Here I go again. Risking it on my blog by saying what I think - what I genuinely think that is. I know its a risk because we have reached the stage where my innocuous and harmless little posts are being scrutinised for potentially embarrassing material. Its a good job I have Richard Hazlewood, Wales answer to Andy Coulson on hand to warn me about any little incendiaries that might be lurking amongst my random thoughts. I also accept that posting genuinely means the occasional need to backtrack - in the face of evidence. But this time, I have England's finest journalist (excepting Charles Moore and William Rees-Mogg) Boris Johnson making the case for me - in today's Telegraph.
Most of my political colleagues would have known that I wasn't the greatest enthusiast (I put in no higher because of the aversion to risk that is affecting me today) for my Party's opposition to top-up fees in Wales. All I will say is that I never advocated this policy in public myself. Sometimes I admitted that my personal view was different from the party's, if I was asked a direct question. But this isn't the point that I want to make today. The relevant aspect behind this post is that the 'No top-up fees' policy was, and is, financially credible only if the Government's targets for the inexorable rise in the percentage of young people taking degrees is reversed.
This was always rather an easy and populist argument to make. Only requirement was to rubbish 'media studies' for a guaranteed round of applause. This last week, there has been much entertainment about a degree course in 'whispering to horses'. Now you can't get much dafter than that. Except that you can. I don't know what the course in 'Equine Management' entails - but I do know that caring for horses is going to be every bit as important as caring for dogs, or cows, or cats - and no-one would employ a vet who did not have a degree. And media studies looks a very useful degree, bearing in mind the massive growth in communication that is happening across the world. This degree will be in more demand that a lot of much more respected degrees that lead only into academia. Nothing wrong with that of course. Everything as the market dictates.
What we have with top-up fees is 'the market' being used to direct students into financially rewarding careers. If they are paying for their university teaching, they are going to think about what they are going to do in the world of work later on. They will want something real for their money. And as Boris writes, every time someone makes a crack about a Mickey Mouse degree, they should be reminded that Disney has revenues on 33 billion dollars a year. So lets hear it for the horse whisperers.