by Chris Jarvis.
With tuition fees at £9,000, cuts to education funding, the scapegoating of international students, reform to DSA, squeezes on staff pay and pensions, and the slashing of bursaries and scholarships, access to education is for many becoming more of a myth and less of a reality. Instead of an education system that works for all, Universities are undergoing a lengthy process of marketization and privatisation which prices the poor and disadvantaged out of ever getting a degree.
What this has led to is a situation where students are treated as consumers, Universities prioritise competing in artificial league tables and cuts to HE, making our Universities almost entirely privatised and forcing cuts to courses across the country. All of this is at a time when the pay for Senior Management is at an all-time high, when corporate tax avoidance rages on uninhibited and in a wider context of vicious cuts and austerity.
After the national demonstration for free education on the 19th of November, where between five and ten thousands students marched through London to fight for a Higher Education system based on the principle that education is a public good, not a commodity, students across the country are now organising localised actions to build momentum for the campaign.
Last year, UEA saw the largest protests against the privatisation of student debt in the country with 150 marching against the selling of the student loan book to private companies hungry to make a profit. As part of that national campaign, we were successful in defeating a further entrenchment of right wing and market ideals in Universities.
Buoyant from that victory, the campaign group Defend Education UEA is co-ordinating another mass action – this time as part of the mass campaign for education to be free, fair and fully funded through progressive general taxation. On Wednesday the 3rd of December, students will be marching through UEA campus, carrying the weight of their student debt in the form of their now infamous red boxes.
Not only are Defend Education calling for the abolishment of tuition fees, they are also calling for a more inclusive, accessible education system, setting out the following demands to the UK Government:
- Recognise Higher Education as a public good that benefits all aspects of society. Scrap tuition fees and fund FE and HE, both Postgraduate and Undergraduate study through progressive general taxation.
- Reverse the savage cuts to the National Scholarship programme.
- Reverse the planned cuts to Disability Support Allowance, improve the support offered for disabled students and reverse Iain Duncan Smith’s savage benefit changes which have devastated the lives of disabled people up and down the UK.
- Replace the current system of loans and grants which doesn’t currently cover cost of living with a system of living loans and living grants.
- End the attacks on international students and on migrants: relax visa restrictions, abolish NHS charges, ensure education is free to all students (UK or not), and end all restrictions on migration.
The action will be assembling in the Hive, in Union House at 12:00pm. To find out more about the action, click here.
Updates and more from Defend Education can be found here.