Students say no to rip-off graduation ceremony

While Socialist Students at Huddersfield University set up a protest against graduation ceremony charges on a busy open day on 17 June, we were informed by the president of the student union that the vice chancellor and his deputy wanted to speak to us.

Chris Parkin and Nicola Blanchfield

This was despite the university ignoring students’ complaints that to charge guests £15 to attend their graduation ceremonies and £10 to watch via a video link was a kick in the teeth to students already paying excessive tuition fees.

Obviously the threat of negative publicity spoke more clearly to university management than the views of students in the first place.

We both attended the meeting as representatives of the protesters while others carried on the protest outside the library.

We expressed our disgust at the charges and demanded a free graduation ceremony. After all, the university is more than happy to host hospitality events for dignitaries without charging the guests to attend.

We also used the discussion to appeal for more transparency with regards to where the money from fees and charges goes and to appeal to the chancellor to resist the government’s potential plans to raise tuition fees. The campaign sends out a message to university management that students will not take cuts and increased tuition fees lying down.

Meanwhile, outside the meeting, students continued to show their support for the campaign and added their names to the petition. Third year student, Samuel Bell, summed up the mood of students by declaring, “we are university students, not customers”.

When presented with a petition signed by more than 500 people, the chancellor seemed a little alarmed by the support for the campaign.

He was clearly also rattled by the spate of publicity the campaign had received. The Huddersfield Examiner, Pulse Radio and BBC Radio Leeds all publicised the campaign.

The chancellor was adamant that nothing could be done about this year’s graduation ceremonies. However, he conceded that he would have to take on board the views of students in restructuring the pricing system next year.

We accepted this concession but remain wary that it could have been just bureaucratic lip-service to halt the protest and limit negative publicity. If so, the campaign will be ready to fight again next year.