By Alan Clarke, NUS executive (personal capacity)
According to Barclays, top-up fees will mean average student debt rising from £18,000 for students graduating in 2004 to £34,000 for those graduating in 2010. That estimate was made before universities declare what top-up fee they will charge. According a Guardian survey, two-thirds plan to charge the maximum possible!
Small wonder that fewer school students want to apply to university — making a nonesense of the Government’s stated aim of getting more people into higher education.
Higher education is in a mess: we see courses closing, college workers being squeezed (see report on London Metropolitan Univerty on page 7), and departments and institutions merging on the basis of “market calculations”. But is a mess that students — particularly working class students — and college workers are bearing the brunt of.
The response of the National Union of Students has been at best minimal. Despite the election of a new president, Kat Fletcher, on a left-wing platform, NUS appears to be continuing on the same course.
What can we do? We can rally the forces for change.
That is why activists in the Campaign for Free Education have joined with others to launch a new campaign, Education Not for Sale. What are we fighting for? Our Manifesto sets out the detail. Get in touch if you want to get involved.
A Manifesto for Education
With the General Election approaching, ENS will be developing a Manifesto for Education as a focus for campaigning against the Government.
The manifesto, which will be developed over the next months, will include demands like
- Tax the rich and business to fund expansion of education at every level.
- No to privatisation and marketisation, from top-up fees to private contractors running halls of residence. An education system organised for people not profit.
- Abolish all fees; a living wage, non-means-tested living grant, or equivalent benefit for every student.
- Abolish hidden course costs and charges, oppose rent rises, campaign for rent control.
- From school to college to university, all institutions should be run democratically by accountable representatives of staff, students and the community, not the commissars of business.
The manifesto will also include details of a campaigning strategy to win these demands — from local direct action (demonstrations, occupations, rent strikes) to stop colleges implementing top-up fees to national action to put the maximum political pressure on the Government.
If the National Union of Students (NUS) won’t lead this action — and the signs are not good — then activists on the ground need to get organised to make it happen.