THERE’S MORE TO STUDENT ACTIVISM THAN #PEOPLESVOTE

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By Lewis Martin

Amatey Doku is right: student activism isn’t dead. In a recently published interview with the Guardian, the NUS Vice President of Higher Education proclaimed that students’ response to Brexit and their engagement with the People’s Vote campaign has shown that student activism is thriving anew, after years without a “unifying cause”. But what about the fight for free education that has been active on our campuses since 2012? For many activists in the last few generations of students, it was the issue that brought us together and gave us the skills to take the fight to the powerful. But for Doku, it was too “inward looking” to inspire a “genuine” movement.

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BEYOND TUITION FEES #11 – MUCH TO LEARN, MORE TO DO

By Bradley Allsop and Rowan Gavin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green have brought together perspectives from across the sector to explore the possibilities of post-fees HE. In the final instalment, the series editors summarise the visions for the next chapter of UK HE that the series has laid out.

There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.

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ANOTHER HIGHER EDUCATION IS ALREADY HERE – BEYOND TUITION FEES #8

By Sarah Amsler

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

‘The university’ is a fertile space within which to practice radical imagining and world-making today. I do not mean that actually-existing universities, in the UK or elsewhere, necessarily provide space for such work. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that the spaces for critique and creative thinking in higher education have shrunk as forces of commodity fetishism, privatisation, competition and authoritarian modes of control have permeated university governance. Continue Reading

EDUCATION AS EMANCIPATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #7

By Michael Kyriacou

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

The traditional arguments for ‘free education’ focus on reducing the upfront price of university courses to zero. Rather than HE being a commodity to be traded on the open market, it becomes a good paid for by the government. This kind of argument rests on a contradiction: we cannot solve the commodification of HE by continuing to assert the existence of HE as commodity, even a nationalised one. Abolishing tuition fees is undoubtedly a good thing, but to move beyond their legacy we must understand HE as devoid not only of its price but also its status as a commodity. We need to explore the potential for HE grounded not in classification or institution but in the fundamental equality of intelligences – HE without the degree.

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FREEING EDUCATION FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #5

By Lotty Clare

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

We face many challenges as students in 2018. Painfully high tuition fees along with eye-watering maintenance loans means that lower income students will leave university with over £50,000 of debt. Bafflingly, Prime Minister Theresa May only recently came to the realisation that poorer students are getting deterred from going into higher education. By contrast, the Labour Party’s promises to scrap tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants are of course a welcome relief for many prospective students – UK national students that is. Labour have seemingly barely considered the possibility of doing the same for international students. At the University of East Anglia, non-EU international students pay about £14,800 annually, on top of having to prove that they have access to thousands of pounds for living costs. If education is a right, why are we privileging wealthier international students in this way? What would Britain look like if we abolished or at least dramatically reduced fees for international students?

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THE FUTURE OF STUDENTS’ UNIONS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #4

By Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Students’ Unions are meant to defend students’ rights, fighting with and for them during their time at university and beyond. However, modern SUs are often dominated by corporate thinking, consumer culture and cosy collusion with university management. Radical, grassroots democracy is often muted or discouraged, channelled instead into more temperate, gradual and piecemeal avenues by Unions centralised in their functioning and timid in their approach.

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THOUGHTS FROM THE FRONTLINE OF MARKETISATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #3

By Maddie Colledge, UEA SU Postgraduate Education Officer

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

CW: Mentions suicide

It’s common for arguments in favour of free education to be dismissed as abstract or utopian, and for students who promote it to be belittled as naïve. I fear that in our attempts to try to portray the significance of free education, we have fallen into a trap where the concept has become so expansive and broad, and the term so overused, that it has lost all meaning. We need to move away from talking about ‘free’ education, and towards articulating a vision more explicitly centred on ‘state-funded’ education or ‘public’ education. For me, the description ‘free’ makes the concept feel distanced from the viable possibility of education funded through public taxation, and does us no favours in making it reality.

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A TRULY RADICAL NUS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #2

By Lewis Martin

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Over the last year the NUS has been a shadow of its former self, riddled with accusations of bullying from its President and marked by its failure to engage with the largest upswelling of campus activism this country has seen in years. It was bizarre enough that it refused to back demonstrations for Free Education last year, implying a denial that the end of tuition fees would be a benefit for students. But that pales in comparison to the extraordinary lack of NUS involvement in the recent UCU strikes. While its members joined the picket lines and entered occupation up and down the country, NUS chose to stay silent when our academic staff most needed their support. Continue Reading

HIGHER EDUCATION IN A POST-FEES WORLD – BEYOND TUITION FEES #1

By Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this new series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Politics is in a very different place than a few years ago. Radical change feels possible, tangible, close. The Labour Party’s pledge to scrap tuition fees is one of many signs of this – welcome, and necessary to salvage higher education from the marketised juggernaut it has become. But just abolishing fees is not enough to fix all of higher education’s problems.

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WE CAN’T JUST WAIT FOR FREE EDUCATION – NCAFC WINTER CONFERENCE

by Lewis Jarrad

On the 9th-10th December, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) put on its 2017 Winter Conference in Liverpool. Taking place less than a month after their national demonstration, which advocated for free education and universal living grants funded by taxing the rich, the conference was a chance for student activists across the UK to strategise and discuss where we can go next in the fight for a free and democratic education system. Campuses represented included Liverpool, Manchester, UCL, UAL, KCL, Warwick, Sheffield, Abertay, Oxford and Cambridge. As a first year UCL student who was involved in the national demo, I went along to learn more about NCAFC and how I could get more involved in the campaign.

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EDUCATION’S SUCH A MESS, BUT WHERE THE FUCK IS NUS?

by Lewis Martin

Last week students from around the UK marched through London to pressure the government into finally delivering free education. The march has become a yearly spectacle and a symbol of the importance of direct action to the student movement. This year however, the National Union of Students decided not to back the demo, claiming that putting more energy into lobbying will have a greater impact than this direct action could. This shift of attitude isn’t just found in the higher ranks of NUS; it is also becoming commonplace in more and more student unions across the country.

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ALTERNATIVE ARTS EDUCATION – A BRIEF HISTORY

by Laura Potts

Education is amazing. It encourages the growth of passion for any number of subjects, and opens doors for many to enter into the field that that passion leads them towards, where their research work is often vital to the discovery of all sorts of new and exciting things.

However, the modern system that has emerged as society has ‘advanced’ does not always prioritise the curiosity and growth that education cultivates over more material concerns such as financial gain. The increases in the various fees and costs associated with higher educational institutions and the shrinking of the creative curriculum at earlier levels often means that a passion for a subject is no longer enough. But as with any monolithic trend, alternatives have sprung up down the years.

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UEA: FOSSIL FREE AT LAST

by Lewis Martin, on behalf of Fossil Free UEA

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but after 4 long years of campaigning, UEA has finally divested from fossil fuels. People and Planet UEA received the following statement from the University yesterday:

“Over the past 50 years UEA’s researchers have played a leading role globally in developing the science and understanding of climate change and links with carbon emissions. The University remains committed to reducing its own carbon emissions and is investing £6.5million to reduce our carbon footprint from 23,000 tonnes to 12,800 tonnes by 2020. We can confirm that UEA does not have any investments in fossil fuel companies.”*

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THE TUITION FEE FREEZE – TOO LITTLE TOO LATE

by Laura Potts

As the country continues to languish in the grasp of a Conservative government, and the shadows of brexit and the snap election continue to lengthen, many are left questioning the political standing of this country’s future. This year’s extraordinary general election has made many people feel alienated from their government, especially among the younger generation. Hardly surprising, as the ultimate outcome reflected the voting preferences of their elders, with 58% of 60-69 yr old’s voting conservative while 62% of 20-24 year olds voted labour.

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BLINDED BY IDEOLOGY – TWO YEAR DEGREES REVISITED

by Lewis Martin

Back in March, the MinoriTory government announced the idea of running fast track two year degree courses in the hope of saving students money. Last week the Times Higher Education supplement revealed that surveyed students from lower socio-economic backgrounds would be more likely to take this option up if it existed. Could the Tories’ apparently hare-brained scheme in fact be justified?

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WHY THE TORIES DON’T CARE ABOUT NURSES

by Lewis Martin

CW: death, disease, corpses.

Last week we heard that the number of people applying to become nursing students has fallen by 19% in the past year. As this is the first application cycle since government cuts to NHS bursaries, for many this will not be much of a shock. It’s clear that the government’s decision to take away this provision that allowed many students to attend their courses will have serious detrimental effects, not only for the institutions that train nurses but for the NHS as a whole.

