by Lucy Auger
Content warning: mentions racism, racist violence
From Whitehall to Millbank, placards reading ‘No Fees, No Cuts, No Debt’ filled the streets as NUS President Malia Bouattia addressed 15,000 students ready to fight fees and stop the Higher Education Bill on Saturday. This comes at a time when students are turning to loan sharks to cover their costs, our loans are being attacked for being ‘illegal’ and ‘unenforceable’, and the threat of rent strikes is truly on the agenda.
Though this NUS demo has been attacked for not having clear goals, its cause is clear. The Higher Education Bill and its plans to impose the Teaching Excellence Framework are the most blatant attacks on education in recent years, and since the TEF metrics were released on 31st October, the student movement has seen the climax of this government’s plan to completely marketise our education.
However, surprisingly enough, TEF metrics were not the talking point of the demo. On the march itself there were three campaigns that stole the headlines, which we must organise around in the coming months.
UCL’s Rent Strike bloc was without a doubt the most exciting. The rising fog of pink flares and the mass of cameras when they brought the march to a standstill was undeniably an exciting flashpoint. More and more stories of rent strikes in the UK are making national news. The cost of student accommodation is rising at an alarming rate, and this year we have seen the first wave of rent strikes and a campaign to freeze or lower rents that has only grown with time. According to NUS VP Welfare Shelly Asquith, there are likely to be ‘more rent strikes happening around different parts of the UK’ as more students become aware of their universities pricing young people out of higher education through extortionate rents and through the endless construction of newer, ever more expensive accommodation. The growing threat of rent strikes continues to be one of the most exciting and dynamic campaigns of recent years in the student movement.
The National Students’ Survey boycott was another stand out theme of the NUS demo. Amid chants of ‘boycott the NSS’, NUS VP HE Sorana Vieru called for a mass boycott to affect data used in the Teaching Excellence Framework. In response to the TEF, NUS have launched a full campaign to boycott the National Student’s Survey in an attempt to wreck the TEF. The NSS boycott was one of the main focuses of the march, and if NUS can mobilise 15,000 students to travel to London from all across the country, it is entirely possible that we can mobilise enough students to completely invalidate the NSS results that TEF relies on. The NSS exemplifies this government’s attempt to force students to be complicit in the marketisation of their own education. If there is one action we can take to truly reject this, it is supporting the NSS boycott.
More information on how you can get involved in the boycott can be found here.
We can mobilise enough students to completely invalidate the NSS results that TEF relies on.
NO BORDERS, NO NATIONS. STOP DEPORTATIONS.
The growing threat of deportations is the single most pressing issue for the student movement, particularly in the wake of Brexit and with fascism on the rise. Earlier this year Theresa May’s administration deported 40,000 students in a racially motivated attempt to target international students, and during the rally at the end of the march, General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) Sally Hunt called for an end to EU students and staff being used as ‘pawns in Brexit negotiations.’ When international and BME students are being explicitly targeted in a racist attack by this government, we cannot deny that the campaign against deportations and detention centers are a student issue. Students must join the fight against detention centers like Yarls Wood that amount to racist, state sanctioned violence against women. We can never have an education system that is free, fair, and accessible to all until we put an end to student deportations.
Though student demonstrations are regularly attacked by the media and those on the right of the student movement for having little or no impact, as a result of the NUS demo on Saturday we now have clear goals going forward. Without campaigning against rising rents and fees, student deportations, and the further marketisation of our education, we will never achieve a fair education system for all.
Featured image via NUS