, or desire this. We have been lumbered with this, and stuck with a debt that will probably never be fully paid off.
Lucy Powell MP thankfully brought the discussion to a close, pointing out that “she’s probably going to be in about £50,000 worth of debt once she finishes,” which was thankfully met with rapturous applause. Students up and down the nation are now in crippling amounts of debt before they even get a chance to drown within the overly saturated graduate job market.
To those taxpayers who support the system and are willing to fund the university education system, I thank you. For those taxpayers who believe tuition is a waste of funds, be that if the student chooses to stay in the UK or not, I beg of you to place yourself in a position where your entire life is mapped out by this overarching sense of debt and a lack of job prospects. I ask you this: would you not move away too?