Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/557/6630
Privatisation = FE college students suffer
Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a means-tested weekly payment of £10, £20 or £30 to further education college students. Despite its limitations, the EMA is a vital lifeline for food, materials and other essentials for many students, but it is paid on the basis of regular attendance. This year, because of privatisation of the application process, the EMA system is in crisis.
Private contractor Liberata was paid millions by the Learning and Skills Council, the government agency responsible for allocation of EMAs, but they have failed to process students' applications in time for them to start their courses. Thousands of students have waited nine weeks for their money. For example, 200 students at Cirencester College in Gloucestershire are yet to receive any EMA.
Many students are forced to borrow money from their families. Many are dropping out of college because they cannot afford the cost of food and travel. This month an NUS survey revealed that six out of ten FE college students would drop out if they could not claim EMA.
Socialist Students calls for EMA payments to be made to all students who are owed money immediately, including backdated money. It also says that the EMA administration should be taken away from cowboy privateers like Liberata, and brought back under public ownership, along with all other privatised college services.
Socialist Students fights for an increase in the EMA, taking into account the costs of living, study and travel for all students in colleges and schools. NUS vice president for FE Beth Walker has called for an "investigation" into why Liberata was unable to process the applications. Liberata should be exposed for what they are - a greedy, parasitic private company which the government has allowed to profit out of a vital service.
The NUS should do more than call for investigations. They should organise college and university students into a campaign based on mass action against fees, cuts and privatisation and for a free, publicly funded, top quality education system at all levels. That is what Socialist Students and the Campaign to Defeat Fees fight for. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for campaigning material.
In The Socialist 19 November 2008:
No Job Cuts
Post office closures
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis