Northumbria socialist students rock against racism

Socialist students at Northumbria University have been campaigning
against racism and prejudice through our Unite Against Racism campaign
this term.

Leah Jones, Northumbria Socialist Students

We began the year by petitioning against racism and for our local NUS
to support campaigns against racist organisations such as the British
National Party (BNP) and the National Front, as a part of the national
campaign, No to terror, no to war, no to racism.

We began the campaign with the intention of building for the 2
November demonstration against the BNP in Leeds, at their leader Nick
Griffin’s court hearing for inciting racial hatred.

The demo had been called by the civil service union PCS. It was
backed by the Yorkshire and Humber TUC and local community groups who
had been subject to increased racism and violent attack since the BNP
stepped up their campaign to profit from the mood of uncertainty and
fear which has developed after the 7 July terrorist attacks on London.

The Students’ Union wasn’t interested in taking up the campaign, so
Socialist Students decided to promote and raise money for the campaign
by organising a Rock Against Racism gig at Northumbria University,
supported by Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Action (TWAFA) and the PCS.

The gig was booked and six bands confirmed to play but two weeks
before the date we still hadn’t received our promotional material back
from the societies’ office and the Students’ Union had double-booked our
room! This cost us an extra £250 but despite the local NUS barring our
progress at every turn the gig went well, with over 70 people attending
and raising £135 for Northumbria Socialist Students.

The money raised from the gig allowed the society to pay for Zena
Awad, national co-ordinator of Socialist Students, to speak at a What is
socialism? meeting the day after the anti-fascist demo, which 14 people

We are now building the campaign further and pushing the students’
union to back the demonstration in Leeds on 16 January, when the trial
will re-convene.

We are also supporting TWAFA in their campaign against the BNP in the
coming Gateshead by-election and the Socialist Party branch in the
council elections next year when we will be able to oppose the far right
by offering a real political alternative to the vicious cuts and attacks
of the political establishment.

FE students need a living income

The government are living in a different world to the one college
students face every day. Education is becoming less and less of an
affordable option, and many jobs available to us offer minimum wages,
appalling conditions and no future.

Ben Robinson, Socialist Students FE organiser

Around 50% of FE students are forced to take on part-time jobs. The
costs involved: books and notepads, transport and food, often add up to
more than the government allows for. This doesn’t cover FE students who
live away from home or care for children. In addition, the occasional CD
or night out is increasingly expensive.

Most students have to travel to get to college but there is no
national provision for travel or even hardship funds, with individual
colleges deciding their own policy. The provision for childcare is not
much better.

The government’s Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) provides £30
per week for those from families on less than £17,000, then on a
sliding scale of amounts for those from families with incomes up to
around £25,000 (after tax).

But even for those who are eligible, it is not a guaranteed income.
Last year, around a third of those eligible did not receive it because
of a combination of lack of awareness and the sheer level of bureaucracy
involved. It is also used as a form of punishment, where missing one
lesson, or even lateness, can result in its withdrawal for a week. A
bonus of £100 is also available five times during a two-year course,
but this is also limited by similar criteria.

EMA isn’t enough as a sole income. Many students are forced to
supplement it with low-paid jobs.

If college students attend all their lessons and spend the
recommended time doing homework, reading around etc, it’s a full week.
For those who work a ten-hour week on top of that, it’s 50 hours. When
your income is the maximum EMA and the 16-17 minimum wage, that’s £60
every week. So that’s £60 a week, for 50 hours!

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown apparently see no problem forcing
students into these conditions. They consider £60 a week to be an
acceptable income for college students but they won’t pay for it out of
public funding. However, they are willing to pay over £3.1 billion on
the war in Iraq. The estimated cost of increasing EMA to £60 a week for
every college student is £150 million, pocket change in budgeting

International Socialist Resistance (ISR) and Socialist Students are
campaigning, anti-capitalist youth organisations. We call for our
schools and colleges to be properly funded, for education, not for
business! All college students and young people have the right to a
decent life, and we fight for an EMA of £60 a week, towards an income
that meets the needs of all students.

We call on the NUS to take up the issues facing college students, and
campaign alongside trade unions for an end to the attacks on free
education, and for colleges to be able to provide the services and
courses that students need from them.

A government-commissioned report is proposing that private companies
should come in and take over ‘failing’ FE colleges – making a profit out
of education. More on this and how to fight it in future issues.

Lincoln University Hull campus

Fighting the bosses’ lies

DOZENS OF students at the Hull Campus in the University of Lincoln
protested on Monday 14 November against the proposed sell-off of the
site to a local sixth-form college. The sale is expected to happen while
the 1,000 students based there will be studying!

Luke Aylward, Lincoln Socialist Students

The students were also upset with a lack of investment in Hull, while
the main Brayford campus in Lincoln is the focus of a £35m
regeneration. One student spoke to the socialist explaining what’s

"As well as selling the site to Hull College, they’re planning
on sacking 28 technical teaching staff. They haven’t invested in new
facilities for four years. The bosses are just letting our facilities
degrade, and now they’re not suitable for our degrees."

Students are also angry about the painfully small budget allocated to
Hull campus. One student even quoted a sum as little as £10,000 a year,
despite the university’s annual turnover of £78 million. Another
student told us about how they were lied to by the university’s bosses.

"The vice-chancellor (David Chiddick) said that they weren’t
investing £16m on the main campus, and that they were moving us to the
main campus during the summer. They lied to us. They used underhand