On Wednesday November the 15th, thousands of students across the UK will converge on London for the National Demonstration: Free Education Now. During this demo, students will be demanding an end to all fees, the implementation of proper living grants, and a reversal to the cuts that have been happening on numerous campuses across the country. Bristol will be one of over 50 campuses joining the demo on the day. But, why should you care?
As Students, this problem directly effects all of us. Fees have risen to £9,250 a year for home and EU students (and between £15,000 and £35,000 for international students) and maintenance grants have been replaced with loans. To aggravate this, rent in halls and in the private sector has skyrocketed over the last 5 years. The result of all of this: the UK is one of the most expensive places to study in the world. The number of part-time and mature students (traditionally from working-class backgrounds) has plummeted and millions of students are kept out of education due to the of risk being saddled with thousands of pounds of debt.
Along with the rise in fees and cuts to grants, universities are increasingly being run more like businesses – a result of higher policy changes. This means that instead of universities mutually cooperating, they compete for funding and spend copious amounts of money on PR and advertising, put staff on worse contracts with worse wages, and, still, siphon off more money for students by rising rents.
However it needn't be this way. The UK has a total wealth of £8.8 trillion – more than half of which sits in the hand of the top 10%. We can fund an education system that is accessible to everyone by taxing and redistributing this wealth. This shift would enable the axing of fees and student debt, eradicate the sky-high rent that goes alongside this and, as a consequence, ultimately deconstruct the financial barriers which prevent people applying to University. We can have an education system built on solidarity rather than competition.
But shouldn't people contribute something for education if they benefit from it? Yes, and the people who benefit from education is society as a whole. Without education we wouldn't have bridges, the internet, our healthcare system, understanding and discussion of our history, society and institutions, a rich cultural life full of films, art, music and much more. The people who can most afford education are the richest in society – those who have accrued their wealth off the backs of working people. Secondly, by implementing fees you are, whether you like it or not, setting up a financial barrier for the poorest people – who will find it more difficult to come up with the money to get over this financial barrier.
So, if you agree that education should be accessible for everyone and that we should have well-funded and well-resourced universities and colleges everywhere, then join us on the demonstration. Free education has been kept on the agenda by students struggling for it. And we'll make it a reality by continuing that struggle.
Does this interest you? If so, you can still find tickets to join the demonstration by clicking this link here. (Bristol SU has a coach going down on the day.)