In the wake of the new Higher Education review, we are once again hearing suggestions that Oxford and Cambridge should declare themselves independent, thereby allowing them to set their own tuition fees.
A tiered fee system was one of the many market conditions for which the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) sought to lay foundations.
This is not the only front on which such whispers have formed. The pensions dispute between the University and College Union (UCU) and Universities UK (UUK) has similarly raised the possibility of Oxford and Cambridge breaking away from the Universities Superannuation Scheme to set up their own, more secure pension schemes, thereby luring academic staff from other institutions.
Both examples would only make competition to generate profits replace any understanding of education as a public good in its own right. A tiered fee system would place elite institutions even further out of reach for most than they are already. Likewise, if Oxford and Cambridge form independent pension schemes, it will make their disproportionate role in what could quite possibly be the demise of the USS especially damning.
Our comrades in France have shown us what an energised resistance to a tiered university system looks like, with mass student occupations and demonstrations, linked with broader workers’ struggles against attempts of the market to encroach upon the public sector.
If any such whispers about Oxford and Cambridge become concrete proposals, then we as student and education worker activists should follow the bold example of our French counterparts.