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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Walking down my usual route to the British Library today, I encountered one of the most flagrant attempts to normalize the commodification of Higher Education that I have yet seen. In a poster for The British Institute of Technology & E-commerce (BITE), invoking the set of enraging "Keep Calm and Carry On" gumph that has been spewed forth recently, advice is dispensed to students to "Keep Calm About University Fees".

BITE's disgusting poster "Keep Calm About University Fees"

This appears to be part of a wider drive by BITE, who also have T-Shirts with the slogan which they describe as an "inspirational message".

Just what is this?

BITE seem to be offering bursaries of up to 50% on some university courses. However, this is not mentioned on the poster. Furthermore, this philanthropic effort effectively says: "a very select group will get 50% off... so don't panic". The people putting out this message to students (presuming the age of the leaders), telling them that they should just accept the fact that they will have to pay £27,000 [a small group will pay £13,000] for a university education, went to university for nothing. The people putting out this message received grants to go to university. But no, don't worry, keep calm, if you go now, you must pay.

If we have to have fees, then of course I'm in favour of bursaries, if those bursaries serve to widen access. However, advertisements for this should make it clear what they're doing, not put out cryptic messages that further entrench the idea that there is nothing wrong with university fees, making it ever harder to, as Adorno puts it, think otherwise.