Following on from my earlier post regarding tuition fees and the level of debt many of our graduates now leave university with, several of you have asked how other countries finance & subsidise their own further education systems. How exactly is the rest of the world paying for its university education?
The bad news is that to understand the irony in that opening line, you have to be middle aged. In playing Reginald ‘Reggie’ Iolanthe Perrin, actor Leonard Rossiter appeared to encapsulate all that is being middle-aged: trapped, banal desperate, emasculated, impotent, lost, failed. Driven to increasingly bizarre behaviour by the pointlessness of his middle-management existence at Sunshine Desserts, Reggie’s only refuge was into his daydream world of surrealist escapism, usually accompanied by his secretary Joan Greengross. Eventually, the inevitable happens and Reggie does a ‘John Stonehouse’, fakes his own death to escape his bourgeois net-curtained suburban life and start afresh, only to discover his new life is no better!
Neither lender nor borrower be, still strikes me as darned good advice. The former implies risk, the latter involves cost and I try to avoid both, as, invariably either one usually ends in tears. However, whilst on your daily travels consider this: one in every five people you meet is likely to be in moderate-to-dire financial straits because of unsecured consumer debt amassed in recent years. Yep, on the tenth anniversary of the 2007 credit crunch, the deepest recession since WWII, credit card debt, personal, payday & car loans have peaked again at £200bn. That’s about three million maxed-out, not to mention stressed-out, individuals.
We all know that money can buy neither love nor happiness but, I suspect, it doesn’t stop us all wanting to trade-places with someone, at some point in our life. But have a closer look at those we envy, usually the rich & famous, and do they really look any happier? Would you truly have thrown your lot in to be Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston? Life swap with the Kardashians or America’s current first family perhaps? For all their fame do Jay Z and Beyoncé strike you as being a particularly loved-up couple? Their recent musical output more than answers that one, me-thinks.
I read an entertaining review t’other day of Matthew Engel’s acerbic, sardonic new book ‘That’s the Way it Crumbles’, a fascinating analysis of the Americanisation of our own language. Whilst insisting he isn’t rabidly anti-American, the author certainly laments the corrosive impact that particular country’s speech has had on British English and at times you can imagine Engel’s monocle hitting the soup!
50 years ago, only 2% of our population went to university, and 10% achieved First class degrees. Today, 30% goes to uni, and 25% of them obtain firsts. Now, I’m no mathematician, but even I can work out that represents a massive increase in the achievement of the ultimate award from 0.2% to 7.5%. The ‘powers that be’ resolutely state there has been no grade-inflation whatsoever so I can only assume today’s graduates are thirty times more clever! Well, who’d’ve thunked it.
Notwithstanding the fact that I’ve always been a non-smoker (I was worried it would stunt my growth!) I’ve never actually been a rabid anti-smoker. I come from a northern family of heavy smokers, was relatively sanguine about the smoking ban when it was being debated and was even slightly jealous of those who thoroughly enjoyed the post-coital or post-restaurant-meal cigarette. Yes, it’s going to kill you, as it has done many of my family, but it’s your decision and you pays your money (currently about a tenner I believe) you takes your choice…
Not a great deal appears to have happened whilst I’ve been away on my two-wheel travails. Trump continues to tweet nonsense; Mother Theresa’s still playing hide & seek and no-one’s able to find her; Deranged Davis is throwing his weight around Brussels convincing no-one he has any idea what comprises a good Brexit deal; Roger Federer proved there’s life in the ol’ dog and Chris Froome won another Tour to the deafening apathy of everyone watching. Myself included. The notable exception to the same-old-same-old was that Postman Vince’s red-letter finally arrived, announcing his promotion to the leadership of the Lib Dems.
The other month a primary school head teacher was widely reported chastising parents who largely ignore their offspring. Signs were whacked-up around various school entrances entreating the smartphone-addicted grown-ups to “greet your child with a smile, not a mobile”. Poetic quality apart, by all accounts it’s worked a treat, at least within a radius of about 200m, and the conveniently-sized universe of wonder and source of modern enlightenment and self-esteem have been consigned to either back-pocket or glovebox. Name & shame, call ‘em out and lead by example. Who’d’ve thought it was all so easy!
Well, what a whirlwind the last couple of weeks have proved to be. So much so, that we’ve all kinda forgotten that today’s the big day when David Davis’ leads the political equivalent of the charge of the light-brigade and kicks-off the long-awaited Brexit negotiations. Notwithstanding that to my mind, this is of greater importance than either who won the last election or who’s going to win the next election, it’s illuminating to analyse Mrs May’s vital statistics in her cynical attempt to gain a stronger position within these contested & convoluted conversations.