Two Penn’orth: Am I superstitious?

In heralding a new decade, 2010 already possesses one of those inexplicable psychological pangs – we don’t know why we feel that ‘change’ is in the air, but there is a sense that we’ve turned a corner. Of course the fallout of the credit crunch continues to take its toll, but if last week’s Christmas sales reports are anything to go by, recovery doesn’t look so out of reach.

The fact that this ‘twinge’ coincides with the conclusion of the longest general election campaign in modern UK political history; with the rewriting of financial service regulation; a time when saviour Obama looks set to wobble in the mid-term elections; with the emergence of South America which celebrates two-hundred years of independence and with the continued rise of China as a political superpower looking to flex its economic and military muscle, all the more serves to reinforce the sense that 2010 is going to see change.

In Money, we take an in-depth look at just a few of these pressing matters. Tom White examines the risk of a government driven bubble, while I wrap up with a review of what exactly new financial regulation could look like. In this article however, I want to address something closer to home: the choices that face the student, for 2010 also sees the publication of the hotly-anticipated Tuition Fees review.

Last term, we wrote about Lord Mandelson’s speech in which he invited students to become ‘consumers’ – that is to become more scrupulous in their demands. At the time I objected that there might well not be any students to make those demands.

The most worrying part of the report, however, remains that most students probably won’t even know about it. This was revealed by the poorly attended protest held at the latter half of last term. Although this was made up for by the stinging slogans being issued by the group’s mega-phone, one got the sense that students just weren’t interested. But that defies belief, for if you think about it, this seemingly innocuous fees review will fundamentally decide the fate of a generation.

To understand why, it’s important to reiterate what universities do. Amongst the essays, the rebuild and the Uniexpress Facebook messages (who or what is Demetri Koursaris?), they are engines of social change – in the policy recommendations they issue and the chances they afford students. They are of national importance and they need vital cash. The review will recommend one way of doing this, but opponents need to be able to articulate feasible alternatives.

So whether you agree that richer kids should pay their way for their education or if you shrink at the thought of having to ask for another shift, make it your New Year Resolution to have your opinion heard. Make that pang physical and may be then 2010 could be a year we can all look forward to.

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