The recent tripling of the tuition fee cap was something that happened horribly and inexorably, despite continued protests in the run-up to the parliamentary vote. As with several landmark changes in Higher Education, the reasoning behind the decision was primarily economic: why should the British taxpayer continue to subsidise university students at a time when resources could (supposedly) be better used to aid recovery in other sectors, such as manufacturing? Today's logic seems to be that anyone wishing to go to university will go despite the eventual financial cost; that by accepting the burden of vastly increased fees, the next generation of students will have a more acute appreciation of their position, and thus seek to profit more from their 'investment'. The government will no longer need to fund Higher Education, and those who see no 'practical' benefit arising from university study will be satisfied.
Why, though, does something have to be 'practical'? As a linguist, I am distrustful of what people mean by such a word. 'Practical' seems to mean something that leads to making lots of money, and can be employed to denigrate anything overly creative or intellectual. Do we want to be part of a nation that believes in such 'practicality'? If going to university leads to a valid (and enriching) career, such as teaching, translating, medicine or the law, is it not already practical, and something that contributes to the economy? University can be the starting point for making vital contributions to the wider world; for making you think about more than just yourself and what you know. Plus, if university teaches us anything, it's that if you think you understand all the implications of something then you probably don’t, and that we should foster the curious, questioning nature that comes from advanced studies, thus providing new solutions to old problems.
Being direct, I would tell you that we should make funding Higher Education a national priority, as in the days when anyone who wanted to go to university received a grant so that they didn't have to worry about missing such an opportunity because of any associated (colossal) debt. Most of us have no idea what £27,000 looks like, and that's just the cost of tuition from a normal course of three years; maintenance loans could easily add another £15,000 on top. Why, then, are we treating education as such a brutally economic exercise, and how have we forgotten that - no matter how expensive education may be to the nation - encouraging ignorance by pricing people out of university will always be more costly, both economically and culturally, in the long-run.