Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/217/9153
Student funding system failing
Now put Fees on the scrap heap
IN THE next few weeks tens of thousands of students will get their A level results and be wondering whether or not to go to college. One factor deterring many will be the huge debts and poverty they will suffer. But after less than three years of tuition fees and the abolition of the student grant, New Labour reluctantly admit fees are not working, as SARAH MAYO and CLARE JAMES report:
RECENT PRESS coverage about fees indicates the government is privately talking about reforming the system. Tony Blair has been forced to "look again" at the deeply unpopular tuition fees and the student loans system.
In a very significant development, Blair admits fees were the top complaint on the doorstep during the election (The Guardian, 31 July).
Working-class people are disgusted by the continuing attack on free education, recognising that fees and the abolition of the student grant stop working-class students going to and staying in higher education.
Save Free Education, Socialist Students and the Socialist Party have been campaigning against fees since their introduction in 1997 and have been instrumental in bringing this issue to the fore.
The pressure Blair now feels shows the tremendous impact that campaign has had. Fees, along with stopping public-sector privatisation, are now the burning political issue,
A recent Institute for Public Policy Research report, like the recently published Rees report on university funding in Wales, confirms that the current funding system deters working-class students from accepting university places because they fear thousands of pounds of debt.
According to the Rees report, average student debt on leaving university is now about £12,500 although this figure is often far higher. Many working-class students are forced to work in low paid jobs up to 40 hours a week to survive.
Claims by Labour that they can't afford to scrap the fees and reintroduce the grant are blatant lies. The government has effectively pocketed over £400 million in two years from scrapping student grants and introducing tuition fees.
According to House of Commons library figures, these policies delivered a £415 million 'profit' in England alone - even this is probably an under estimate!
Former Education Secretary Blunkett tried to justify fees on the basis that the money 'saved' would be redistributed within the higher education budget but this has not happened.
It's now crucial to keep up the pressure on the Labour government to scrap upfront fees throughout Britain. This must be a step towards completely scrapping fees and reintroducing a living grant.
The campaign against tuition fees must be stepped up. Socialist Students is calling on the National Union of Students to mobilise students for mass action this October and pushing for mass non-payment of the fees to make the system unworkable.
For more information on the campaign to abolish fees contact Save Fee Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 8988 7947.
In The Socialist 10 August 2001: