After New Labour’s axe men began the education cuts, the Con-Dem butchers seem to have been let loose with a chainsaw.
Proposed cuts to university budgets over the next two years amount to £1 billion. £340 million is being removed from college budgets. The UCU lecturers’ union believes this will mean 34,000 job losses at colleges in England alone.
These cuts will slam the door of access to further and higher education in the face of millions. The UCU estimates the effects of last year’s cuts will mean that at least 170,000 qualified students will not find a university place.
Billionaire ex-BP chairman Lord Browne is conducting an ’independent’ review into higher education funding and tuition fees.
It seems David Willetts, Tory universities minister, already knows the result of this report. He is dropping hints that the Conservatives are in favour of a gradual increase in tuition fees leading to removing the cap completely.
If this is implemented elite universities will be on the road back to the situation of the early twentieth century, when they were the preserve of the wealthy and privileged.
Lib Dem Vince Cable plans to expand privately owned universities and encourage ruthless competition in the higher education sector.
This will mean the closure of 20 of the lowest ranked universities and ruthless attacks on jobs, courses, wages, pensions and campus facilities.
Cable’s graduate tax is a dodgy rebrand. Students would pay or owe the same amount or even more than under the present system of top-up fees.
Cable and the Lib Dems want to fool students that they are sincere about getting rid of unfair fees. However, they are really trying to convince their Tory coalition partners that a graduate tax will allow the government to cut harder, faster and deeper without provoking mass public opposition. But their agenda for education will not be accepted.
This autumn we fight back! Young people have no option but to organise for education and a future. Let’s build a mass movement of students, anti-cuts campaigns, university staff, trade unions, communities and the wider working class.
In September, Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) and Socialist Students will go to the colleges and sixth forms inviting young people to pledge to take action. We can fight their cuts and fees with mass demonstrations and student strikes.
On 20 October the politicians will announce more education cutbacks in the Comprehensive Spending Review and it’s likely that the Browne Review will have finally come to a conclusion.
YFJ and Socialist Students will respond by calling a national day of action of campus protests. We call on the National Union of Students (NUS) to begin to lead a mass movement of students to fight for free education!
The NUS is likely to call a national demonstration in November. Name the date now!
Every student on every campus needs leaflets and posters for this demonstration. Organise mass meetings and rallies. Let’s show the government our power.