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The News Line: Editorial University applications are plummeting! Call General Strike to scrap all uni fees, restore grants & nurses bursaries! SOARING university tuition fees, rents in student halls being hiked up, the complete removal of the student grant and the spiralling cost of living have created a perfect storm that has driven down university applications by as much as 4%, Ucas figures show. That is 25,000 less students than last year.

he figures show a sharp decline in those applying to study nursing courses – down 19%. This is on top of a fall in the number of students applying to become nurses or midwives of nearly 26% on the year before.

This is a direct result of the Tories’ removal of the student nurses’ and midwives’ bursary which covered their tuition fees and some of their living expenses. The collapse in numbers of students who wish to become nurses or midwives is absolutely devastating news for the NHS which is already desperately short of midwives and nurses.

The next generation of nurses and midwives is being prevented from studying by the Tories stripping them of their bursaries. They have deliberately manufactured this crisis in the NHS by creating a massive shortage of nurses, midwives and other staff.

The Royal College of Nurses said that there are 40,000 vacant nursing posts, while the Royal College of Midwives has called for an extra 3,500 midwives. The government are engaged in the oldest trick in the book: deliberately run a service down and then throw your hands in the air and declare that there is nothing left to do but shut it down and offer a privatised alternative. This is what they do to council estates, run them down, demolish them and then build private flats in their place.

In the case of the NHS, they have starved it of funds for years and sold off parts to private companies. The plan is to do the same to the university system. Universities are becoming more and more like business.

Fees in England will increase to £9,250 this year, and student loans are subject to an increase in interest rates – rising from 4.6% to 6.1% from this autumn. Labour shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said last week that the Labour Party’s ‘ambition’ is to write off all student debt at a cost of £100bn.

However, the MP added a proviso. She said it was a ‘huge amount’ and Labour would not commit to doing it ‘unless we can afford to’. Under capitalism that means never! The higher education legislation that was pushed through parliament just before the ‘snap election’ allows universities, in 2020-21, to charge what they like, dependent on their ‘quality of education’. Students have been asked to fill in the National Student Survey (NSS) to rate universities on the ‘quality’ of their 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 second from Oxford or Cambridge. The National Union of Students rightly launched a campaign to boycott the NSS. The hiking up of student fees is daylight robbery! Student debt is already soaring, now they are driving up the interest rates as well as the fees.
The leadership 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 has allowed conditions usually associated with Sports Direct, JD Sports and other low-paid jobs into the UK’s top universities is an absolute disgrace. The crisis in education is a matter for everybody.

All university fees must be abolished and the full non-repayable living grant restored to each and every student so that their accommodation and living expenses are covered while they are studying. Free education must be restored.

To restore free state education the entire strength of the working class has to be mobilised. The TUC must be forced to call an indefinite general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers government. This will end fees, restore grants and nationalise the banks and the major industries under workers control to commence the establishment of a much needed socialist society.


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