You’re right IMO about the impact of feminism on scoiety and the perverse financial incentives which have led to the rise of content-free victimology studies.
However free university education can work very well if its supply is restricted and high teaching standards are maintained.
In the UK a good number of post-graduate students in STEM fields are supported by Research Council grants and there are many academic departments which are considered international centres of excellence for research.
And back when I did my first degree free tuition and maintenance grants for up to four years were the norm amongst undergraduates. The grants weren’t generous and the ROI from tax receipts over the lifetime of graduates was appreciable. Qualifying for university in the first place was also an achievement.
That’s all changed due to significant changes to UK higher education.
First polytechnics were absorbed into the university sector, causing many to shift their focus from applied technical subjects to academic disciplines with lower associated costs. I was heartbroken in 1999 to discover that the polytechnic where I gained my physics degree had axed all its undergraduate applied sciences courses with the exception of biomedical studies.
The same government also axed the undergraduate grant in favour of student loans and tuition fees, discouraging bright applicants from poorer backgrounds who couldn’t afford the risks involved whilst expanding places for middling applications from affluent backgrounds interested in inexpensive non-subjects loosely defined as humanities or liberal arts. It’s unclear that many of these new disciplines they’ve added to their curricula are of any practical benefit to those taking them.
Then education! education! education! Tony Blair attempted to have 50% of all school-leavers attend university put this trend into overdrive. The percentage of the population with a strong affinity to the traditional professional and academic disciplines was already well served when university attendance was about 10% so degree quality and value plummeted.
I’d rather we went back to the old grant-based system, axed the victimology courses and accepted that for most careers a degree is much less useful than practical work experience. That includes in many technical and engineering fields where properly constituted apprenticeships would give a much better grasp of the discipline.
All of which is at a tangent to the original post…