How to win Fees Battle

MANY COLLEGES are beginning to wind down for the Christmas break. But for many students the season will not bring glad tidings.

Kieran Roberts, Save Free Education campaign

Colleges are sending out the demands for the second instalment of tuition fees and the threats of exclusion for those who cannot afford to pay is looming large in the new year.

Recently updated figures show that tuition fees and the abolition of the grant are continuing to deter thousands of students from going to university.

Last year, for the second year running, universities fell short of filling their courses in England and Wales. About 7,000 places went unfilled in 1999-2000.

Of course, it is working-class students and those from the poorest sections of society who make up the majority of those deterred from going to university. National Union of Students (NUS) figures show that the number of male applicants from “skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled” backgrounds have dropped by 7% between 1997 and 1999. Applications from males of an African and Caribbean background fell by 11% and 9% respectively.

The figures from England and Wales are in sharp contrast to those from Scotland where universities reached their recruitment targets. This is because in Scotland up-front tuition fees have been abolished.

The Socialist Party and Save Free Education argue and work for a campaign to be built that will force the British government and Welsh Assembly to scrap not just up-front fees but all fees, and to reinstate the grant. Only when this happens will the thousands who have been prevented from going to university over the last three years get the chance they properly deserve.

In order to achieve the abolition of fees and the restoration of the grant a mass campaign of non-payment must be built. Thousands of students are unable to pay their fees.

If thousands of other students refuse to pay alongside them and organise together tuition fees can be made unworkable. For this reason mass non-payment provides students with the best means of forcing the government to back down.

With all three years in colleges now paying fees and many getting deeper into debt, the scene is set for an explosive next term where the battle against the fees will assume an even greater importance for all students.