A black church leaders who is former director of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance has regretted that young people’s aspirations had been “dashed” because of the prospect of accumulating huge debt at university.
Dr David Muir, who is setting up a Christian organisation to address the social and economic challenges faced by African Caribbean communities particularly, was responding in the aftermath of the narrow 9 December parliamentary vote to increase tuition fees by up to £9,000 and slash the block grant to universities.
“It is unfortunate that young people today have had their aspirations dashed because of the burden of future debt, even if one assumes that being a graduate will enable you to earn more later on," commented Dr Muir.
“People like myself were fortunate enough to have our education paid for and it is a shame that young people today cannot have that same privilege," he said.
"In spite of the current economic crisis, a university education is still worthwhile both for young people and society in general and everything should be done for young people to go to university without being saddled with debt," he declared.
However, Dr Muir did not directly challenge the government's account of the reasons underlying its proposals - whereas others have disputed the economic assumptions about the causes and possible cures for the situation.
He said: “The political economy of education has changed drastically as a result of the current economic crisis and as a consequence of that there will inevitably be adjustments to how higher education is funded."
But Greens, trades unions, the University and College Union, Compass, the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and others have suggested that there is no inevitability to the current policy trajectory, proposing that a Business Education Tax (BET) offers one of a range of alternative ways forward.
Faith in Britain (http://www.faithinbritain.co.uk/), a new not-for-profit think tank to be established by Dr Muir, was announced in October 2010, along with a Commission of Inquiry into the challenges and opportunities of black families in Britain today.
The study, entitled the Commission on African and Caribbean Families in Britain, will proceed by taking written and oral evidence from people about their experience of raising children in the UK.
The Commission will travel to major UK cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Reading and Cardiff to meet with leaders of the black community as well as parents.
The project has won the support of several political and church leaders. They include Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Eric Brown, Dr Tayo Adeyemi and Stephen Timms, who is Labour MP for East Ham and the party’s vice chair for Faith Groups.