Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/476/2126
Campaign to Defeat Fees
Protesting across the country
HUNDREDS OF students in many areas took action as part of the Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) day of action on 22 February. This ranged from big protests to petitioning and stunts on the issues of student debt and top-up fees. The action took place in over 40 colleges and universities, with more to follow this week when colleges come back from half term. Matt Dobson, Socialist Students national co-ordinator has compiled reports from the day of action.
Cardiff Socialist Students campaign, photo Dave Reid
Students from Sheffield and Hallam universities protested outside the Sheffield vice chancellor's building. Chris Hyde reports: "Our publicity strategy worked. BBC Radio Sheffield turned up early and interviewed me, part of which found its way onto the news during the day.
"The Sheffield Star also appeared to take photos. The Steel Press, the student paper, also sent people to cover the event.
"One of our members, Ollie, took the role of Tony Blair, kitted out with a mask and a suit with £1million banknotes stuck on. I took the role of the indebted student, with a mortarboard and a huge "ball of debt". The point of the protest was therefore very clear. The ball was later borrowed by Tony Blair and offered to students. Students were angry that the local NUS didn't support it".
The Socialist Students' society organised the rally, with interested students taking up their placards and petitions. Photographs were taken for the local paper and student magazine. BBC East Midlands broadcast an interview with me.
Students from Trent and local colleges expressed an interest in getting involved in campaigning, and 13 signatories took a copy of the socialist.
Messages of support came in from support staff, lecturers and the student union leadership. Socialist Students will be appealing to these groups to actively get involved with the campaign.
I posted CDF leaflets around and had good feedback from many - especially second-year students who were looking to go to university and worried about the cost. Many didn't know that top-up fees could go up to £10,000. But I talked to people and made them realise there is an alternative.
Jack Youd, Eccles College
Southampton Socialist Students campaigning
At Southampton university students hung a huge 'wall of debt' outside the campus services building, attracting attention from students walking past. Then we piled into the vice-chancellor's office to conduct an impromptu interview.
Apparently he is against fees but says there is no other way of funding education. We answered him by pointing out how much is being spent on Trident and the size of big business' profits. We then presented him with a mock large cheque from the student loan company signifying the amount of debt students are in when they graduate.
Southampton Socialist Students campaigning
We joined students at Southampton Institute in their loud and lively protest outside the university. The protest attracted so much attention that we ran out of petitions. 300 mini "debt" cheques were signed by students.
Steve Dobbs and Billy Mather
Twenty five students gathered outside Oxford university offices in Wellington Square. We shouted slogans and waved placards to protest against fees and Vice Chancellor John Hood's outspoken support for much higher fees and an American-style education system. Local and student media covered the protest.
The protest marks a significant step forward in building the CDF in Oxford. We leafleted university students and the local further education (FE) college and plan to take the campaign forward. Unfortunately Oxford university students' union (OUSU) did not back the campaign and day of action at its council, despite having a policy against fees. We hope this protest will show OUSU the strength of student feeling and the necessity of putting real resources into backing a campaign.
Rachel Stowe reports: "There was a lot of interest in our stall and many students stayed to chat as well as signing the petition. We also had support from lecturers and other university staff.
"We held a meeting to discuss future plans for the campaign, attended by new students who want to get active in Socialist Students and the student union education officer. In the evening there was a student union meeting where a motion to campaign against fees was passed. Overall the day of action was a success".
At the university of the West of England the new Socialist Students group got tons of signatures and encountered a real angry mood that something needs to be done about fees.
Bristol university students hung up a "line of debt" outside the vice chancellor's office, attracting support from students and campus workers.
Luke Sinnick reports: "The support from staff shows great potential for uniting with the university workers and their unions. When we tried to hand in our petition to the vice chancellor he was apparently too busy to give us a few minutes of his time! There are many students here at Bristol that feel betrayed by the university for giving in to the government. We demand that universities are publicly funded from the huge amount of wealth available in society. That's why we are fighting back!"
Huddersfield Campaign to defeat fees, photo Ian Slattery
Ian Slattery reports: "We led a protest outside the entrance to the university. We were armed with placards demanding an end to fees and a loudhailer with even louder students at the end of it.
"If prizes were given for publicity the campaign would have scooped them all! The local newspaper sent a reporter and photographer, while one member of the campaign was rung three times for interviews with local radio stations - keeping the protest on the news agenda all day long.
"The interviews explained the anger students felt at the tuition fees system, proved by the response of students who supported the protest. This was despite constant rain and the absence of most of the university, who were away for a reading week! One station even posed the question of a Tory government improving student life - which was responded to with a firm: 'You've got to be kidding!'
"We also increased the pressure on the National Union of Students (NUS) to take up this campaign officially, explaining that we need the full force of the university and student movement behind it."
Socialist Students at Lincoln university held a successful stall during the day and a meeting in the evening. Two new people attended, so the campaign to defeat fees is slowly but surely getting people involved and interested in Socialist Students at Lincoln.
There was CDF activity across many London universities and colleges. At London Metropolitan, protests were organised on both campuses. Both were loud and involved someone wearing a weight around their necks signifying debt.
Over 40 students from various universities and colleges, as well as young trade unionists, came together to protest at Downing Street in the evening. Unfortunately the police didn't give permission because of an earlier protest. That we have to seek permission to let Blair and Brown hear our views is a massive attack on our democratic right to protest.
We found out afterwards that they had arrested Chris Eubank for driving his anti-war truck down Whitehall! They were in the mood for arresting people!
More action planned
Cardiff Socialist Students campaign, photo Dave Reid
London students will gather for a deputation to the NUS offices on 1 March to present the CDF declaration to the national executive committee. Students across the country will be doing the same to get support from their local student unions.
In Exeter, students from the university and the FE college will be protesting outside the university student guild (the guild is yet to give backing to the campaign) on 2 March.
At York university petitioning and a public rally have been organised by the Socialist Students society, CDF activists and the local UCU lecturers' union on 28 February.
In Canterbury university there will be a protest outside the vice chancellor's office on 27 February.
The CDF day of action proves that students are angry enough to take action and protest, and that this anger and activity can be organised across the country.
We need to continue trying to involve the widest possible layer of students in the campaign.
That means continuing the activity on campus - petitioning, stalls, stunts and meetings explaining the issues around funding and to plan activity.
We need to push the NUS to act. Following the London example, deputations to student unions should be organised across the country using the CDF declaration.
We also need to take the campaign to all the university campuses, further education colleges and schools.
Action should be organised on a town-wide or city-wide basis involving universities, colleges and sixth forms and the trade unions, building up to regional and national action.
come along to the isr & socialist students conference to have your say!
Sunday March 18, 10am- 5.30pm
Holloway Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road London N7 6PA
DISCUSSION & DEBATE
tickets - £3/£5
Send cheques to po box 858, london e11 1yd call 020 8558 7947 for more info
In The Socialist 1 March 2007:
Socialist Party news and analysis
War and terrorism
Socialist Party congress
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis