Consequent to the second reading of the controversial Higher Education and Research Bill in Parliament in which MPs voted to charge on ahead with plans to increase university fees beyond £9,000 a year, a mass student demonstration against ‘marketisation of education’ is confirmed to take place in Central London.
The mass demonstration in Central London is likely to attract tens of thousands of students and higher education staff to rally and call for free, accessible, and quality higher education across the country.
Along with other coordinated education action due to take place in countries around the world, the demo will also represent a call for international solidarity and opposition to ‘all forms of racism and xenophobia’. Students and lecturers in the UK, in particular, will be calling for the Tories to ensure universities and colleges ‘remain open and inclusive’ following the Brexit vote.
The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) have confirmed the November demo will also demand an end to ‘the marketisation of university and college education’. After the government passed the Bill, Universities are to raise tuition fees above £9,000 for current students, making it easier for for-profit education providers to operate in the UK.
There is already concern that some sectors of society (young white males for example) are becoming reluctant to go to university because of the costs involved. That is a tragedy on the way. A substantial burden of debt puts young talented people off going to university at all.
NUS National President, Malia Bouattia, described how the Government is ‘running at pace’ with a ‘deeply risky ideologically-led market experiment’. She said: “Students and lecturers will suffer most as a result, and this can’t be allowed to happen. The Bill proposes opening up higher education to for-profit institutions, much like Trump University, and opens the door for universities to raise their fees ever higher.”
Bouattia also criticised universities for upping their tuition fee costs beyond £9,000 before the Bill was properly debated, or passed. “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,” she added.
Students are clear that enough is enough, and will be marching for a positive alternative, ‘United For Education’.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary said staff and students are ‘united in their defence of high-quality education’ over which they will be taking their message to the streets of the capital. Hunt said, “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 the risks narrowing choice for students and merging colleges around the country.”
“At a time when we need to show the post-Brexit world that Britain remains open and welcoming to international students, we are delighted our event is happening alongside events around the world,” she said.
Barbara Ntumy, deputy president of London met University Students’ Union and NUS National Executive member. After the meeting, she said: “The Tories’ attacks on students and education have been relentless. We are graduating with more than £40,000 worth of debt, all grants and financial support have been scrapped, and we have seen cuts on a massive scale. The Government’s plans to increase tuition fees and their plans to impose huge cuts to our colleges and universities are completely unacceptable and must be defeated.”
“We will be mobilising to the demo and look forward to joining tens of thousands from all over Britain,” she said.
The ‘United for Education’ demonstration is set for Saturday, November 19.