Hertfordshire – suffering with cost of living and soaring rent
Students approached us to discuss the issues facing them, responding to our slogans of ‘join the socialists’, ‘Tories out’, and ‘fight the cost-of-living crisis’.
Hertfordshire University has a lot of working-class students. We met students struggling with the cost of living, especially soaring rents.
One student spoke to us about the unreliable bus service between campus and the nearest town, Hatfield. More and more students are forced to rely on this service to commute into university, as student accommodation on campus is increasingly scarce and expensive.
Another student said he had no choice but to travel into campus by car from his parents’ house in London. Adding salt to the wound, he also now has to pay a £12.50 Ulez charge to make the journey every day.
This student explained that he is in favour of tackling air pollution, but opposes measures that punish working-class drivers, who are less able to afford newer, regulations-compliant vehicles.
Many students connected the issues they face day to day to the system of capitalism, and the need for a socialist alternative. One student said that she had “found her people” when she saw that we were socialists. 20 students left their details to get involved.
At our first informal meeting later that day, we agreed to hold regular political discussions on campus, combined with weekly campaign stalls on issues like public transport and housing.
The new Hertfordshire Socialist Students group will attend a protest on the housing crisis organised by London Socialist Party on 28 October, joining other Socialist Students groups from across London. We also made plans to get a group along to Socialism 2023 in November.
USW Trefforest – most international students joining ever
123 have signed up for Socialist Students. 37 from Nigeria, and large numbers from south Asia too.
The big increase reflects the severity of the capitalist global economic crisis, particularly in the neocolonial world. Many from Nigeria have spent their life savings – and their families’ – to be here, and now are searching for scarce well-paid, part-time jobs.
Our first campaigning activity after freshers was attending a picket line in support of striking lecturers – who are fighting casualisation and increased unpaid workloads. They welcomed our support.
The new USW Trefforest Socialist Students group has already held four meet-ups, and taken a carload down to a Socialist Students meeting in Cardiff too.
Next we’re considering campaigns to nationalise public transport in Wales to win fairer fairs, and also in solidarity with Nigerian workers and youth fighting back against extreme poverty.
Leeds – ‘what is socialism?’
The question “what is socialism?” was asked a lot. When we explained, most agreed that a mass workers’ movement is needed and that they would like to see a socialist society in the future.
One international student from the US explained to me how the costs work for international students. £22,000 was the cost of tuition, with an additional £3,000 for the visa.
They still have to pay for rent and living costs on top! All this is paid for with a personal loan back in the US, as they do not even have access to the British student finance system.
This student is now stuck working two jobs. One in the UK as a server, and one in the US, providing IT support to a healthcare company.
Many students strongly feel that Labour no longer represents them. They feel lost for political representation.
Some are considering voting Green as they see them as the only viable alternative to Labour. We made the case for a party based on the working class, where the trade unions could stand their own candidates, for example.
One student said about freshers week: “This is way too commercial”. Another student, who said that they felt “advertised to”, bought a Socialist paper and a Socialist Student magazine
Their idea of freshers week was socialising, meeting friends and getting drunk. But they had corporate sponsors trying to sell them stuff constantly.
We collected almost 100 names of people interested in Socialist Students.
Queen Mary – debt we can’t afford on wages too low
The main concerns on campus are the housing crisis, and the repayment of student loan debt after graduation.
Many of the students that we spoke with have to work while studying full time, in order to survive. Student loans just aren’t enough anymore. On top of this, there’s the fear of paying back these loans with interest on a salary too low to live on in London.
We got 70 names and phone numbers of people interested in Socialist Students. One of our new members has already joined the Socialist Party.
Socialist Students is planning to campaign against the housing crisis on campus, including supporting London Socialist Party’s public meeting and protest. We hope to grow our numbers even more with our work in the university.
Sussex – can’t afford bills less than a week into uni
There was also a lot of concern with the rents and cost of living. Less than a week at the university, and they already were feeling like they couldn’t pay the bills. The main issue that all the students were concerned about was their university debt, and how they were going to have to pay it off.
Lots of students were demoralised with what Labour is offering, and talked about how there needs to be a new party. We linked this to the idea of the trade unions standing their own candidates at the next general election, as a step towards a new party.
We gained 30 people interested in Socialist Students.
King’s College London – every sign-up sheet filled out
We handed out 300 leaflets, and filled out every Socialist Students sign-up sheet we had. Some of the best conversations I had were with international students, curious about what was happening in this country, and linking it to their own experience.
Students were responsive to calls for free education, and inflation-proof maintenance grants for all. Many brought up their distrust of Labour leader Keir Starmer, recognising the need for real opposition on the left.
Liverpool – place for socialists and Marxists
Freshers resulted in 60 people signing up to Socialist Students at the University of Liverpool alone. Our campaigning activity saw 20 come to our first meeting, and 15 return for a pub crawl.
Our task is to keep our presence around the campus with regular campaigning stalls, fly-posting, and leafleting. We’re a place for students interested in socialist and Marxist ideas.
The year has only just begun. There is plenty more work to be done.
Get involved, visit socialiststudents.org.uk