I cried when I read the news this morning.
That’s a tough thing to admit. I’ve read about far worse things. Heard stories of untold human suffering which evoked little more than a “well, damn“. I’ve been worried, heartbroken and livid. But I’ve never, until this morning, cried.
This morning was when I heard of plans to cut all funding for postgraduate students next year.
I’ve always had the idea of a PhD in my future, after a few years to explore different things and find something worth spending years of my life working on. In the past couple of months, I’ve been edging closer to that. I’ve been feeling more and more ready to take it on, and more like I’ve a topic that is both interesting and- importantly- worthwhile.
Without funding, I can’t do that.
By cutting funding, our government is saying that people like me- people who love our fields, love research, and want to commit ourselves to learning and the creation of knowledge to better the world around us in myriad tiny little ways- are better off elsewhere. It’s saying that the investment that has been made in us as undergraduates is enough. It’s saying that it would prefer us on the dole or working in jobs for which we’re ridiculously overqualified than engaged in research where we can use our hard-earned skills.
But it’s cutting more than that. This morning when I read the papers, what crumbled for a while was my sense of hope. My current situation, while better than that of many, is not ideal. It’s not where I would have wanted to be at this stage in my life. But I’ve always been confident- maybe naively- that with enough hard work I could get past it all and create something different. Something worthwhile.
I know that we don’t live in a world where we can all have the chance to work hard, better ourselves, and create good and worthwhile lives for ourselves. I liked living in a country that, at the very least, gave something towards that idea. One where- in theory at least- sheer talent, tons of effort, far too many all-nighters, occasional existential crises and a few gallons of coffee meant more than a shedload of money in the bank.
By cutting postgraduate funding, our government won’t improve anyone’s life. It won’t save money that’s worth saving. It will simply ensure that even more of the best and brightest of its citizens spend years of their lives languishing on the dole and in dead-end jobs. It’ll cut off any scientific and social innovation that these people would have brought about. It will create a darker, less interesting future without the things that these people would have learned. It’ll destroy one of the best chances we have of working out how to dig ourselves out of this mess that a small number of people have shoved the rest of us into.
And for those of us who don’t have much money but who dreamed of learning more, it’ll cut off our hope.