No to fees – A living grant for every student – Tax the rich to fund education
For a national demonstration at the start of 2009
This academic year could see the lifting of the £3,000 cap on tuition fees in higher education. Meanwhile, student debt and poverty are already spiralling, students face soaring costs of living and the market dominates our education system from school to college to university.
After years of underfunding for post-16 education, the Government brought in tuition fees and then top-up fees. Worsening the already existing inequalities in higher education, fees are greatly accelerating the development of a competitive market between universities, with a tier of well-funded and prestigious institutions and another of less prestigious, underfunded ones. Along with the absence of decent student grants, they rule out the possibility of seriously expanding access, force most students who do get to university into debt and push many into casualised, low-paid jobs. Lifting the cap will, of course, make all this worse. Meanwhile most further education students have always paid fees and never had grants.
Top-up fees will be in the headlines this year, but fees are not the only issue. Though Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish university students studying in their own nation, and FE students under 19, do not have to pay fees, they do not receive a living grant and are also forced into poverty and debt.
International students are exploited to subsidise higher education institutions through higher and higher fees, while postgraduate study is limited to a small elite through a more and more restrictive funding system.
Women, black, LGBT and disabled students are affected and disadvantaged disproportionately by the growth in student poverty and debt.
As our education is commodified and most institutions are run more and more for profit, the wages, conditions and rights of our teachers and other education workers are also coming under attack.
We believe that NUS is allowing the Government to get away with these deeply unpopular policies. This year, despite the review of the cap on fees, NUS is not organising a national demonstration – not even one for its needlessly bureaucratic “alternative funding model”, let alone the abolition of fees and living grants that students need. Its planned “day of action” – scheduled for 5 November, the day after the US presidential election, hardly the best time to get attention – is a start, but inadequate.
That is why we, students’ union officers and student activists, are seeking to organise a national demonstration in the first three months of 2009, around the following demands:
- No raising of the cap on top-up fees;
- Halt and reverse the growth in international students’ fees;
- Abolish all fees in HE and FE – free education for all;
- A living grant for every student over 16 – at least £150 a week;
- Stop and reverse marketisation in our schools, colleges and universities – tax the rich and corporations to fund education.
We are seeking to organise this demonstration in alliance with trade union activists fighting back against wage freezes, job cuts and privatisation; with other anti-cuts and privatisation campaigns; with young people’s and children’s organisations; and with others who believe that education should be open to all as a human right, not a privilege open to a minority based on wealth.
We call on NUS and autonomous campaigns within NUS to support the demonstration.
* Please add your or your union or campaigning group’s name to this statement by emailing email@example.com. A list of signatories will appear at http://www.free-education.org.uk shortly.