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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 February 2021

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Building the fightback for free education

The Rent Strike network has links to rent strikes happening at over 45 universities across the country. There are Socialist Students members on both its national coordinating committee and its national reps group, as well as leading rent strikes in different areas.
Below we carry edited extracts from an open letter from the Socialist Students steering committee to the Rent Strike network's national co-ordinating committee, requesting a meeting to discuss what the next steps for building a national student fightback for free education should be.
photo Cardiff Socialist Students

photo Cardiff Socialist Students   (Click to enlarge)

We are writing to you today in the hope of initiating a discussion on how our organisations can work together to build the fight for rent and fee refunds for students, as well as the fight for free education.

This year, universities across the country have been thrown into financial crisis as a result of decades of cuts to funding. The market model of education has meant that students have been lied to by university management, just so they could gain access to our tuition fee and rent payments.

In response to the lies, as well as the complete lack of support given to us by our universities, students have begun to organise rent strikes on campus. We have demonstrated that by getting organised students can win: millions of pounds in rent refunds have been won by students so far.

The recent announcements by some universities that there will be no face-to-face teaching for the rest of the year will rightly fuel the demands of students for further rent rebates for unused accommodation, as well as tuition fee refunds for the year - both of which Socialist Students supports and has campaigned for.

Without government funding to make up for these refunds, however, universities face deep financial crisis. This means the threat of further cut-backs and erosion of the quality of education students receive.

There is also the threat of divisions between staff and students. This would only benefit university management. Socialist Students has a history of campaigning alongside members of the University and College Union to mobilise student support and solidarity with striking campus staff fighting against cuts and job losses.

We think that there is a burning need to discuss how we can build a national student movement which will fight the Tories for the funding which our universities need.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Tories have spent a massive £280 billion, largely towards propping up the profits of big business. The Welsh government has announced £40 million emergency funding towards Welsh universities' hardship funds.

While still an inadequate level of funding, we nonetheless think this represents a victory for students. In addition to this, a cross-party parliamentary group has called on the Tory government to release £700 million towards the hardship funds of universities in England. The lid is being lifted on what is possible regarding fighting for fully funded and free education.

Bold demands

Now is the time for the student movement to go on the offensive and boldly demand free education; for the scrapping of tuition fees, the introduction of living grants for students and the cancellation of student debt, linked to a programme of democratic public ownership.

We believe that capitalism has completely failed our education system and young people. That is why we fight for socialist policies to provide every young person with a decent future which includes access to free and high quality education.

We would like to invite a representative or representatives from your national coordinating committee to attend a national steering committee of Socialist Students to discuss how we can broaden the current rent strike movement in the fight for free education.

We would also like to invite local rent strike organisers to speak at local public Socialist Students meetings, as well as rent strike organisers to speak at our national conference on Sunday 28 February.

We look forward to hearing your response,

Socialist Students steering committee

Tories' 'emergency' funding is peanuts

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

The Tories have announced £50 million of emergency funding towards English universities for student support during the pandemic.

This latest development shows that when students organise and fight, we can make gains. The rent strikes have won concrete victories.

But the levels of emergency funding which have been granted by the government so far are peanuts compared to both what is needed and what it has spent to prop up big business profits during the pandemic.

The Welsh government forked out £40 million, roughly £300 per student in Wales. This goes nowhere near addressing the needs for funding for student support or reversing the cuts universities have suffered over the last ten years, let alone the rent and fee refunds Socialist Students is currently demanding. But it makes the £50 million released by the Tories - a laughable £25 a student studying in England - look generous!


VCs' fee interest freeze is nowhere near enough

Bea Gardner, Southampton Socialist Students

Vice-chancellors (VCs) are under pressure to give tuition fee refunds which they (mostly) can't afford. But they don't want to give further legitimacy to the free education movement by lobbying the government to pay outright for fee refunds.

The VCs think they've found a compromise by calling for a 15-month freeze on the interest on tuition fee debt. It would ensure they still get the maximum tuition fees this year.

Scrapping interest rates only benefits those in high-earning jobs that pay off their loans. The majority of students do not expect to ever pay back their loans, because of low-earning and insecure work. An interest fee freeze makes absolutely no difference to what they will pay.

And it doesn't benefit any international students either. They have to pay up front and are charged way over the £9,250 fees of home students. Many have been locked down in university halls due to university decision making.

An interest fee freeze is not enough, neither is fee compensation.

Socialist Students calls for:

Come to Socialist Students online conference, Sunday 28 February, to discuss with us about how we can build a movement to achieve this. To register see 'Socialist Students national conference 2021' at eventbrite.co.uk.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 3 February 2021:


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

Why I am attending the TUSC local elections online conference

South Yorks TUSC ready for electoral fight


What we think

Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns


News

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Children in care: Privatisation is not working

Multimillion-pound rental firm demands thousands from homeless asylum seeker

Covid outbreak at Kent asylum detention centre: Napier is not fit for purpose

New anti-protest law: State forces want more power to crush the protests that are coming


Workplace news

Usdaw conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread

HMRC: We demand a pay rise without cuts to terms and conditions

Workers fight British Gas 'fire-and-rehire' plans

Vote Steve Hedley for RMT general secretary

The NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Yorkshire aerospace workers strike against pay disparity

Workplace news in brief


The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto - A guide to understanding society, and how to change it


Rolls-Royce

1971: Rolls-Royce crisis - when the Tories nationalised in order to secure the interests of British capitalism


Readers' opinion

GameStop: Billionaires hurt at their own game

The Socialist Inbox


International news

Covid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic


Campaigns news

New members meeting in the South West - preparing for the battles to come

Why I rejoined the Socialist Party

Help us raise the funds to fuel the working-class fightback

Save our square: we need social housing and public services

Stop Labour council's eviction of Stratford Circus arts centre


 

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Related links:

Socialist Students:

triangleSocialist Students conference

triangleSocialist Students conference - postering

triangleStrike back for free education

triangleConference - Sunday 28 February

triangleWhy you should come to Socialist Students online conference

Students:

triangleTories target universities in free speech shakedown

triangleTurkey: Bogaziçi university students protest appointment of government loyalist as rector

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleSocialist Students conference

Strike:

triangleUnder attack and fighting back

triangleA history of International Women's Day

triangleManchester indefinite bus strike against 'fire and rehire'

Socialist:

triangleUnion fight to save musicians' livelihoods

triangleDetermined to smash the fighting fund target to fuel election challenge in May

Education:

triangleTeachers demand fighting union strategy

Student:

triangleRefund student rent and fees

Universities:

triangleScrap fees, refund rents and pay a living grant

Tuition Fees:

triangleFees frozen at £9,250 a year, fight for free education

Welsh Government:

triangleWelsh schools close for safety after union pressure

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