AN official review into government funding of universities led by Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, will not be published until after the general election, because it is set to cause enormous anger amongst students, all youth and the working class as a whole.
Browne at the minimum will quadruple student fees to a maximum of £14,000, or lift the cap on fees completely.
It is certain that the existing cap of £3,225 is to be swept away, as higher education is organised to be once again a privilege enjoyed by the rich, and no longer a right for all those who seek it.
Vice-chancellors have made it perfectly clear that they want a major rise in student fees to compensate for the slashing of government funding.
Lord Browne’s intentions were revealed last Sunday when it emerged that he was considering fees of £7,000 a year rising to £14,000 for the best universities.
The propaganda surrounding the review committee is that there is to be a free market for the commodity of higher education, and the preferred method of introduction is an annual increase in fees of £1,000.
Along with the huge fees will come much higher interest rates for student loans. The bosses of the Confederation of British Industry are even insisting that there must be commercial rates of interest on student loans to ease the ‘burden on the taxpayer’.
The whole explosive mixture is set to ignite under the millions of students next Autumn.
Already, the Oxford student union is angry that the Browne Review insisted that the submission of the Russell Group that represents Oxford University was confidential, and also that its Freedom of Information request to see it was rejected.
The students claim they have a right to know what is being said by an organisation representing their university and that it is ‘incredibly dubious’ that the information is being withheld until after the May 6th vote.
The government department refused, saying it is respecting the request for confidentiality of the Russell Group, and that there is a ‘public interest’ exemption under Freedom of Information rules.
The Russell Group is among those making its submission public after May 6th.
Earlier this year, Oxford’s chancellor Lord Patten, speaking in a personal capacity, called for the scrapping of the ‘preposterous’ limit on tuition fees.
The NUS has been pressing parliamentary candidates to sign a pledge against raising the level of fees – they remain accepting fees and opposing their abolition!
However, it is not just a question of a hike in fees.
Nearly four million graduates and students face a large hike in interest charges on their student loans after the recent leap in inflation.
Student loan rates are linked to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation for March each year.
Figures published last month show it jumped to an 18-month high of 4.4 per cent, meaning interest charges on student loans are set to surge.
This will come as a shock to graduates and students who are currently paying either no interest or negative rates of interest because of a fall in the RPI to a 50-year low of -0.4 per cent last March. For many graduates on low incomes, a rise will mean their loans continue to grow even when they start making repayments, as the interest will be higher than their payments.
Students currently at university or college can take out loans up to a maximum of £10,153 a year, meaning some are graduating with debts of more than £30,000.
The NUS is one of the bodies that supported the ending of grants and the introduction of fees.
By limiting its demand to a cap on fees, it is showing its resignation to the destruction of free state education.
Students must build an alliance with the trade unions to fight all of the attacks that capitalism is making on them and on the working class.
The only way forward for workers and students is the organisation of a socialist revolution to smash capitalism and bring in socialism, and with it a completely free education system.
There is only one party in this election that fights to retain free state education and go forward to a socialist revolution. This is the WRP. It is standing seven candidates and every student and worker who is able to must vote for it.