Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/255/24734
Step Up The Struggle For Free Education
MARGARET HODGE, Minister for universities, says the government may do a U-turn and let universities charge their own top-up fees.
She admits top-up fees are among options being considered by the review into student finance initiated by the government last year.
If the government actually supports proposals for top-up fees after the review is completed, they will enrage students. Already the introduction of tuition fees and abolition of the grant has forced thousands of students into massive debt and poverty.
At a time when students are reportedly more pessimistic about their job prospects than at any time in the last decade, top-up fees would only be another deterrent to working-class people thinking of going to university.
If introduced, top-up fees will create an even more unequal higher education system. The old, richer universities, will charge as much as £10,000 a year, ensuring that working-class students are kept out, while privileged students get in.
Working-class and most middle-class students will be relegated to the poorer, less well-funded universities, if they can afford to go at all.
When David Blunkett was Secretary of State for education, he said that he wouldn't let universities charge top-up fees. The Socialist Party warned then, that New Labour couldn't be trusted to honour that pledge.
Clearly students cannot trust any of the main, pro-business political parties to even scrap fees or bring back a decent, liveable grant.
Unless we build mass demonstrations, protests and a mass campaign of non-payment, the government will go further in pursuing its agenda of making students pay more and more of the costs of education.
It is vital that we ensure that students don't have to pay any fees in the future by stepping up the struggle for free education now.
Crisis In The Universities
THE BLAIR government wants universities to meet their targets of half of all under-30-year olds experiencing higher education by 2010. But Britain's universities are estimated to be £1 billion a year short of the money they need just to keep building and equipment in working order, let alone expanding to meet government demands.
The main people suffering from this are the staff and the students, particularly those from working-class and less affluent middle-class backgrounds. Any expansion needs far more staff and money for free education and decent grants for all.
Instead the universities are axing at least 1,400 jobs and next month's figures are expected to show that the proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds in full-time education is falling.
Larger classes, less tutorial time and growing pressure on students to do part-time jobs to meet the costs are taking their toll, as the article (right) shows.
In The Socialist 24 May 2002: