Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 November 2012

Freed education, bring back EMA, make the 1% pay! Join the NUS demo on 21 November 2012

Freed education, bring back EMA, make the 1% pay! Join the NUS demo on 21 November 2012   (Click to enlarge)

Student demonstration: Escalate the struggle to fight fees, cuts and privatisation

Claire Laker-Mansfield, Socialist Students national organiser
Student protest 29 January 2011, photo Senan

Student protest 29 January 2011, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

The government's higher education reforms will "put students at the heart of the system", claimed universities minister David Willetts in 2011. To anyone with half a brain, let alone Willetts' famous 'two', this statement is laughable. Not only are students nowhere near 'the heart of the system', thousands have been priced out of it altogether. Last year university applications dropped by 20%.

For working class, and increasingly for middle class, young people, growing up in austerity Britain is full of anxious fretting and impossible choices. One cruel choice is between a degree costing 50,000 and years flitting between the low-paid, insecure jobs that offer temporary 'relief' from the misery of unemployment.

Ironically, 'choice' is what the Con-Dems claim to be all about. It's 'choice' that they say is at the heart of their vision for our education, 'choice' and its supposed bedfellow: competition. It looks something like this: for students - pay more, get less; for university managements - slash, burn and privatise.

Lessons from the US

According to Willetts, Britain's universities should look towards the US for inspiration. But of the million students enrolled with the US's for-profit providers in 2008-9, more than 50% had dropped out by 2010. Studies found that within these institutions 23% of revenue was spent on marketing, 19% went on profit and a mere 17% was spent on teaching. All this rather undermines the idea that the market will improve standards and place students centre stage.

Central to the government's plan to marketise higher education is the tripling of tuition fees of 9,000. This transfers the cost of funding education from society as a whole to the individual. Up to 80% of the grant paid directly to universities for teaching has been cut. When the government first announced its plans on fees it estimated the average university would set the rate at 7,200. Most institutions opted for charging the full whack.

But even with students paying extortionate fees most universities still can't balance the books. The big drop in student numbers is now being used as the pretext for cuts and privatisation across the country. In the post-1992 universities the burden is felt most acutely. At the University of East London lecturers are fighting a proposal to double their already huge workload. If allowed to go through this will almost definitely be a prelude to job cuts.

If the government gets its way only elite institutions will be able to weather the storm. But even there, the Con-Dems' agenda will take its toll. Increasingly academic staff are forced to follow only the most lucrative lines of research, with teaching sacrificed in order to make way for this.

While the education system has always been grossly unfair, this is a generation that has grown up being told that university needn't be unattainable. This is a generation of people who grew up being told that if they just worked hard enough, they could get a good job, have a good life, that the world would be at their feet.

Moving the goalposts

Now the government want to smash expectations early. They want to convince young people that the fault lies with them, that they're just not bright enough, not sharp enough, not hard working enough to succeed. To this end the government is moving the goal posts, making sure that school qualifications are not there to encourage attainment or nourish learning but to sift and stifle.

Modular exams are out because students have the audacity to do well at them, or to re-attempt them and try to improve on previous performances. GCSEs are to undergo an overhaul and be replaced with an English Baccalaureate, where only Tory education minister Michael Gove's approved subjects will be counted as important and where safe numbers can be guaranteed to fail.

This year's college students are already being forced to struggle by without EMA student payments. But many didn't even make it that far. Some institutions have reported a 50% drop in applications since the loss of this grant - for thousands a college education has been placed out of reach.

On 21 November thousands of students will join the National Union of Students (NUS) demonstration and march through London against all of the Con-Dem attacks on education. Students will be marching because they have understood that, really, they are being offered only one 'choice': fight back or watch as they smash our future.

We'll be marching to demand they scrap fees, bring back EMA and stop the onslaught of cuts and privatisation. We'll be demanding decent jobs as well. With graduate unemployment hitting new records and 40% of us still un(der)employed after two years, we say that we deserve the right to use our skills and talents and contribute to society.

The demonstration has been called by NUS under pressure from their membership. But it must only be the start. In 2010, students were let down by the leadership of their 'official' structures. Then, after organising an initial demonstration, the leadership of NUS vacated the scene of struggle, and even went as far as condemning students who took part in the mass protests that followed.

What way forward?

Following the 21 November demonstration Socialist Students is arguing for mass public meetings and general assemblies to discuss where next for the movement on every campus. Student unions should host these meetings but where they refuse, Socialist Students will organise them with students who want to fight on.

We need to establish anti-cuts campaigns on every campus. On 5 December, chancellor George Osborne will announce another round of swingeing cuts in his autumn statement. Socialist Students supports a day of action on this date to make sure his announcement is met with protest. We need to demand that NUS follows this up with further national action in the spring term including walk-outs, occupations and protests.

And we need to discuss the strategy for taking our movement forward. Students have shown they can be an energetic and determined force in fighting cuts, but to maximise our effectiveness, we will need to unite with workers and trade unions. That's because, unlike students, workers have enormous economic power. For example, when tube workers go on strike, the city of London can be brought to a standstill.

For this reason Socialist Students supports the demand for a 24-hour general strike against austerity. And we argue that students should take part too - striking alongside workers in a united fight to end austerity.

Finally, students who want to fight for a future need to get political. The government's relentless refrain is that there is no alternative to cuts and privatisation across the board. They're allowed to get away with this because all the main political parties, including Labour, basically agree. They all agree that the 99% should pick up the tab for the crisis of the failed capitalist system - a system for the 1%.

They try to confuse us, blur the picture and muddy the water by talking about 'responsible capitalism' or trying to convince us that the deficit was caused by spending too much on public services. But all this is rubbish. There is an alternative.

The alternative is taking the wealth off the 1% - by nationalising the banks for a start - and using it to fund jobs, education, healthcare and public services for the 99%. It's this, a socialist alternative, that can provide a future for all. It's this that we have to fight for.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 November 2012:


Home   |   The Socialist 14 November 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  

Related links:


triangleLiverpool John Moores Uni landslide for Socialist Students

trianglePlans to launch no-cuts campaign at Kirklees College

triangleDemonstrations by uni students and staff greet Bath vice-chancellor resignation

triangleSocialist Students national conference

triangleBrighton Uni lecturers strike against job cuts


triangleSocialism 2017 Socialist Students meet-up

triangleLively student demonstration for free education could have been much bigger

triangleMarch for free education! We demand a future!


triangleSchool staff strike against privatisation

triangleLabour council Blairites deselected

triangleDWP to outsource more work to Capita


triangleSocialist Students actions against uni fees on Budget Day

triangleWalk out against tuition fees on Budget Day!


triangleEnd Tory war on poor


triangleTeachers strike in Sheffield


triangleLocal government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded


triangleUniversity of Leeds workers walk out


triangleFight for free education

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded



Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme



Branson sues NHS: kick out the profiteers



Royal wedding exposes them-and-us visa system



RBS to sack 1,000: nationalise the banks



Rough sleeping crisis: make homes, not arrests



End Tory war on poor



Nationalise rail now


Them & Us

Them & us



Tory housing policy: build zilch, hike prices



Make the Tories history



Birmingham bin workers win!


British economy

Amber warning lights flash on British economy



After the budget - unions must launch pay fight


Climate change

Carbon dioxide hits 800,000-year high: end profit-driven pollution

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the full 5% claim

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

triangle30 Nov Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike

More ...

triangle11 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Campaigning workshop

triangle11 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas Quiz

triangle12 Dec Birmingham South East Socialist Party: Can the Labour Party be changed?

triangle12 Dec Liverpool Socialist Party: Fighting council cuts

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice