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Catch-22

The Government has reduced postgraduate funding for arts and humanities. What is the immediate and immanently recognisable effect of this? More students forced to take their postgraduate degrees part time. But what may not be fully understood yet is the full extent of the detrimental effect this will have on poorer students who want to continue their studies. It might be assumed by most that although much has been cut, there will still be some funding for poorer students, and so it may be categorized as merely importunate rather than despicable and illiberal (in the traditional sense).

The terms above might be described by some as harsh and unrealistic, because, after all, times are hard. So, why must these stronger terms be applied? Because, for the poor, they have not merely reduced the means by which studying may be facilitated but almost completely eliminated it. There is now no funding at all for standalone Masters’ degrees, and there are so few research preparation Masters’ (those which are combined with a PhD) that they may as well not exist at all. Many Universities simply do not have funded Master’s in humanities subjects at all. Considering that a Master’s is generally required for a PhD, which could still be funded, things may start to become clearer. You need a Master’s to do your doctorate, but there is no funding for Masters’, therefore you cannot do a Doctorate, as to get the necessary funding you need already to possess the prerequisite. It really is catch-22.

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Naturally, one can take a postgraduate degree part time. That is, two years for a Master’s degree and six years for a PhD. But then, the question has to be: who can be an academic before they are middle aged? Who can get those top jobs that require postgraduate qualifications, when a ready flow of wealthy full time students are coming out of these institution and snatching up those jobs? And it must also be remembered that a part-time degree cannot possibly deliver the rigour and intensity of full time; after all, those in part time study must balance the amount of concentration they can reserve for their intellectual pursuits against that required in maintaining full time employment.

To those who pronounce – this word, I think, captures the nonchalant ideology of those who do say such things without due regard for the facts as they are rather than how they would like them to be – that funding should and could come from the private sector, or from other means of finance devised by the Universities themselves, it is only possible to reply that this would be ideal, but the state funding, as state funding always does, has killed off any private interest in such investments and the Universities, having been previously reliant on Government handouts, lack the infrastructure necessary to fill the gap. The result being that the hole in humanities funding left by Government cuts will take many years to be filled by private initiatives either from within or without the Universities leaving a lost generation of ordinary working class people who were unable to “get on” or fulfil their “aspirations” (I believe these are the words that Cameron keeps repeating like some kind of parrot); it is the end of meritocracy, and a consolidation of the many years’ burgeoning plutocracy that will take its place.

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