Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/332/5612
Top-Up Fees - The Fight Goes On
HUNDREDS OF students braved the cold to demonstrate outside Parliament as MPs prepared to vote on top-up fees. Some spoke to the socialist about why they were there.
"I'm against top-up fees, they will affect my decision to go to university. Going to university is a dream I've always had. I want to be a journalist and I'm really angry because I'm worried now about whether I'll be able to go.
We should tax the rich more, not just for education but for the NHS too which is also underfunded. Not many people can afford to go to university.
I'll take the campaign against top-up fees as far as I can in my school and I'll go on as many demonstrations as I can."
Fanen Jukwey 16, A-level student east London
"Top-up fees are just the start of a process of taking our rights away and deciding who gets access depending whether or not you've got money.
We should definitely raise corporation tax - society benefits from people being educated.
If the vote goes against the fees then we'll continue to campaign against tuition fees and for a student grant. If the vote goes badly then we've got a harder fight but we'll keep campaigning for a free education for all.
Peter O'Hare 20, Manchester University
The following comments were written on the anti-top-up fees 'graffiti wall' set up by the youth organisation International Socialist Resistance (ISR) outside Parliament:
Tony Blair - tough on education, tough on the causes of education.
It's okay for you Tony, you had a free education - you can afford the fees but what about us, the people you claim to work for?
University for everyone, not only for the rich.
Education, education, education - my arse!
What Top-Up Fees Will Mean
From 2006 up-front fees will be replaced by top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year. These fees, and any loans taken out by students for living expenses, will be paid back in the form of a graduate tax at a rate of 9% of earnings, once graduates are earning over £15,000.
Many students will be leaving university with debts of over £20,000.
The poorest students will get financial help of up to £3,000 a year.
There will be a review of top-up fees in 2009 but there is no guarantee that the upper limit will not be lifted.
International Socialist Resistance
ISR has been campaigning against top-up fees in schools and colleges around the country. Clare James, ISR national coordinator told the socialist:
"We will keep campaigning for a free education for all. Education should be a right not a privilege for a few which is what Blair and Co. want with these top-up fees.
"The campaign has to continue in schools, colleges and universities up and down the country, including the trade unions which the teachers and staff are represented in.
"The anger that a lot of people feel won't go away after today - if Blair thinks he's got away with top-up fees then he's got another think coming.
"The anger is only going to grow even more because people can see education being taken away from them."
- Build a mass campaign against top-up fees
- Scrap all tuition fees. For a living grant for all students from the age of 16.
- For a system that puts education before the profits of big business and the rich.
Contact ISR on 020 8558 7947. PO Box 24697, London E11 1YG.
Balloting In Bristol
IT COST us £7 to buy a Tony Blair mask. Like everything else connected with the guy, a real rip-off. Nevertheless, his smarmy grin behind our ISR stall had a magnetic effect in drawing an army of angry young, and not so young, people towards us when we held our tuition fees ballot in Bristol on 24 January.
Tom Baldwin, Bristol ISR
Rob from Nailsea came across to help us, having already got two petition sheets filled out against top-up fees from his school friends, 23 of whom have signed an extra column he inserted on the forms asking if they wanted more information about the Socialist Party. One reluctant lad who signed, wrote "God No" in that column, prompting the next signatory to scribble "hell Yes"!
As school students surrounded the stall, we began our fees referendum, complete with very impressive ballot box. At the end of a hectic two hours, the box was emptied and the votes counted. Out of a total of 101 ballot slips, exactly 100 were against Tony's tuition tax, while the solitary opponent of our campaign voted at the same time to consider strike action against fees!
We're back in town this Saturday, whichever way the parliamentary windbags vote. The battle for free education marches on.
Sheffield Votes To Strike
SHEFFIELD SCHOOL and college students who voted in an ISR ballot showed their huge opposition to top-up fees.
Bob Severn, Sheffield ISR
Ballots took place at High Storrs, Loxley and King Edward VII schools, Castle College and Norton College, and in the town centre.
Over 400 students voted on 'top-up' fees and many took part in the Sheffield 'Day of Action' demonstration against variable fees. 96% of ballots, placed during the week leading up to Parliament's vote, opposed the bill.
Two-thirds of voters said the cost of fees and the resulting debt would mean they were less likely to attend University. Barclays Bank predict that end-of-course student debt will average £33,000 by 2010. Over half the voters said they were ready to take strike action against Labour's two-tier plans for higher education.
In The Socialist 31 January 2004:
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