The Great Debate UK

The Consumer Student

–Priyamvada Gopal is a University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English and Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge. The opinions expressed are her own.–

The once highly-regarded British public university is not quite dead but it is in terminal care. After half a century of global success on public funding that amounted to less than 1.5% of Britain’s GDP, in the space of two years we’ve seen the partial withdrawal of the state from the sector, and it is expected that this is a precursor to full withdrawal followed by extensive privatisation.

With the overnight tripling of tuition fees in 2010 (in the face of widespread protests) and with further rises in the offing, the student has been reframed as a consumer buying private goods in the form of a degree. Combine this with a mortgage and you have a large number of citizens who are unlikely to be debt-free at any point in their life.

Formerly known as a university, the service provider of higher education is now to sink or swim in response to the pressures of competition, as degree-awarding corporations rather than sites of inquiry and learning. Ironically, however, it turns out that the new fees regime which David Willetts, the Universities Minister, keeps bizarrely insisting is fairer than the previous one, is actually costing the exchequer more, through the rising costs of subsidising student loans.

from David Rohde:

The global middle class awakens

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People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 18, 2013.  REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Alper, a 26-year-old Turkish corporate lawyer, has benefited enormously from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule. He is one of millions of young Turks who rode the country’s economic boom to a lifestyle his grandparents could scarcely imagine.

from The Great Debate:

The Middle East needs its activist moment

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Two days after the death of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, protesters continue to mass outside of U.S. embassies in Egypt and Yemen. The protesters are apparently reacting to a low budget, anti-Muslim video made by Americans that was distributed in a trailer-like segment on YouTube. The murder of Stevens and three of his aides in Libya seems to be the work of a paramilitary group using the protests for cover. That group may or may not be affiliated with al Qaeda.

In the West, this all sadly reads as another example of Islam proving unable to deal with the consequences of free speech. It recalls the threats surrounding the publication of Mohammad in a political cartoon in a Danish newspaper, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theodoor van Gogh and the late 1980s fatwa (death sentence) decreed by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini against the novelist Salman Rushdie. The strictest adherents to Islam will tolerate no heresy, even from outsiders. Meanwhile, in the U.S. and Europe, prevailing law largely gives individuals the right to be as offensive as they want.

From an Arab spring to a new English winter of discontent?

By Mark Kobayashi-Hillary. The author is the chief executive of technology research group, IT Decisions, based in São Paulo, Brazil. The opinions expressed are his own.

Labour leader Ed Miliband used a column in last weekend’s Observer newspaper to suggest that it is time for politicians to listen to the protestors at the Occupy London protest camp next to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The corporate hijacking of Occupy Wall Street campaign

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By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

As New Yorkers hurried to work on Wall Street on Friday morning they were greeted by police bracing themselves to cope with a wave of protestors apparently threatening to storm the New York Stock Exchange. By lunchtime the storming had failed to occur, 14 protestors had been arrested and hungry workers were free to go out and get a sandwich.

In recent days the Occupy Wall Street campaign is looking more like a damp squib than a counter-capitalism movement. The protests may be born out of a genuine frustration with bank bailouts funded by the tax payer, but no sooner had the first placard been written then corporate big-wigs sensed the opportunity it presented and rushed in to join the fray.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Army, Allah and America: on Pakistani pitfalls and the future of Egypt

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egyptAll countries are unique and comparing two of the world's most populous Muslim countries, Egypt and Pakistan, is as risky as comparing Britain to France at the time of the French Revolution. But many of the challenges likely to confront Egypt as it emerges from the mass protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak are similar to those Pakistan has faced in the past, and provide at least a guide on what questions need to be addressed.  In Pakistan, they are often summarised as the three A's -- Army, Allah and America.

Both have powerful armies which are seen as the backbone of the country; both have to work out how to accommodate political Islam with democracy, both are allies of America, yet with people who resent American power in propping up unpopular elites.

from FaithWorld:

Criticism mounts of “anti-Muslim frenzy” in U.S., Koran burning plan under fire

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koran burning 1U.S. religious leaders  have condemned an "anti-Muslim frenzy" in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the "misinformation and outright bigotry" against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by Islamist militants. The Vatican has also condemned the Koran burning plan. (Photo: Indonesian Care for Pluralism Movement protests against Koran burning plan, Jakarta, 8 Sept 2010/Crack Palinggi)

Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday. Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to "expose Islam (as a) violent and oppressive religion."

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