National Demonstration For Free EducationTagged as: education
Around 1000 students marched from the School of Oriental and African Studies to the Vice Chancellors organisation (Universities UK) and then onwards to the head of Universities UK at Kings College.
The protesters called for:
* No raising of the cap on top-up fees; halt and reverse the growth in international students' fees; abolish all fees in HE and FE - free education for all;
* A living grant for every student over 16 - at least £150 a week; and a living wage for nursing and other students who have to work as part of their course;
* Stop and reverse marketisation in our schools, colleges and universities - tax the rich and corporations to fund education.
This academic year could see the lifting of the £3,000 cap on tuition fees in higher education. Meanwhile, student debt and poverty are already spiralling, students face soaring costs of living, and the market dominates our education system from school to college to university.
After years of underfunding for post-16 education, the Government brought in tuition fees and then top-up fees. Worsening the already existing inequalities in higher education, fees are greatly accelerating the development of a competitive market between universities, with a tier of well-funded and prestigious institutions and another of less prestigious, underfunded ones. Along with the absence of decent student grants, they rule out the possibility of seriously expanding access, force most students who do get to university into debt and push many into casualised, low-paid jobs. Lifting the cap will, of course, make all this worse. Meanwhile most further education students have always paid fees and never had grants.
Top-up fees will be in the headlines this year, but fees are not the only issue. Even those who do not have to pay fees, such as Scottish students and FE students under 19, do not receive a living grant and are also forced into poverty and debt. Nursing, midwifery and other students who have to work as a large part of their course receive a bursary as an on-the-cheap substitute for a living wage.
International students are exploited to subsidise higher education institutions through higher and higher fees, while postgraduate study is limited to a small elite through a more and more restrictive funding system.
Women and disabled students are affected and disadvantaged disproportionately by the growth in student poverty and debt.
As education is commodified and most institutions are run more and more for profit, the wages, conditions and rights of our teachers and other education workers are also coming under attack.
Also note that, as the economic crisis bites, the Government has announced that it plans to cut student numbers and further limit eligibility for grants.
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