Socialist Students conference: ready for general election

Sam Hey, Manchester Socialist Students

As energy bills and other running costs soar to unprecedented levels, universities across the country plunge head first into a funding crisis. The Tory government stands by and watches.

Domestic tuition fees have been maintained at £9,250, so universities will rely more on international students, who can be charged more, to make up the shortfall from rising costs from record-high inflation. Top universities, including York, have resorted to lowering grade boundaries for international students in an attempt to make up this funding deficit.

The Tories are preventing international graduate students bringing their families to the UK, reviewing cutting the international students two-year window in the UK after graduation to find work, and cracking down on ‘low-value courses’.

This places a new Starmer-led government in a position where inaction will be catastrophic for the university system. Their plan of “fiscal responsibility” means course closures, staff layoffs, and universities turning to increasing accommodation rents to try and bridge the funding gap.

Without pressure from students organising across the country, Labour will be able to shirk their responsibility of fixing the higher education system. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour stood for free education, so a record number of young people turned up to support him. For higher education to be accessible to all, we need a complete funding overhaul before there is irreversible damage.

Socialist Students calls for a free higher education system, which is properly funded, based on what universities actually need. Not based on the number of students they can cram into a lecture hall.

This would allow us to replace tuition fees with grants that we can all actually live on, end predatory rents in university-owned accommodation, and introduce fair pay and working conditions for all university staff.

Let’s make these policies a reality. We need to build a student movement that aligns itself with the struggle of the working class to demand that the Labour government fix what the Tories have left broken.

On Saturday 10 February, Socialist Students will hold our annual conference in Birmingham. A key discussion session will be ‘How should students prepare for the general election and a Starmer-led government?’

If you think we need to take action on a broken education system, if you can’t trust the Tories and Labour to fix this financial mess, if you think free education is something worth fighting for, then come to the conference. And let’s build a movement in the interest of students and the working class to stand up for us when no one else will.