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14 January 2009

Fight for free education

National protest against fees on 25 February

Over Christmas many students were working long hours to get cash together to meet the soaring costs of student life.

Matt Dobson, Socialist Students national organiser

They weren't the only ones who were busy. John Denham, the universities minister, was pressing ahead with preparations for further attacks on third level education based on a report by Sir John Chisholm.

If the name rings a bell it's because it was the very same man who, in his capacity as chairman of QuinetiQ, the Ministry of Defence research firm, turned his investment of 129,000 into assets worth 22 million when the firm was floated on the stock market.

The government has planned to review fees levels this year. Unsurprisingly, Chisholm's report found in favour of raising the cap on university top-up fees from the current level of 3,145. Vice chancellors have been lobbying for higher fees and Chisholm, this arch profiteer, claims that universities should be free to charge whatever fees they like.

According to The Times: "Chisholm does not spell out how high the fees could rise but studies based on fees paid by overseas students suggest there could be substantial differences, with the most expensive subjects - such as medicine - costing 20,000 a year. Cheaper degrees, such as history and English, could rise to 6,000-7,000 a year at the top universities, while some degrees at lower-ranked institutions could stay at the same price".

The Social Mobility Commission has found that the UK remains "an unequal place to grow up", and these proposals open the door further to a two-tier education system.

Gordon Brown has asked former health secretary Alan Milburn to chair a group looking into problems of social mobility. Abolishing fees would be a good place to start. But Brown and New Labour are clearly set on continuing down this path of higher and higher fees.

Campaign to Defeat Fees

We cannot accept this. Socialist Students and the Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) are mobilising for the protest against fees and for free education in London on 25 February. This has been called by a number of left student groups. We want to make sure this protest is a successful step towards building a mass democratic campaign against the government's attacks.

2008 saw student struggles across Europe. In the German state of Hessen a sustained campaign of students and workers, involving strikes and demonstrations, has forced the state government to promise to abolish university fees.

The National Union of Students (NUS), a national organisation with millions of members, has the resources to fight for students and organise a mass campaign.

However, the pro-New Labour NUS leaders are deliberately not organising a mass campaign during the review to protect the New Labour government and are attacking the union's democratic structures to prevent campaigning by students.

We won't wait for the NUS to act! Get in touch with Socialist Students now to get hold of leaflets and petitions to advertise the 25 February protest. We also have model motions which call on student unions to mobilise for the protest, including booking transport.

It is urgent that all Socialist Students members and supporters are contacted about this protest as well as the wider student population.

See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for more info and contact details.



http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/6766