THE LATEST increase in university tuition fees in England to £9,250 by the Tory government has been launched without any announcement from the Department for Education.
So scared are they of the backlash from a generation of young people who are already furious at being up to their eyeballs in debt, the cowardly Tory government has attempted to push this latest increase in fees through on the quiet.
The changes were ‘sneaked’ onto the government website last week. Labour’s Gordon Marsden accused the government of trying to ‘sneak out’ the changes – saying that this is the ‘increase that doesn’t like to speak its name. They are hell-bent on keeping this increase as low-profile as possible as it’s piling up debts on students.’
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: ‘This is a shabby little way to announce something, hiding it away in a far-flung corner of a government website.’ However, it was with the help of the Labour and Liberal MPs that the Tory government pushed plans through parliament to break the £9,000 cap on university fees.
Some universities had the cheek to raise their tuition fee to £9,250 even before the new legislation had gone through. The year after next, the Tories plan to raise tuition fees again. There are to be not one, but two tuition fee hikes by the Tory government: first to £9,250 and then to £9,500.
Over 15,000 students and lecturers marched through central London on Saturday November 19 to demand free education for all. It was the largest education demonstration in years and was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU).
University of Manchester student Ellen Lawrence-Clery said on the march: ‘We’re protesting against TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework). They claim they are using this framework to bring up the quality of teaching with research. They are using TEF to grade universities gold, silver and bronze. The higher ranked ones will be allowed to increase tuition fees above inflation.
‘This seems extremely unfair because it will make it even more difficult for lower class students to go to university. The unions should all take action together to bring this government down.’
So this is the plan: next September, fees will be £9,250, the following year £9,500, after which universities will be able to charge what they want depending on their ‘quality of education’.
This means that if you got a first at London Met University it may well be considered not as worthy as if you got a 2:1 from Oxford or Cambridge. On that basis, you might as well miss out the middleman and just buy your degree directly from the University, saving three years of study.
The leaders of both the NUS students’ union and the UCU lecturers’ union are completely inadequate for this situation. Three-fifths (59%) of lecturers at the Russell Group of universities are being superexploited on zero-hours contracts.
The fact that the UCU lecturers’ union has allowed conditions usually associated with Sports Direct, JD Sports and other low-paid jobs into UK’s elite universities is an absolute disgrace. The NUS National President Malia Bouattia has called on ‘the government to commit to funding for further education and the teaching workforce’.
Students are under no illusion that the Tory government will ‘change course’. They are fed up of their union leaders who plead with the Tories to ‘listen to reason’. This is not a question of the force of argument but the argument of force. A nationwide strike must immediately be called by the lecturers’ union. Such a strike must then be supported by the student movement with walk outs and occupations.
This action, to restore free state education must be defended by the entire strength of the working class – in a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government.
A workers government implementing socialist policies will immediately abolish all university fees, restoring free education for all. The full student grant to cover students’ living costs will be restored so that everyone has the right to further their education.