Abolish student fees restore free state education

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THE Labour-supporting leaders of the National Union of Students (NUS) have been forced into a position where they have had to call for ‘heads to roll’ following a report into the university loans delays, which found that there were ‘conspicuous failures’.

There have been tens of thousands of complaints about the Student Loans Company – which has left thousands of students penniless and unable to attend lectures and advance their studies.

The report found only 5 per cent of phone calls were answered at the peak of delays in the arrangement of loans.

The Student Loans Company has responded to the NUS call by stating that there will be a ‘restructuring’ of senior management.

The report from Professor Sir Deian Hopkin indicted the loans company after universities had to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in emergency funds to students left stranded, high and dry, hundreds of miles from their homes.

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union called the conduct of the Student Loans Company ‘a total fiasco from start to finish – with failures in service that “beggar belief”.’

She added: ‘Moving to university is a stressful and expensive time and to attempt to do that without finances that had been promised is just not on.’

England’s Higher Education Minister David Lammy has refused to take action against the management of the Student Loans Company merely saying that ‘I am now clear that decisive action is required to change the service and that the key to this is strengthening the leadership of the company’.

He added, like Pontius Pilate, that it was up to the Student Loans Company board to hold the executive to account.

So students have been left in exactly the same position as they were before the current crisis erupted.

In fact, some University Vice-Chancellors are now calling for student fees to be doubled to £7,000, or for all caps on fees to be lifted so that the top universities are able to charge up to £20,000 a year.

A Review Committee is currently sitting which is expected to agree to a major increase in tuition fees in May 2010.

Students are, in fact, are awaiting a major worsening of their situation, which will force large numbers of them to give up their studies and return home to try and find jobs.

Many are very reluctant to take this ‘way out’ and are desperately hanging on since they know that a return home in many cases will be the cause of a major disappointment for their parents, who have made big sacrifices to get them to university in the first place.

Many students are now doing two, three or more part-time jobs so to be able to continue with their studies, and some girls have even been driven into prostitution.

The horror story that students are going through is an indictment of the NUS leaderships and the Labour government who advocated that free state higher education should be abolished, and replaced by fees and loans.

The vast majority of Labour cabinet members went through university supported by state grants. They voted to deprive millions of students of the same facility.

Students must now demand the restoration of full maintenance grants and the abolition of student loans and fees.

The present NUS leadership who support the fees and loans system must be made to resign and be replaced by a fighting leadership.

This must fight for an alliance with the trade unions to achieve the return of free state education, so that young people from the working class and the middle class can continue to go to university. To win this battle such an alliance must be prepared to call a general strike to bring down the Brown government and bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.