Students and staff at colleges are fighting cuts, out-sourcing and privatisation.
The 2010 tuition fee hike to £9,000 has meant students graduating this year have debts of £40,000 and upwards. Astronomical international fees mean that non-UK students will be saddled with more than £100,000. Another fee hike is expected in the next few years.
Russell Group universities have been agitating for such a hike, with some calling for uncapped fees. As funding for non-STEM subjects has been dramatically cut, universities are seeking pull in more money through fees. Other universities, such as the London School of Economics, are expected to go fully private.
Osborne has announced that maintenance grants for the poorest students will be scrapped so students from lower-income backgrounds will leave with higher debts that their richer counterparts, and many will not go to university at all. At the same time housing prices are going up, as quality is going down, as universities out-source their accommodation.
Most universities still don’t pay their support staff decent wages, and staff are battling attempts by managements to precarise contacts. Lecturers are facing increasing pressure from Research and Teaching Excellence Frameworks, which inhibit the topics they can study and their freedom within the classroom.
Our colleges and universities are no longer sites of academic freedom and debate. Rather, students are provided with a service, the quality of which is determined by how much they are prepared to pay. But students and staff have been fighting back. 4 November will see thousands of students march on the streets of London for free, funded and accessible education for all.
But with the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts bringing together grassroots student-led campaigns on campuses and in colleges into a national movement, we are in a better position now than we were five years ago, when the student movement kicked off in 2010. And with young people flooding into Labour, we need to make sure that a Corbyn-led Labour Party continues to argue that implementing an education system that is free, funded by taxing the rich, is both possible, and the right thing to do.
• National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts meets on 4-6 December
• Fight Against Casualisation in Education meets on 21 November.