The Socialist 7 July 2009 |
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Higher fees in higher education
Students must fight back
Fighting fees - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton
University fees are to be raised by 2.04% in 2010, taking them to £3,290 a year. This means that top-up fees have increased by almost £300 since they were introduced three years ago. On top of this, the amount of money received by students in grants (a lot of which goes unclaimed) and loans will be frozen.
Stephen Burrell, Birmingham Socialist Students
An increase of 2.04% may appear to be insignificant. But in reality it represents an attack by the government, which will particularly hurt working-class students. For students, already facing enormous debts, and now growing graduate unemployment, this will add to their stress, particularly with living costs going up and up.
The truth is this increase represents the tip of the blade when it comes to what attacks students will be facing in the near future. The current increases in fees year after year will be minor compared to what they will surely be raised by when the government eventually conducts its review on higher education funding. Never mind the savage cuts to staff, courses and services that students will be and are already facing on their campuses.
Most students receive the maximum maintenance and tuition fee loans. Even without fees continuing to rise as they are sure to do, this means that these students will now leave university with at least £22,740 (not including interest) worth of debt! This will inevitably make university a less and less affordable option, at a time when options are already few and far between for young people.
Nearly a quarter of all students drop out of university (at some of the former polytechnics it is as high as almost half), and, for many, financial difficulties lie behind this. And for those who do graduate, they are now entering a world where, regardless of their newly acquired qualification, many will only be able to find low-paid, insecure work. Others will not be able to find a job at all, with 10% of this year's graduates expected to still be looking for work after six months.
The government has spent billions bailing out the banks, but claims it has no money for education, or to bail out students. This illustrates its real priorities, it will spend whatever is necessary to save the financial system, and will take funds away from education in order to cover those costs.
The question is, how much longer will students and young people tolerate it? Despite the hindrance of the careerist National Union of Students leadership, there is a growing mood to fight back on the campuses, and this could explode in the near future.
The Campaign to Defeat Fees, together with Youth Fight for Jobs, will be to the fore in resisting every attack on students and education. As well as this, it will be fighting for a socialist society, where it will not be a constant struggle to preserve our education, our public services, and the very futures of young people.