Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/409/4922
Fight for free education
EIGHTEEN UNIVERSITIES have been identified as being effectively too middle class and have been asked to investigate why; but we know why!
Zena Awad, Socialist Students national co-ordinator
New Labour's reforms have meant that today, more than one third of students live on under £40 per week after accommodation costs are taken into account and two-thirds have to work during their full-time degree. The undergraduate drop-out rate, affecting mainly working-class students, is currently at a high of 18%!
Another more recent survey shows that one in four first year students are dropping out of university due to financial hardship while others are discouraged from applying to university altogether due to high living costs and increasing student debts.
The funding crisis in higher education is getting worse as a result of privatisation and education being put on the free market for big business profit.
The number of university departments closing and lecturers being made redundant in higher education is on the increase due to the financial pressure on university managements to close subjects that need more labs, books and teaching time.
Consequently to find private finance, 93% of universities have now opted to charge their students the full £3,000 in top-up fees in 2006.
At the same time, students in the more popular subjects are finding themselves overcharged for under-resourced services while university managers are trying to provide teaching on the cheap.
As a result, as a report last week showed, universities are "not doing their best to widen participation of students from state sector schools or from lower socio-economic classes".
Vice-Chancellors receive over £100,000 a year in salaries, putting their standard of living far above the majority of workers and students and identifying more with business interests. We call for universities to be run democratically by committees of lecturers, workers and students.
Campus workers and trade unionists are not taking these attacks lying down. They have been taking industrial action, strikes and boycotts, to defend jobs, pay and conditions. These disputes will continue in the next year and others will develop as a result of profit-driven big businesses entering our institutions.
Socialist Students is fighting for a publicly funded system of education at all levels. We have built a strong tradition of linking up with workers on campus in order to unite the struggle against the selling-off of our education.
We are also fighting within NUS to adopt a national strategy to beat cuts, closures and fees and to mobilise the mass of students alongside the trade unions for a successful campaign in defence of all our services.
- No to top-up fees and student loans.
- Free quality education for all and at all levels.
- A living grant for all students.
- For a joint student and worker struggle in defence of our education.
- For a socialist system that puts education before the profits of big business and the rich.
In The Socialist 29 September 2005: