Students and UCU to ‘take to the streets!’

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SHOWING contempt for parliament, the watchdog for university access (Offa) yesterday gave the green light to all universities to increase tuition fees in England to £9,250 from the year 2017-18.

However, more than 30 universities are to have this as their minimum, enabling them to follow the example of Exeter University and apply the increase to all current students, as well as those starting this year.

The admissions process for university entry for Autumn 2017 opened to applicants yesterday. Parliament still has to approve the removal of the maximum limit of £9,000 – which both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are committed to opposing – with the LibDems pledging to timetable an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill that would outlaw increases for students who have already begun courses, saying such attempts are ‘outrageous’.

The Offa agreement shows that, while almost every university has been given permission to set a new maximum of £9,250 from 2017, a further group of 36 universities and colleges have been given approval for fees of £9,250 as their minimum, rather than a maximum.

This means that these universities with a minimum of £9,250 will be able to apply the increase to current students. The Offa agreements show Sussex, Derby, Royal Holloway and Southampton among those that have set a £9,250 minimum.

The London School of Economics also has a £9,250 minimum, but says that this will not apply to current students. The £9,250 annual tuition fees plan is to come into effect after the abolition of full maintenance grants for students with a low household income.

Functioning on the same pattern as tuition fee loans, the replacement loan to new students from poor households will be offered instead of the current full maintenance grant of about £3,500 and is to be repaid once the graduate earns over £21,000. There is to be debt without end!

It was on the last day before the parliamentary Summer break that the government chose to publish details of plans to allow universities to increase fees to £9,250 from 2017-18, scrapping the maximum upper limit introduced during the controversial trebling of tuition fees in 2012.

Now the universities have already begun to advertise these higher fees for students about to apply this Autumn for next year’s courses, while parliament is yet to agree to them! Parliament clearly does not matter any more!

National Union of Students Vice President for Higher Education Sorana Vieru condemned the rise in tuition fees, ‘It could put off students from underprivileged backgrounds from applying, who might not understand how the loan system works, or are very debt-averse.’

She added: ‘Universities are taking a short-term approach and are wrong to be pushing for whatever the market can take and reaching a tipping point where all the progress on widening participation could be reversed.

‘The attack on education does not end there. The further education college review process risks college closures across the country, having a particular impact on the most disadvantaged students. We simply cannot put up with this.’

The NUS and the University and College Union (UCU) are having a national demonstration in central London on Saturday 19 November. The demonstration – ‘United For Education’ – is demanding free, accessible and quality further and higher education across the UK, and an end to the marketisation of university and college education.

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, said: ‘Staff and students are united in their defence of high-quality education and we will be taking our message to the streets in November. Increased university fees and the green light for all sorts of profit-driven colleges to enter UK higher education do not represent a good deal for students or staff. The government is pursuing a restructure in our further education colleges that risks narrowing choice for students and merging colleges around the country.’

The only way to return to free state education is to bring down the May government and bring in a workers government that will put an end to capitalism and carry out socialist policies.