Thursday 9 March 2017 (06h29) :
Free university education - tertiary education can and should be free for all

By : Dr Gideon Polya

The American Greens and the Australian Greens demand free university education. University education should be free. All tertiary education can and should be free. Indeed all education should be free, whether pre-school (kindergarten), primary education (elementary school), secondary education (high school), tertiary education (university, technical training) or life-long learning (“Free university education”: ).

Education is regarded as a basic human right which is why all developed countries make basic primary and secondary education free (although Educational Apartheid in some countries determines differential access to good quality education depending upon parental wealth, race or home location). Nevertheless the currently dominant neoliberal philosophy - that demands maximum freedom for the smart and otherwise advantaged to exploit natural and human resources for personal aggrandisement - means that most governments charge fees to (mostly young) students doing accredited university courses (e.g. science, engineering, medicine, arts, commerce, law etc) or technical and further education (TAFE) courses (e,g. electrician, building, plumbing, hospitality, hair dressing etc).

However there is another approach to economics that can be variously described as social humanism, socialism or the welfare state and which involves maximizing the happiness, dignity, and opportunity of all people, with the Scandinavian countries being good examples of relatively conservative countries applying this philosophy to achieve a good social safety net and free university education.

At the outset the neoliberals assert that universities are expensive institutions and that students should accordingly pay for the tuition that will enhance their future earning prospects. However a reductio ad absurdum here would be that all children should be heavily taxed from birth in direct proportion to the IQs , wealth and socio-economic status of their parents.

Further, all nations need to have a complement of expert scholars and scientists for variety of economic, health, national security and national prestige reasons - but one must ask why impoverished, circa 20 year old undergraduate students should have to pay for this expert complement that disproportionately and immediately benefits the mature adult population and the richer and older citizens in particular.

All education can and should be free. All university education can and should be as empirically exampled by the 2 dozen or so countries from rich to poor that have made it so (and in some cases also for non-citizens) , the list including (GDP per capita in US dollars in brackets; UN data, 2014-2015): Argentina ($12,645) , Barbados ($15,429), Brazil ($11,387), Chile ($14,528), China ($7,617), Cuba ($7,274), Czech Republic ($19,470), Denmark ($61,294), Ecuador ($6,346), Estonia ($20,122), Finland ($49,678), France ($42, 802), Germany ($47,966), Greece ($21,414), Iceland ($52,048), Libya ($6,602), Malta ($23,281), Mauritius ($9,945), Norway ($97,226), Scotland ($24,060), Slovenia ($23,954), Sweden ($58,856), Trinidad and Tobago ($20,452), Turkey ($9,126) and Uruguay ($15,574) but not the Anglosphere countries of Australia ($62,290), Canada ($50,169), Ireland ($53,648), New Zealand ($44,189), UK ($46,461) and the US ($54,306) (see “Free education”, Wikipedia: and “List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita”, Wikipedia: ).

In addition, Nigeria (GDP per capita $3,203), university education is free for Science, Education & Technology students ("Buhari declares free university education for all Science, Education & Technology students”, Answers Africa: ). Some further countries provide university education that is very cheap from a Western perspective, namely Austria ($44,118), Belgium ($40,278), India ($1,614), Italy ($30,426), Mexico ($8,981), Spain ($25,865), and Taiwan ($22,263) ( see Amy Gibbons, “The countries offering students free (or affordable) university education”, Independent, 5 December, 2016: ). In some further countries free university education is available based on means or ability e.g. Canada ($43,206; means-based free places in Ontario) and Russia ( $9,243; competition-based free places).

Free university education now for everyone! Students and parents around the world should demand that tertiary education is free for everyone, that university education is free for all. It is now too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2 degrees Centigrade temperature rise but decent people are obliged to do everything they can to make the future “less bad” for their children and future generations (see “Are we doomed?”: ; “Methane Bomb Threat”: ; “Nuclear weapons ban , end poverty & reverse climate change”: ; "Too late to avoid global warming catastrophe": ).

In addition to ceasing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution ASAP, installing 100% renewable energy ASAP and urgently commencing draw-down of atmospheric CO2 to a safe and sustainable 300 ppm CO2, present adult Humanity must urgently offer free university education to the young of today who, as well as future generations, will have to clean up the mess in order to survive (see “2011 climate change course”: ; . ; “Carbon Debt Carbon Credit”: ; “Cut carbon emissions 80% by 2020”: ; “100% renewable energy by 2020”: ).

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