Political Promise

Students March Against Higher Tuition Fees

In Jonny Roberts on November 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

Today, in Westminster, there will be a march against the cuts to university education and the proposed tuition fee increase. “More for Less” is going to be contested. Jonny Roberts urges all students to unite.

On Wednesday morning I will be sat at my desk as usual, researching the issues and policy in education. Yet friends and thousands of other students / graduates on the streets surrounding Parliament will be meeting the issue of tuition fees with real action.

Politics should be about nuanced debate, practical solutions to the problems of our age but when the solutions provided by privileged members of Government (in terms of their free university education or the millions that reside in the bank accounts of the Cabinet) are so out of tune with the will of the group of individuals most affected then there is time and place for a little bit of rebelliousness.

I am proud that students and graduates are rallying together to stand up against this hideous policy and I wish I could join you but alas what I can do is provide you with some important facts to come armed with as you start painting your banners and planning your chants.

Firstly you will face Liberal Democrat MPs and, more particularly, ministers who will tell you that they haven’t sold out. They have. They signed a pledge that stated they would scrap tuition fees and now they have signed up for an increase. They say that 25% will pay less under this system – the majority will pay more.

Not only did they sign a pledge, whimsical thinking from a party that hadn’t seen the harsh light of Government (and all the realism it brings) in over 70 years, they actually set out detailed proposals on how they intended to scrap tuition fees for third years studying this year then gradually extend the scheme. So yes, all you third years, you should be receiving a free ride third year, sounds nice doesn’t it? Of course it does…I wonder if you’ll ever want to trust, let alone agree with, Nick again?

Enough of my vicious attack on the Liberal Democrats. That was then, this is now. They will tell you that this fee rise is vital to keep our universities competitive, to provide funds for continued development. The truth is the Government has just announced it will remove all teaching grants for social science, the arts and humanities. Science, medicine etc. remain funded but every Art, Media and Design student, every English or History student will no longer have the cost of their tuition subsidized by Government, the full weight of that cost is being transferred to the student in the form of higher fees. Worst of all David Willetts, the Universities Minister, has tried to spin this as some form of wonderful victory for students, “putting the power into the hands of the student” – as if students, just like supermarkets customers will decide mid-way through their second year that this course isn’t value for money and transfer no-hassle, no-questions-asked to another institution.

One of the biggest rallying cries at events like this is that the Government is taking the ‘first step’ to privatising university, this is not the first step – this is the moment when it becomes a reality. Some of Britain’s top universities will receive no Government cash for teaching as they are rooted in humanities or arts. London School of Economics, Goldsmiths and the Royal Academy of Music are losing 100% of their teaching grant; many more uni’s are losing around 80%. Creating this market in courses and campuses won’t create better universities it will create a two or three-tier system like America with Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell Group institutions charging £9,000 solidifying their elite status within a British Ivy League.

I urge you to protest until your voices give out, protest in peace but let you anger be heard. There are Liberal Democrat MPs who must hear and see this protest and be compelled to deliver on their pledge, with a Ed Miliband Labour Party being whipped into voting against it too there is a slim chance the Bill fight fail to pass into law. This is one of the Government’s worst decisions so far, I hope people power can stop it. 

Political Promise is one of the Supporting Organisations of today’s rally. Whilst not all of our writers oppose the increase in tuition fees, what we are all united against is the lack of dialogue between students and government. This organisation aims to give a voice to the young generation, and today, we are down in Westminster to support a respect agenda for young people across the UK. This is not about politics, but about staking our claim and making our own history. Please come and support the demo. CE.

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