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DEBT RISING – HOW TUITION FEES ARE KILLING UNIVERSITIES

by Lewis Martin

Last week it was announced that the total student debt in the UK has reached over £100 billion for the first time. Whilst this milestone was inevitable, it is nonetheless an indictment of the current government’s claim that it is easy and convenient for students to pay off their debt under the post-2010 system.

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THE LEFT HAS DEFIED THE ODDS. NOW WE NEED TO SHAPE HISTORY.

by Bradley Allsop

For the third time in a year an earthquake has rocked the political establishment, upsetting polls, pundits and precedent alike. Yet this time, unlike the division and isolation of Brexit, or the utter horror of Trump, we instead have hope. Snatching insurgence from the jaws of implosion, Labour and the broader left have risen to the edge of power. Yet whilst the election result was an excellent start, surviving the challenges our society faces will require much more. We need to build a movement which aims for nothing less than a complete transformation of our society. It is crucial now that we do not succumb to hubris or allow ourselves to be absorbed by the internal Conservative party debates – we need to use the time granted by their division to plan, organise and mobilise the movement that will transform Britain.

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IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN? – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #6

from a member of UEA Labour Students

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

Having resolved to sit down today and write this article, I’m struck by the appropriateness of my day. I caught the bus to UEA from outside one of the few remaining Sure Start centres, a public service provided by the last Labour government which has been decimated by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) since 2010. My bus was 40 minutes late, the consequence of a privatised, under-funded service – and even the previously UEA-hosted launderette I went to had been privatised since I last used it. It served as a strong reminder of the power of Labour government to change lives for the better, which contrasts with the crumbling services and privatisation festival that has characterised the last 7 years of Conservative and ConDem government.

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A RAY OF HOPE – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #5

by the UEA Young Greens

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

On June the 8th the country will head to the polls for Mrs May’s snap election. This election has been called because, in a remarkable display of hubris, May and her Tory cohort expect to win a huge majority so she can continue to pursue her campaign of cuts whilst also pushing for a Hard Brexit. If they’re right, the future looks rather grim.

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VOTE PROGRESSIVE, VOTE FOR OUR FUTURE – STUDENTS AND THE ELECTION #4

by Lewis Martin

In the midst of multiple crises faced by students, universities and schools, the outcome of the snap general election will be a major indicator of the future of the UK education sector. Each week until the vote we are featuring perspectives from our regular contributors and guests on what the election could mean for students.

There is a lot of fear about the morning of June 9th. Will we wake up to a Tory super-majority that will see them stay in charge for the next 15 years? To a renewed age of cuts that hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in society, that disembowel the education system from primary to higher, and that destroy the environmental protections (or ‘Green Crap’) that will ensure that we have a safer and more secure future for our world? Or will the sun rise on something else? With the polls getting closer and closer, a miraculous Labour Party win isn’t off the table just yet.

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“A VERY DIFFERENT TYPE OF POLITICS” – RESPONSE TO NUS CONFERENCE DAY 1

by Cherry Somersby

Content warning: Article mentions suicide.

The political transition we have seen in NUS over the last 12 months would have been unthinkable this time last year. The student movement has risen to the growing need for radical action this year, building groundbreaking, vital campaigns, presenting a powerful response to the many crises modern students face.

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“WE’RE FIGHTING A DOUBLE BATTLE IN THIS WHITE-DOMINATED WORLD” – AN INTERVIEW WITH THE TUTS

by Chris Jarvis

2016 will be the year of the Tut. After a crowdfunding campaign that achieved double its original target, The Tuts are set to release their debut album – Update Your Brain – in September. The all-woman three piece from Hayes have nurtured a loyal and growing fan base in their first few years, with tours alongside UK veterans Kate Nash, The Selecter and Sonic Boom Six helping to build a wide creoss-genre appeal.Continue Reading

THE STUDENT MOVEMENT MUST GET BEHIND CORBYN

by Cherry Somersby

Battle lines were drawn and war was declared on Jeremy Corbyn when soft left political heavyweight Hillary Benn kick-started a coup within the Labour Party. Consisting of organised resignations by many Shadow Government Ministers on the hour, every hour, the last fortnight’s developments risk leaving Labour permanently cracked down the middle.

