Europe needs desperately to fix education

This country, as with most of the continent, is facing a multiple and growing crisis. Unemployment, fiscal collapse, monetary incontinence and low relative productivity are going to work through our system alongside a grotesque lack of credit in a highly destructive way. We lack the savings and resources to see us through.

Britain is about to have a crisis in graduate education. A country which lacks its own plumbers and electricians and which has become top-heavy in financial and service industries is about to find itself without the flexible wherewithal to retrain people. The graduates and school-leavers and homeowners who will be thus failed will join the pressurised, and the indebted, and the repossessed. Some will struggle through; some will have a terrible time.

Many of the universities to which they went will have an awful time too. Many are technically insolvent, or near it, and unsure of what they should be.

Why not square the circle? Take the insolvent universities, merge them into flexible, modular, local campuses of a national university with a national credit system and a ten-year limit on the time it takes to get a degree, and let the Open University run it.

The National University could teach people real things in real time at their own pace. Meanwhile the big academic places could be floated away on their own property and endowments, and we could turn our attention to freeing the sixth forms for any model parents would trust their vouchers with whilst freeing education at the secondary and primary level.

Yet, how likely is any of that to happen? I tell you this--if it doesn't, if we neglect maths, and basic languages, and science, and proper intellectual discipline much longer, there won't be any point in viewing the education system as anything more than a holding pen for penury. That would be a tragedy, and would seal both the decline of Europe and of this country.

I hope that it never happens, but I fear that it is.


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