What Price Science? (£15, apparently)

Brexit is not single anomalous monstrosity existing without context or precedent. Brexit is just the worst example of a long-standing problem with the British character. It is a perfect example of the impulse that not only says “Sod other people”, it also says “Sod my own future! Just give me what I happen to desire, right now!”

There is no greater example of this deep-running cultural flaw than the never-ending attempts to monetise education and learning: “Never mind that we need to educate the next generation if the nation is to have a future, let’s just turn it into a cash cow now and sell shares in it!”

I’m not going to rant about student loans here but, of bloody course, the fees and the loans are manifestly unjust (and I say that as somebody old enough that I never had to pay them myself!) but I feel that this is a problem that will solve itself because the loans have now been added on to the national debt and even this deluded Government must surely know by now that it is never going to get its money back. The cash cow has died en route to the slaughterhouse and they can only dream of it becoming the most economy brand of dogfood.

I’m also not going to rant about the constant pressure from ignorant and stupid politicians to replace genuine higher education with vocational training that employers would do for themselves if they were not such total lazy cheapskates. These morons seem to make no distinction between a STEM subject degree and a sub-minimum wage internship at the local car repair shop except to say, “I don’t see why they can’t all just become millionaire investment bankers like my Daddy did, but at least the car repair shop is vocational and the Bentley does need looking at after I ran over that pauper last night.”

Bloody hell! Am I still on the intro here? You can tell I am wound up!

Yeah, what is this actually about?

I picked up a tourist brochure and discovered that the Royal Observatory at Greenwich is now charging a £15 entrance fee for admission. That is not for the Planetarium. That is just for the Observatory itself.  That used to be 100% free! £15 is not a nominal charge. Sure, there are people who can casually drop £15 on a single, ludicrously elaborate, drink in a (s)wanky cocktail bar without a second thought but they are not the people who matter. £15 is a whole day’s food budget for a lot of working families. And that £15 is per-adult visitor. They want £6.50 per child on top of that! Then an extra £8 per adult for the planetarium and another £10 per adult for the astrophotography exhibition. Plus extra again for children! You might as well fork over £80 for a year’s family membership even if you were only looking to visit the once! And what is this money spent on? Your guess is as good as mine but apparently not on paying the staff properly.

You already know how this will pan out. If you price an educational day out around the same level as a premium entertainment attraction then the adults and kids alike will shrug their shoulders and choose to go to the premium entertainment attraction instead.  (Everybody wants to go to Thorpe Park. At least until they get there. And discover that it’s crap.**)

The Price? (No, I don’t mean the £15 or £80. I mean The Price with capital letters.)

The Price is a lost generation of kids who may never have a chance to discover the fascination of science though institutions that used to be free for everybody, for the good of everybody, for the good of the nation. These kids will learn that education is just this thing you have to do, and pay for, to get a job. They will do a “degree”* in Hotel Management, or some other vocational subject dressed up as a degree, and spend decades in debt failing to pay back the ludicrous fees that the eventual job will never recoup.

A few of those kids could have been our next generation of great scientists and engineers, the people who could have rebuilt this country after Brexit. But, you know what? Fuck them. Fuck science and fuck the future too! We got £15 right now. Kerching! It’s what Adam Smith would have wanted, right?***

(If this article was depressing then, well, yes. It is and it should be. But I do have a few rays of hope and those will be in the next article.)


* – Let me be clear that I am not disparaging vocational training here. If you want to be a Hotel Manager then it makes perfect sense to do a vocational course in Hotel Management. (If you want to start your own independent hotel then you will probably need to pay for this yourself but if you already work for the chain of hotels you intend to be a manager for then they should stump up the cost of training their employees!) My main point is that Hotel Management is not an academic subject and should not be structured or charged for as such. Such training should not be provided by a University. It should not call its qualification a “degree”. It should not take 3 years of full-time study. It should probably be a set of part-time classes structured to fit around an existing hotel job. Conflating vocational training and academia just ruins both.

** – It really is crap. They don’t even have a giant statue of Jeremy Thorpe.

*** – Probably not. He was not as much of a knob as his followers would have you believe.

December 21, 2018. #Brexit, London, Money, Sensible.


  1. What Price Science? (£0, apparently) | Daniel Rigal replied:

    […] my last rant I got upset about short-sighted imbeciles putting financial barriers in front of access to the […]

  2. Rik Howard replied:

    Not cheery but worth saying

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