No Fees, No Cuts, No Debt, No Privatisation - Tax the Rich to Fund Education
graduate debts over £60k · undergraduate fees £9k · uncapped postgraduate and international fees rocketing · PhD stipends frozen · 79% cut to teaching budgets · millions unemployed · welfare support slashed
On 21 November, the National Union of Students (NUS) has organised a national demonstration against tuition fees, student debt, education cuts, and the privatisation of university education. The march is supported by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and UCLU. On the morning of 21 November UCLU is organising a rally in the Quad, after which we will march down to join the NUS demonstration heading to Parliament.
ASSEMBLE IN THE QUAD FROM 10.30AM. We will listen to some speeches from UCL students and staff, paint banners and make placards for the demonstration, with hot soup and drink provided. MARCH TO ULU (Malet Place) 11.30AM
This will be the biggest student demonstration since the winter 2010, when three huge demos almost brought the government to defeat in Parliament on the tripling of home undergraduate fees to £9000.
Read more below on why this demonstration matters to students, why this time we can and must win, and how you can get involved in making this a march the government won’t forget.
New undergraduates from the UK will of course be aware that the tuition fees have, from one year to the next, tripled. What is more or less the same course as last year, with the same amount of contact time and the same qualification, now costs the individual three times as much: £9000/year.
The reason the government tripled the fees is that they cut the funding for universities by a massive 80% (and by 100% for arts, humanities and social science subjects). This is why we talk about cuts and fees together - they come hand in hand. In other words, the Coalition government has shifted the burden of funding universities from the state to the individual: you. With maintenance loan included, studying for three years in London will now saddle you with up to £60,000 of debt for the rest of your life. Unemployment is at 1 million among 16-24 year olds; if you can find a job after graduation, it is likely to be a poorly paid job in hospitality or retail. To be clear, the government is crippling a generation of young people with huge debts in an ideological drive to reduce government spending. See below for why this won’t work.
Continuing to study after you graduate is often seen as a way to get into better employment. For many it is a route into academia: employment in studying, researching and teaching about something you feel passionately about. But postgraduate education and academia are being threatened more than ever by a government which sees universities only as factories for economic development, and by universities which see postgraduates as both cash-cows and cheap labour. Postgraduate fees are uncapped and unregulated; they rise year on year, with the most expensive taught masters course at UCL this year costing £19500. We must demand financial support for postgraduates as well as undergraduates.
Postgraduates who teach are increasingly overworked and underpaid, used by departments as cheap teaching labour. This stems from the same lack of funding which has seen staff pay drop by 13% in the last xx years and pensions raided. Here at UCL, senior management are attempting to drive through changes to the regulations which threaten academic freedom and academic job security. This means that even if you can afford to support yourself through postgraduate education, a secure career in academia is increasingly unlikely. We must demand from the government that universities are well-funded, so that anyone involved in teaching receives fair remuneration.
International students suffer the most under the fees regime. No cap on international fees means that institutions can charge international students as much as they can get away with; a market exists in international fees. Undergraduate overseas fees at UCL are £18,500 this year; overseas masters fees as much as £37,250. What’s more, because there is no regulation of international fees, the cost rises from year to year; by the end of a degree, you will be paying significantly more that when you first arrived. Institutions use international students as cash-cows to balance the books in their funding. The huge cost to international students results therefore from a higher education system which is not properly funded by government.
On the demonstration, we must also make clear our opposition to the government’s xenophobic treatment of international students. The UKBA’s decision to remove London Metropolitan University’s license to teach international students, which could have led to the deportation of almost 3000 students, and the Metropolitan Police’s decision to force students to queue outside police stations overnight in the rain, indicate an establishment which has no respect for the great value international students bring to the Higher Education sector and the UK as a whole. We must demand that government stop treating international students as suspects, and withdraw them from the net immigration figures.
Undoubtedly those who benefit from education should contribute towards it; but if we think that education benefits everyone in society, by forming an educated, critical population, and if we believe this education should be accessible to all, the solution is not fees. The solution is progressive taxation. The very wealthy of Britain have only got richer during the recession. An estimated £95bn of tax goes uncollected each year. If this was properly collected, the cuts to the welfare budget (jobseekers allowance, disability support, etc) would not be necessary. If taxes on the rich were raised, we could afford to abolish fees. The priorities of government are clear, however: they reduced the top tax rate while cutting pensions for the elderly.
Aren’t we in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the 1920s? Yes, we are, but this means education matters more than ever. The government, led by millionaires David Cameron and George Osbourne, insist that we must cut government spending; like with a personal finances, when you’re in trouble financially you don’t buy luxuries. But there are several problems with this:
- the government’s poorly thought-through reforms will not save us money; they are actually going to cost the country more, because the Treasury now has to lend three times as much to undergraduates paying £9000 fees. It has been estimated that the cost of these loans to the country could reach as high as £60billion in the 2030s; a recent report showed that there was a £1billion mistake in the government’s calculations. Because of this, the government is encouraging universities to offer fee waivers instead of bursaries; instead of ready money to pay for rent and food, we are given some money off our fees, which helps us not at all with the cost of living.
- the UK economy isn’t like personal finances. The capitalist economic system is built on borrowing now to pay back later; all capitalist governments do this. This means that to grow the economy, the government has to invest in it. Cutting government spending on the other hand reduces salaries, which reducing the spending of private individuals; demand and supply reduce, and the economy contracts.
- education is not a luxury: it is both an essential social good and a way to grow the economy. Investing in education, healthcare, and welfare is more important than ever in a recession, when people’s standard of living is greatly reduced.
Nothing is set in stone; the coalition government has u-turned on dozens of policies since it came to power. But we will only win if we keep fighting for what we believe in. This has been proven by students in Quebec. Face with an 80% rise in tuition fees, the students called an indefinite student strike, which involved walkouts from university and daily protests. The government’s attempts to stifle the resistance with anti-protest laws only galvanized the Quebecois students, and in September the government was forced to call a snap election, which it lost; the tuition fee rise and the anti-protest laws were scrapped. Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in North America, because they fight for them!
UCLU has helped to bring over a Quebecois activist, Kevin Paul, who will be doing a speaking tour of UK universities about the Quebec struggle and what we can learn from it. An event for Central London Universities is being organized for the evening of Wednesday 14/11
In Chile, as well, students are fighting against debt and the private education system, for free education. In some German states, tuition fees have been abolished entirely. All over the world students are standing up and fighting for what they believe in; we must too.
Spread the word: tell your friends about the demonstration, that the fight’s not over against massive fees and debt until we say it is. Organize to meet them on the morning of the demo in the Quad.
Organize a meeting in your department: speak to your teachers and departmental administrator and see if you can organize a meeting of all the students and staff in your department to talk about the demonstration, and going on it together. You could ask to have classes on the day postponed. If you’d like help with this, you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Come to the pre-demonstration events being organized.
Put up posters and hand out leaflets: we’ve got resources on the fourth floor of 25 Gordon Street, and any time spent putting up posters in your department and giving leaflets to your peers is useful.
Pick up a copy of the UCLU What’s On Guide: this month, you can make your guide into a placard to bring along!
Talk to your teacher; they may well support the demonstration, and be willing to try and rearrange the class if they see that students want to go on the march. If they can’t do that, they may excuse you. It’s important to remember that staff too are affected by the education cuts: their wages and pensions are being undermined, and many staff oppose the marketization of education of which the new fees regime is a part.
UCLU is speaking to teachers, administrators and the trade unions to ask them to postpone classes.