Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/193/8101
LABOUR'S HOLLOW PROMISES
STUDENTS FIGHT FEES
LAST WEEK Tony Blair announced plans to increase the numbers of university students. He claims by the year 2010 half of under-30-year olds will have been to university. On the same day education secretary David Blunkett said top-up fees will not be introduced in the next parliament.
Keiran Roberts, Save Free Education and Thomas House, Christ Church College Oxford
But New Labour announced the aim of increasing student numbers last year as well. They want to give the impression, before the general election, that they are going to improve the lives of students and increase opportunities for young people. This is rich coming from a party that introduced tuition fees and abolished the grant, so thousands of young people can't afford to go to university.
But students are fighting back. Last Wednesday, hundreds of Oxford students occupied the Bodleian library to protest against the university's treatment of non-payers. The Bodleian was chosen because the university charges tourists to see it, but students don't study there.
The occupiers had to put up with threatening behaviour from the university police. But there was a great feeling of solidarity within the occupation, with over 100 students present on Thursday night as well as live jazz, rock and folk music.
Rather than negotiate, the university served a court order, hiring a top QC and claiming damages. The witness statement from the university registrar was full of lies: claiming that the action forced them to close the library and employ security and that the occupiers were likely to cause damage.
In fact, we were just making a principled stand against the university's outdated residency requirement. They claim that non-payers who are living and studying in Oxford simply aren't there!
The occupation ended on Friday, with a mass rally and a promise of further support for any students who continue not to pay.
In COVENTRY the university has sent more notices to non-payers, threatening them with exclusion. Lecturers have also been given the names of non-payers.
Please send urgent protests to the vice-chancellor, Coventry University, Coventry CV1 5FB. Fax: 024 7688 8083.
The movement against tuition fees and for the restoration of the grant based on mass non-payment and mass action is growing. This is how to force the government to retreat and prepare students to defend themselves against future attacks.
For more information about the non-payment campaign, contact: Save Free Education, PO Box 858, London E11 1YG. Tel: 020 8558 7947.
In The Socialist 16 February 2001: