The government is engaged in a brutal assault on education. In the last academic year, the Tories put the final nail in the coffin of student grants. For the poorest students, this was a lifeline lost. This callous move will save little money and will further entrench privilege and elitism. In a similar vein, a new round of fee hikes is now threatened. Universities including Durham and Cambridge are already advertising prices of £9,250 a year from 2017. And if it goes ahead, this supposedly ‘modest’ £250 increase will be the thin end of the wedge. The HE bill will see the cruel winds of market forces unleashed on higher education. It will pave the way for year-on-year fee increases, without the need for specific parliamentary approval. Linked with fee hikes, the proposed ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ threatens to ratchet up the pressure on university staff, curtail academic freedom and ensure that our courses prioritise the needs of big business. But we can fight back. Cambridge and Durham have actually jumped the gun. The legislation allowing fees to rise has not yet been passed. That’s why we must organise to make this an ‘autumn of resistance’. We need to build campaigns on every campus and in every college. We need to prepare for protests, strikes and occupations. And we need to bring all our local campaigns, whether in universities, schools or colleges, together on a national basis. Protesting makes a difference. Last year, rent strikes organised by students at UCL saw the university’s management pushed to hand over more than £350,000 in bursaries for accommodation costs. In South Africa, mass student protests organised under the banner ‘fees must fall’ forced the government to retreat from planned fee increases. This year, a crucial task for all students interested in defending education will be mobilising a mass turn out for the joint National Union of Students and University and Colleges Union demonstration on 19 November. We need to make sure tens of thousands of students and education workers flood the streets of London and make this the biggest student protest since the mass struggle that erupted in 2010. But this demo cannot simply be a ‘one-off’. Students need to build a mass movement of escalating struggle – linked with the wider fight against austerity and united with workers and trade unions. Student strikes, walk-outs and occupations must all be posed if we want to push the government back and defeat their latest attacks. This movement must also seek to go beyond simply resisting the current onslaught. Over the summer, young people have flocked to rallies and meetings in support of Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike the pro-fees Blairite plotters, Jeremy has supported free education throughout his career. And despite the protestations of Owen Smith and co, free education is no pipe dream. There is enormous wealth in society – enough to pay for free education many times over. The problem is it’s wealth that’s concentrated in the hands of a tiny few. Scandalously, despite not needing it, the super-rich elite are constantly being lavished with government money. A York University study recently estimated that big business and multinational companies receive around £14 billion in state subsidies every year. It just so happens that his figure coincides almost exactly with the cost of abolishing tuition fees. So the ‘problem’ with free education is not one of scant resources, but of political priorities. Our fight for the right to study is therefore an inherently political one. Socialist Students calls for an education system that is publicly owned, democratically run and universally free at all levels. We argue for living grants to make university truly accessible to students of all backgrounds. Fighting for this requires being prepared to challenge the entire austerity agenda and the capitalist system that demands it. It means fighting for a different kind of society- one run in the interests of the 99%, not the privileged few. Over the last year socialist ideas have emerged resurgent – from Bernie Sanders to Jeremy Corbyn new generations of people have been inspired to look towards radical left wing ideas. There’s a reason for that. Capitalism is a system in total crisis. Even in the richest country on earth – the US – the next generation will be poorer than their parents. So fighting for our future really requires fighting to replace this failing system, fighting for socialist change.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Theresa May admits tuition fees system is broken - organise to kick out the rest of the Tories!