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THE GENERATION GAME

by Kelvin Smith

The older people I know are not rejoicing about the result of the referendum. They are sad, angry, shocked. They are doing what they can: signing petitions, writing to their MPs, looking for rays of hope in (to borrow and reclaim the phrase purloined by the current xenophobic tendency) a country they do not recognise. An additional hurt comes from a feeling that, on top of this, they are being demonised; portrayed as self-satisfied and uncaring as they bask in their privilege of free education, secure pension rights, a place to live and a little money in the bank. The word ‘baby-boomer’ has become a term of abuse. ‘Pensioner’ has become code for selfish old bastard.

The principle of the secret ballot means that the British voting system cannot provide definitive information about the demographics of the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ votes, but this has not stopped the press from putting forward as fact the idea that older voters were the reason for a ‘leave’ majority. I have not seen any statistics that explain this except for a reliance on polls that we all now know are unreliable. But then this has been a referendum based on lies so there’s no reason to think this should be any different.Continue Reading

CAN I HAVE AN EDUCATIONAL REFUND?

by Candice Nembhard

It’s not wrong to ask what university is actually for, is it? As a soon to be graduate, it almost seems expected to find myself questioning what I have been doing for the last three years. Admittedly, a lot of all-nighters and sleep, but more importantly, I am pondering as to what I’ve actually learnt in my time as a student.

I’ve had a flick through all my old notes, essay papers, and emails and amidst it all, I am struggling to find that hallmark which encapsulates what it means to be a student and a humanities one at that.  I am not necessarily taking a stab at the content of my degree, rather I am querying its usefulness, and how I can apply what I’ve been taught into my daily activities. No doubt there are many modules, books, and ideas that will stay with me for some time to come, but my question is, what is the practical value of obtaining a degree and should there even be one?Continue Reading

STUDENT FINANCE – COUNTING THE COST OF BASIC UNFAIRNESS

by Rowan Van Tromp

This summer George Osborne announced that the current system of non-repayable, means-tested maintenance grants would be scrapped and replaced by additional maintenance loans. He deemed it “basic unfairness” to ask taxpayers to fund grants for people who are likely to earn a lot more than them.

Perhaps then it’s his experiences of the tax affairs of Tory party benefactors, such as Michael Ashcroft (also known as Lord Ashcroft to those who adhere to the moronic social phenomenon of ‘peerage’), that blinds the Chancellor from the logical conclusion that earning more justifiably means paying higher taxes, to, for instance, provide an equal means by which people can access higher education.Continue Reading

BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR FREE EDUCATION: THE STUDENT RADICAL #4

In certain circles, there is the perception that the transformation to the ideal of the student as consumer is complete and that therefore the student activist and a radical student movement is a thing of the past. Although there was the anti-fees flashpoint in 2010, the argument goes, now the modern student is more concerned with getting their money’s worth from the education they directly pay for, than they are about changing the world.

Over the last four years there have been countless examples of campaigns that prove this thesis wrong. This series of articles seeks to explore those campaigns, what they have achieved and what they mean for the student movement and the Higher Education sector as a whole.

by Chris Jarvis.

Estimates vary, but between five and ten thousand students marched through central London on Wednesday 19th of November. Under a multitude of banners, they brought with them a single central message – education should be a public good, not a commodity, and therefore should be free for all.

After a series of governments of many colours have introduced and then deepened the commercialisation of Higher Education, Universities are now run more like businesses than ever before. The principles at the core of Higher Education now are those of the market. In this context, a campaign, a movement or a march that calls for education to be free, and to shift the financing of education from the student to the state appears on the face of it to be fundamentally reactive.Continue Reading

THEY’RE BACK: FREE EDUCATION MARCH TAKES LONDON BY STORM

by Jack Brindelli.

Thousands of enraged students marched through the streets of the capital on Wednesday November 19th to call for Free Education – despite warnings of ‘health and safety’ issues causing the NUS to withdraw its support for the demonstration. Regardless, over 4000 students still converged on London, in an energetic march that toured past flashpoints such as Parliament Square – the site of a mass police kettle in December 2010 – and a number of sites belonging to corporate tax-dodgers like Starbucks. It was, as a result, a predictably vibrant and radical affair, which promises to revitalise both the student and anti-cuts movement – with a focus not just on student issues, but a distinct call for an alternative to austerity present in every section of the march.

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