Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/207/8517
Students and Socialist councillors fight fees' threats
A LIVELY demonstration of around 40 people gathered on Wednesday 16 May to protest against Coventry university's punitive actions against students unable to pay their fees.
Socialist Councillor Rob Windsor, who is the Socialist Alliance parliamentary candidate in Coventry South, handed in a letter of protest from the Socialist Party group on Coventry city council to Dr Mike Goldstein, Vice-Chancellor of the university.
Speakers at the protest made it clear that the real problem lies with the New Labour government who imposed fees and scrapped maintenance grants for students at university. Since 1998, when fees were introduced, university funding has gone down by 7%.
According to university press statements there are still 625 non-payers who have been sent exclusion notices. These students have been "blocked" from access to university facilities such as the library and computers since early April, just at the time students needed access to the facilities most.
Notices have been posted around the university telling excluded students: "You are not entitled to take any of your examinations".
The university is allowing them to take them "on a provisional basis" but says they will refuse to mark the papers until they receive the full fees.
All kinds of students have been excluded and the university's actions will force a number of non-payers to just drop out of university. Already one in three undergraduates fails to finish their degree; financial problems is the biggest single reason. But even the non-payers who somehow manage to borrow the money to stay and finish their courses will get lower grades than they are capable of.
Particularly for the universities with more students from poorer backgrounds, fees are becoming unworkable. The levels of non-payment are hard for them to sustain.
But the only solution to this problem is for universities to campaign publicly for the abolition of fees. Attacking students' rights will not help the situation.
While we continue the campaign to defend non-payers against the university's strategy of exclusions, the Socialist Party and Socialist Students are taking the issue to Labour candidates in Coventry. The campaign to reinstate free university education for all is growing.
In The Socialist 25 May 2001: