Universities are for students, not big business!

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ALMOST a third of young people (31 per cent) starting at university this autumn are being forced to live with their parents, because they cannot afford the costs of living away from home and pay the £3,000 annual tuition fee.

This is the dire situation facing students, highlighted by a survey carried out by the Lloyds TSB bank, published yesterday.

Those youth (29 per cent) who find they have to leave home and move near the university that provides their particular course were very worried about managing their finances. Almost a third (28 per cent) of them were concerned about making their money last a full term.

Before tuition fees were introduced and maintenance grants abolished by the incoming Labour government in 1997, a much larger proportion of students attended universities away from their family homes.

Then, last September, university education was made even more expensive with the imposition of top-up tuition fees of £3,000.

This year, the package of student loans and a handful of means-tested bursaries, has meant that students do not pay their fees ‘up front’, but are burdened with thousands of pounds of debt to repay when they graduate.

National Union of Students (NUS) President Gemma Tumelty pointed out that official figures showed only how universities were performing before the introduction of top-up tuition fees.

In responding to the Lloyds TSB report, Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) highlighted the plight confronting students.

She said: ‘If the government is serious about really opening up Higher Education it needs to remove more of the financial barriers and ensure that staff and universities are properly funded.’

Hunt must realise that this is a dialogue with the deaf. The Labour government has only just forced through top-up tuition fees and is not about to scrap fees and restore maintenance grants. In fact, the government is pushing the universities in the opposite direction!

Rather than serving as state-funded institutions of academic excellence, providing a comprehensive education to a high standard for students, universities are being transformed into adjuncts of profit-hungry corporations and are being run like businesses.

The government’s Higher Education Funding Council published figures yesterday showing how universities are increasingly being geared to the needs of big business.

The Higher Education-Business and Community Interaction survey enthusiastically reported that the number of ‘spin-out companies’ formed in 2005-2006 to exploit the research of university-based scientists rose to 87, 12 per cent more than in the period 2003-2004.

One aspect of this is the licensing of scientific research, carried out by universities, to private businesses. This is being lauded by the government as an example of the ‘knowledge economy’, the exploitation of the ‘intellectual property’ produced by staff in state-funded universities.

In addition, only rich students can pay the tuition fees and the costs of living away from home. This is likely to become worse after the review of the £3,000 limit on tuition fees in 2009. Many of the most prestigious universities are already calling for the abolition of the cap on fees.

It is clear that the Labour government, serving the interests of bankrupt and decrepit British capitalism, is currently destroying universities capable of carrying out ground-breaking research and providing free, state-funded, Higher Education.

The NUS and UCU lecturers’ union must fight alongside the whole trade union movement to bring down the Brown government and replace it with a workers’ government that will abolish tuition fees, restore maintenance grants and kick the profiteers off the campuses.

The present NUS leadership has a record of betrayal, having caved in to the government on the abolition of grants, the introduction of tuition fees and the imposition of top-up fees.

The Young Socialists Students Society (YSSS), the student section of the Workers Revolutionary Party, is building a new leadership in the NUS. Students should join the YSSS today!