TENS of thousands of students and youth are taking to the streets of London today to protest against £9,000 tuition fees and the savage cuts to post-16 education.
The UCU trade union has pointed out that the annual cost of studying for a degree has increased by a massive 311.5 per cent since 1988.
The spiralling cost of going to university is put into context by their research that shows that a shopping basket of everyday household items rose by just 127.1 per cent in the same period – between 1988 and 2010.
If the weekly shop had increased at the same rate as going to university, then a pint of milk would now cost over a pound (£1.07) and one kilogram of sausages close to £8 (£7.86).
Despite the rocketing cost of a university education, the student/staff ratio has also increased. In 1988 the student/staff ratio was just 12.6:1. Two decades later (the most recent figures available are for 2008-9) the ratio was 16.3:1.
The union said plans to treble annual tuition fees to £9,000 would be the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of degree for thousands of people.
In further education colleges, the government is pursuing a similar policy of transferring costs from state to student, by introducing a new loans system for students over 24, who previously had free access to certain courses.
Younger students (16-19) have also been hit as the education maintenance allowance (EMA) – a weekly payment to support the costs of study – is set to be cut.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Politicians have consistently let students down over the years.
‘If implemented, the government’s plans will completely change the landscape of further and higher education.
‘They would represent the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of degree for thousands of people.
‘The rest of the world is investing in education yet we’re doing the opposite.
‘College grants that are often the difference between some students being able to study or not – the EMA – are being axed and university students are expected to shoulder the burden of punitive cuts to teaching grants.
‘Wednesday is another step in our campaign against the cuts to education and the fight for an education system that is fair and progressive.’ ends