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Neo-liberalism does not recognise social investment – John Hermann

The benefits to society at large by having the state invest in education at all levels, and tertiary education in particular, is immense. In fact it is indispensable to the health and happiness of modern society. Before the advent of the neo-liberal era (i.e. before 1980) many countries had schemes in which every form of tertiary education was freely available to their citizens, with the only admission criteria being demonstrated skills and academic ability. And even where direct state grants did not exist, generous scholarships and studentships were often provided for both local and foreign students. These awards were provided by government, and also sometimes by the institution itself as far as its budgetary constraints would allow.

The purely financial argument in favour of such an arrangement in past years was that those citizens who gained degrees and diplomas were expected to become absorbed by the professions or to move into other well remunerated occupations, and therefore would be obliged to pay more tax to the government over their working lifetime and years of retirement than would most other citizens.

However the more recent adoption of neo-liberal policies has led to a thorough commercialisation of tertiary education. To the extent that most students today are obliged to take on an immense debt load in order to fund their course work and their living expenses. This would be serious enough, as an impediment to getting married and raising a family, even if the attainment of adequate educational certification could serve as a means to obtaining secure future employment.

Unfortunately an additional hurdle has been constructed by neo-liberalism — it has effectively removed most forms of job security, even for those who have been well trained for entering the professions. This amounts to a systematic devaluing of human skills and talents, and more generally society’s vast cultural heritage.

The bottom line for neo-liberalism is immediate profit, with little care for the welfare of present or future generations, or the economic health of the nation as a whole, or ecological sustainability, or even the survival of the human race.

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