Monday, 21 September 2009

The CBI in Inevitable Pro-Business Shocker!

Does anyone else get annoyed when obviously biased bodies make completely predictable announcements about issues in which they have a specifically partisan interest, and then those unsurprising announcements are treated as legitimate news stories by a media who really should know better?

Earlier this week, an umbrella group representing the business end of the UK music industry, UK Music, came out in favour of recent government proposals to block broadband access for those individuals found illegally file-sharing. Indeed, they applauded any “government intervention” on the matter of downloading music for free that might help save their dying industry.

Well, duh!

Of course they would! If the music industry dies, then so does UK Music and all it represents. More specifically, if the music industry as we know it dies, but adapts into something else (something where massive labels and media providers no longer hold so much power over consumer spending, and one can no longer charge £15 for a CD that costs less than a pound to produce), then the business interests of the members of UK Music are thwarted. Therefore, UK Music is not interested in protecting “the music industry” – as they claim - but only the current business model of the UK music industry, from which they all benefit.

This is not news.

This is a bunch of business men and women getting together and working out how best they can keep hold of their current dominance over an industry which is slowly slipping from their grasp. To report it, is like reporting that The Group of Associated Computer Makers believe that people should buy more computers; or that Booksellers UK have come out in favour of reading – a total no-brainer!

Which is why I can’t believe the amount of coverage received by this morning’s announcement of the Confederation of British Industry, regarding University education in the UK!

Basically, this pro-business, pro-private-profit group which represents the collective interests of UK business has decided – surprise, surprise – that UK Universities should be run more like businesses and make more money!

Raise the tuition fees, they say. Restrict grants, increase interest paid on student loans…basically, make the UK University a much more lucrative business model; an elites-only, self-sufficient, profit-making institution that will not suffer financially when the government makes “inevitable” cuts in education spending.

The idea of “inevitable” cuts in education spending at play here gets me incredibly angry. Notice how this lobby group for UK business does not assume that Alistair Darling’s predicted cuts will (or should) be made on corporate welfare, export credit guarantees, public private partnership programmes, or any other form of public financing of private UK businesses. Nor do they suggest that the best way to put more money into the depleted government coffers, would be to raise the taxes paid by big business and the richer private citizens who own them.

No. All of these measures are, predictably, off the table in the CBI’s plans for University funding – because the CBI is not an education body, or even an objective policy body – it is a private confederation of British Industry; with its own political and ideological agenda.

Hence, the idea of education for education’s sake, is – again, predictably – not anywhere in their recommendations either. Such a view is irrelevant to the aims and objectives of the CBI, for whom University can only be seen as a tool to benefit UK industry. Nor is the problem of social equality dealt with. That children from poorer backgrounds might not actually be able to afford University under these new proposals is not an issue that causes the members of the CBI much concern. Not because they are inhuman monsters, but because it is literally not their problem. The organization’s only purpose in life is to represent the interests and goals of British Industry – not to promote an egalitarian vision of education for all. British Industry does not need a nation of degree-educated people; it needs low-level workers as well as high-level workers, and its recommendations reflect that. Who gets to do what job in the end doesn’t matter to the members of the CBI, so long as it continues to make them some money and doesn’t interfere with their current economic and ideological interests.

This is not to condemn the CBI for doing what it is designed to do, but to condemn the news media for thinking that its conclusions on higher education are anything more than they are: utterly self-serving pieces of pro-business propaganda.

Make more money and give us more ways of making money from you in loan repayments, subsidized private research and debt collection

There is not a single thing which the CBI said about Universities that wasn’t entirely predictable: Pro-Business Lobbyists Make Another Predictably Pro-Business Announcement. Why that should constitute as news at all – let alone as headline news – is a mystery to me?

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