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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 March 2001

Students mobilise to stop tuition fees

THE SUCCESSFUL protests that took place in many Universities where Socialist Student members organised interventions on last Thursday's NUS shutdown, shows the desire to fight against fees and for the restoration of the grant amongst many students.

Kieran Roberts, Save Free Education (SFE), with reports from The Socialist newspaper

Many of the demos were well attended and lively, despite the bad weather. The enthusiasm for building a mass campaign after the shutdown was demonstrated by the good attendance at meetings like the SFE one in Brunel. 21 students came along.

The protests showed the potential that NUS possesses for mobilising thousands of students against fees and the abolition of the grant. This is despite the New Labour national leadership and many students unions not effectively building for the shutdown.

Where activists, including Socialist Students members, are organised, students took action. At Coventry University the overwhelming majority of students stayed away from lectures, due to work that Socialist Students and Socialist Party members did.

NUS challenge

The success of last week poses the urgent need for free education activists and socialists to challenge New Labour for the NUS leadership. Later this month, Paul Hunt and Zena Awad will be standing for the part-time executive of NUS as candidates for Save Free Education. If elected they will fight to ensure that the NUS launches a genuine and effective campaign against fees and for the restoration of the grant, particularly through the strategy of mass non-payment to make the fees unworkable.

NUS must take up this strategy immediately, alongside a rolling programme of mass action building on the shut down. They must also announce that they will defend any student threatened with sanctions for non-payment of the fees.

However, students cannot wait for the national leadership to build non-payment. Non-payment campaigns of action must be built on the ground to defend students now and to spread the idea of non-payment.


Coventry

The NUS shutdown at Coventry University saw effective 100% of students not attending for the day.

Paul Hunt Coventry Socialist Students

A meeting and small demonstration was held with around 40 students. Most significantly on the day was the pressure from socialists students, the student union, and the Socialist group on Coventry council, which forced to the management to withdraw its immediate threats to expel fees non-payers, and the deadline has now been put back to 15th May.

The Vice Chancellor has sent out a letter to everyone who has received a threat and explained the university's new position, that students can pay by instalments and most importantly that no sanctions, such has been banned from computers, libraries and exams will now take place.

This is a small but not insignificant victory for free education activists on campus.

However, what is the next step in the NUS "Winning for Students" campaign? We need a militant and fighting NUS leadership, which will start a strategy of non-payment as the only way to bring back free education, not a leadership of Blairites tied to the Labour Party.


Swansea

AROUND 300 students lobbied Tony Blair at Wales Labour Party conference in Swansea. It was the culmination of an excellent NUS week of action against tuition fees, with Swansea University Socialist Students playing a dominant role in its success.

The lively lobby included students not just from Swansea but from higher education colleges and universities in other parts of Wales.

Particularly encouraging was the number of sixth-form students who were present and vocally expressing their anger at the level of debts they can expect when they go to university.

The efforts of Swansea University Socialist Students in campaigning to scrap fees and restore the grant was highlighted by the election of Socialist Party Wales member Sarah Mayo, in top position, to NUS national conference.


Manchester go into occupation

THE NATIONAL day of action on 1 March ended with a big bang in students occupied the Administration building of the University of Manchester after a rally against tuition fees.

Christian Bunke, Manchester University

The occupation lasted until Friday afternoon. Amongst the occupiers was a South African student who is threatened with being thrown out of university immediately, because of an administrative delay in paying his fees. He faces immediate deportation because of the university refusing him an extension until 31 March when he would be able to pay (see report below).

Other demands were that the university should be run for education and not for profit and that all the money within the access funds should be given to students in hardship.

Although the vice-chancellor was allegedly in Newcastle during the occupation and refused to directly negotiate with the occupiers, an agreement was reached.

Since Manchester University's student union executive refused to give any support to the occupiers, a campaign of mass support will be necessary in order to prevent the South African student's victimisation.


Manchester Uni: An eyewitness report

Around 60 students occupied the University of Manchester on 1st March.

Hugh Caffrey Reports

"We started picketing at 9 am at the start of lectures. We'd been building for a couple of weeks with posters, and the Save Free Education (SFE) stalls. We picketed until 12 noon and then we had a rally with me speaking for SFE, along with a speaker from the SWP.

The students' union speaker didn't turn up and the AUT (university lecturers union) arrived after we'd gone into occupation. There was a call for occupation at the rally. The main demand is to stop the victimisation of Eric Majola, an international student from South Africa. The South African state will pay Eric's fees around that 31st March but the university have made a verbal threat to him that he will be forced to pay on Tuesday 6 March with all the consequences that can have.

It turns out that the university have had him on temporary registration since October but haven't told him!

We stayed in occupation until we got some kind of pledge out of the registrar. We'll build a campaign in Eric's defence. We're due to meet the Vice Chancellor on Tuesday 6 March at 12.30 and presumably we'll have a demo outside as well. There's a very good mood here.


Keele

STUDENTS BOYCOTTED lectures on 1 March. They also staged a protest march through the campus and signed a petition calling for an end to fees. The boycott was organised as part of the NUS day of action warning the government it risks thousands leaving higher education unless' fees are abolished.

Alan Holdway, Stoke-on-Trent

Goldsmiths

THE SHUTDOWN at Goldsmith's University saw some departments cancel lectures and seminars from midday, when the majority of students did not go into college.

Richard Harris

Things started to liven up at around 11am when 50 students marched to Lewisham College, making a lot of noise along the way and ensuring the public knew why we were marching.

We then went into the student union and discussed the way forward in the campaign. An emergency general meeting of the student union is being held on 7 March.


Canterbury

ON FRIDAY 2 March, 200 students marched through Canterbury. Socialist Students and Save Free Education (SFE) were the only group with a serious strategy. Socialist Students led the chanting: - 'Can't pay. won't pay'.

Groups such as the Socialist Workers' Party made angry noises with various four letter expletives against the tuition fees and the government, but it was left to Socialist Students and SFE to explain the need for a strategy based around mass non-payment.

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In The Socialist 9 March 2001:

We're worth more than 4.10 an hour

Students mobilise to stop tuition fees

Foot and Mouth Disease: Government policy driven by agribusiness profits

The Socialist Challenge to Labour

Teachers vote for action


 

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