Eilidh Whiteford



Thursday, 31 March 2011

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford gave the address and presented the prizes at this year’s senior prizegiving at her old school, Banff Academy.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I was genuinely delighted to be invited back to the school, and very pleased to be able to be here for the senior prize giving. In my day it wasn’t quite so grand or formal an occasion, but I think it’s only right that the parents, teachers and friends come together to commend the efforts and achievements of Banff Academy pupils who have excelled over the last year.”

Addressing the pupils at the prizegiving ceremony, the MP said:

“The most important thing I can say this evening is to congratulate those of you who have been awarded prizes on your academic achievements, and your efforts on behalf of the wider community.”

Dr Whiteford went on to discuss the disincentive that tuition fees presents to aspiring students:

“I’m sure that quite a number of you here tonight have hopes and plans to go to university or college after the summer, or in years to come. In recent weeks, I don’t think I’ve spoken to any young people aspiring to university, or indeed their parents, who have not expressed concerns about the £9,000 a year tuition fees that will now apply at most of the top universities south of the border.

“I really cannot think of a greater disincentive to education, a greater barrier to opportunity for all according to ability, or a more short-sighted measure. I’m very proud that the Scottish Government has resisted immense pressure to go down a similar route for the Scottish universities, and that Scottish domiciled students studying in Scotland will still be able to enjoy a free education at our world class universities, based on ability to learn, not ability to pay.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the individual benefits that derive from a university education, and less about the benefits to society as a whole. It’s undoubtedly true that graduates tend to earn higher salaries, and are more able to choose careers that they find meaningful and fulfilling. But we also need to remember that those on better wages contribute far more in tax revenues, as you would expect in any progressive tax system; we also need to remember that many graduates do essential, highly skilled jobs that are not particularly lucrative. In my view we need to ask ourselves if we want to live in a low skill, low wage economy, or a high skill, high wage economy.

“If we see higher education only as a cost to the country, rather than an investment in our young people and the future of our country, in my view we’re in danger of becoming like the man the Irish poet and dramatist Oscar Wilde described as knowing “the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

“Or to put it another way, “Education is the wellspring of our health, wealth and happiness” Those were the opening words of a report that crossed my desk recently, and I don’t think I could have put it better. And nor could I think of a more appropriate way to conclude my remarks tonight.

“Congratulations to you all - and I wish Banff Academy, its students and teachers, every continued success.”

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