Student protesting fro free education. Photo: Mary Finch
Student protesting fro free education. Photo: Mary Finch

Noah Eden, Sheffield Socialist Students

As somebody who has recently graduated, it has been frustrating watching the government attack so-called ‘low-value’ degrees.

The latest plan by Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak is to cap student numbers on these courses. This will only make it harder for working-class people to get into university.

Due to financial pressures, working-class students are more likely to drop out of their degrees. Working-class students are less likely to get ‘graduate’ jobs too.

According to the Tories’ Office for Students, ‘low-value’ degrees are where a certain proportion of students either do not graduate, or do not have a ‘graduate-level’ job or a further course of study 18 months after finishing.

Courses with a high proportion of working-class students will be dubbed ‘low-value’ and subject to caps. This is yet another deterrent on working-class young people studying and developing their interests at university.

It’s the Tories that have made it increasingly difficult for students to complete their degrees, especially those from working-class backgrounds. Years of below-inflation student maintenance loan increases force many students to skip meals and use food banks, all while racking up tens of thousands of pounds in debt.


The fact that people are struggling to get jobs after higher education is not the fault of certain degrees. It is the fault of this Tory government, and the capitalist system they defend – a blind, unplanned system, dictated by the short-term profit interests of a tiny minority.

Tory MP Robin Walker is chair of Parliament’s ‘Education Select Committee’. He defended the plans, saying: “Substantial amounts of public money… go into supporting students to go to universities”.

But real-terms spending per university student has fallen massively under the Tories. As a result, students have seen a collapse in our living standards. And staff have been forced to take unprecedented strike action due to rock-bottom pay, overwork, and cuts.

Nonetheless, Walker’s comments hint at the main financial motivations behind student number caps. As a large portion of student debt continues to go unpaid, the current number of young people taking out student loans to go to university is increasingly intolerable for the Tories. And, if fewer young people go to university, then there is a bigger pool of cheap labour for British capitalism to exploit.

The wealth exists in society for a fully public-funded, and free, higher education system. But pro-capitalist politicians, like Walker, Sunak, and Labour leader Keir Starmer want to preserve that wealth in the hands of a super-rich minority at the top.

In order to win democratically run universities, free at the point of use for all, students and staff must link up with the wider working class to fight to take the wealth and control of society into our hands.


All of this means fighting for a socialist society, where resources are publicly owned and democratically planned to ensure that the needs of everyone are met. On this socialist basis, this would include planning the education sector – alongside the wider needs of society – to ensure that education offers young and working-class people a decent future.

This could mean either a decent, socially useful, and well-paid job, or the chance to pursue our interests – academia or otherwise – free from the rigid economic constraints that burden us under capitalism.