Or it's possible I just read this story on the BBC. I forget.
Anyway, the gist of it is that HM Government believe that University education should be tailored more towards the needs of the economy. "University research", says the BBC article, "needed to be concentrated on providing economic benefits". Not only so, but Universities themselves should run in a more business-like fashion. Thus Mandy on students: "They are paying customers, they need to be given much fuller information about what they can expect to get back from their courses". Of course, this is quite consistent with other gov't policies, like the EMA, on which you should not get me started or I will not stop until I am literally foaming at the mouth and casting around for the nearest MP of ministerial rank into whom I can sink my rabies-infected fangs. Ahem. The point is, as far as our gov't is concerned, education is all about the bottom line. Because they expect everyone else to think so too, they have to pay people to go to school.
It is all very depressing if, like me, you are someone who believes that education is not ultimately about fuelling the capitalist machine. I really do think learning is its own benefit, and that the main role of education is as a vehicle of culture. But I guess culture doesn't pay.
I suspect this highlights a particular weakness of the Left. Although Marx is now very firmly in the background for most European socialist types, and certainly way way back for "New" Labour, his philosophy still stands at the foundation of all their thought. That means materialism. It means a commitment to reading everything in terms of material wealth. It's a very monotone way of viewing the world.
And it means, ironically, that the Left is more committed to preparing young people to be a cog in the machine than the Right ever has been.