Thousands of students take universities to court

Build a mass struggle for fully funded free education

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Nearly 1,000 students at University College London have brought a legal group claim against the university to the high court. They are demanding compensation for disruption to teaching on the campus owing to the Covid pandemic and ongoing university strike action.

Students are angry at the state of further education with crammed lecture theatres, and overworked and underpaid staff. And at the end of it all, thousands of pounds worth of debt. A small expression of that anger is the 100,000 students reported to have registered their interest to make similar claims at other universities. The organisation making the legal challenge, Student Group Claim, estimates students could get as much as £5,000 compensation. If the claim is successful, demand will grow for all students to be compensated, and across institutions.

Socialist Students backs the calls for students’ tuition fees to be refunded in full, and fights for free education and a cancellation of student debt. We fight for a fully publicly funded university education for all those who want to access it.


Students have faced disruption to their education over the last period owing to university workers taking industrial action. This disruption is not the responsibility of striking workers, but of university managements and the Tories who have carried through vicious attacks to the pay and conditions of university workers. And therefore to the quality of education students receive.

Faced with paying out large sums in compensation, university bosses, some paid as much as £714,000 a year, will say it is unaffordable. To those bosses who threaten course closures, pay cuts, pension attacks or administration, we say: ‘Open the books!’ Let us see the real state of our universities’ finances by opening them up to inspection by trade unions and democratically elected worker and student representatives.

A collective fight of university workers and students is needed to win full funding from the weak and divided Tory government. Demands must also be put on an incoming Labour government to return to its 2019 manifesto pledge promising free education.

The tuition fee funding model has spelt disaster for students and university staff alike. Socialist Students calls for a mass struggle to win free education – the scrapping of fees, introduction of living grants available for all students, and the cancellation of all student debt. We also call for the democratic running of our universities and campuses by elected bodies of campus trade unions, students and wider society. We would be able to collectively make decisions about how the higher education system could be run for the benefit of students, staff and us all, not in the interests of the Tories and the bosses.