Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/469/1957
Students fight for free education
SO RUTH Kelly, former education minister, sends her child to a £15,000 a year private school. This puts New Labour's attitude to education and all our services in a nutshell.
New Labour ministers are part of the ˇlite group who can afford to spend more than the average graduate annual salary on a year's schooling. They don't see education as a right but as something that you buy - if you can afford it.
The education department got a very bad end of year report in December. Apparently they offer the least value for money and they earned particularly bad grades in two areas - the ministry has no way of monitoring whether universities will offer fairer access to working-class applicants and is not properly monitoring the drop-out rate from universities.
Socialist Students members and most students could give the government a very clear picture of what the impact of their fees has been - more stress, more students having to work longer hours, more debt, more drop-outs and more anger against the government.
Mark Worthington, head of NatWest's student and graduate division says: "Getting a part time job might be a good way to get your hands on some extra cash. But don't overdo it - the whole point of going on to higher education is to concentrate on your studies".
Well thanks for the patronising tip Mark but with NatWest raising interest rates, students will understandably be underwhelmed by your commitment to their well-being and success.
As a result of two interest rate changes to overdrafts, an RBS-NatWest customer who is £4,000 overdrawn will pay an extra £100 a year in interest. I suppose they need the money - they only made £9 billion this year! In comparison, abolishing fees and reintroducing a student grant to the 1979 level would cost about £3 billion.
University fees, on top of the hikes in rent and rates such as those proposed in Durham, utility bills, astronomical increases in travel costs and the cuts that are taking place to the quality of higher education all mean that young people who want to get a degree face more difficulties.
But students have already organised protests at Newcastle, Manchester, Goldsmiths, Reading and Bristol universities and many other places against cuts and fees. Let's start 2007 with determination to build a movement of students, linking up with the trade unions and all young people who stand for free education.
Gordon Brown says he wants to make a basic level of free education central to his foreign policy when he takes over. We already know from his stint in the treasury that he is more interested in promoting privatisation than supporting workers and young people fighting for their rights. Let's force free higher education onto his domestic policy by building a mass movement.
Let's build the Campaign to Defeat Fees. Join the national day of protest against fees on Thursday 22 February.
join the national day of protest against fees on 22 February
In The Socialist 11 January 2007:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Violence against women
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news