University places scandal

Jobs and education not dole and debt

Youth Fight For Jobs march 2 April 2009, photo Paul Mattsson

Youth Fight For Jobs march 2 April 2009, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Fight for real jobs

Fight for free education

Join the demonstration on 28 November in London

How many obstacles can the government put in front of young people who want a decent future?

Danny Melia and Sarah Sachs-Eldridge

Under New Labour, would-be university students have not exactly had it easy. But the brutal testing regime of the British education system and the bleak prospect of £23,000 worth of graduate debt have not satisfied Gordon Brown and Co.

This year further thousands of young people have been denied a place at university.

Why? Because of government cuts. Young people have been told their future is ‘too’ expensive.

This summer, while fat cat bankers and bosses sit in their counting houses counting all their bonuses and many expenses-enriched MPs holiday on the yachts of the wealthy and sometimes famous, young people face a miserable situation. The recession means youth unemployment is on track to reach one million in September.

Fighting fees  - student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

Fighting fees – student demonstration in central London, photo Rob Sutton

The university admissions service, Ucas, says there are now about 60,000 more applicants this year than last year – a rise of about 10% – as many attempt to escape long-term joblessness. But the government capped the number of extra places available at 13,000, and has not committed to fully funding them.

This has created a nightmare situation for young people who have sweated through their exams and coursework to get the required grades. Tens of thousands of young people have been denied entry to their chosen courses. Following the announcement of A-level exam results there was chaos in the clearing system.

A £200 million ‘hole’ in government funding for universities means further destruction of higher education; insufficient places, job cuts, course cuts and privatisation. Huge lecture theatres abound where lecturers are tiny specks in the distance. For students, tuition fees mean getting jobs and that means less hours in the libraries, where there are already insufficient texts for the growing student numbers.

Plenty of money

But let’s put this ‘hole’ in context. The IMF estimated that the UK bank bailout cost £140 billion. That could fill 7,000 such holes. Trident nuclear weapons are likely to cost £76 billion over their lifetime, the equivalent to over 3,000 holes. Research for the TUC in 2008 showed that companies and wealthy individuals are manipulating the British tax system to avoid £25 billion of tax each year.

So why have so many young people had their future snatched away from them? Because pro-big business politicians and their greedy pals in the boardrooms make adequate funding impossible.

Socialists say that education should be a right for all. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn, to develop their skills and interests and to contribute to society. Under capitalism, increasing numbers are denied this.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has insisted that the government is doing all it can to avoid creating a “lost generation” of young people. Imagine if they stopped ‘trying’! Young people cannot rely on capitalist politicians to defend their rights.

Building a mass movement to fight for free education, for real jobs and for the right to a decent future for all is urgent. To guarantee these rights will take a struggle for socialism.

  • No to exclusions on financial grounds. Fully fund university and college places.
  • Scrap all university fees.
  • Write off all student debt. Introduce a grant covering the living costs of all students.
  • No to cuts, closures, privatisation and job losses at all levels of education.
  • Build a mass campaign against attacks on education and jobs, coordinated democratically on a national basis by fighting student unions, campaign groups and trade unions.