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National Demonstration For Free Education

fil | 25.02.2009 17:19 | Education

Around 1000 students marched from the School of Oriental and African Studies to the Vice Chancellors organization (Universities UK) and then onwards to the head of Universities UK at Kings College.

The protesters called for:

* No raising of the cap on top-up fees; halt and reverse the growth in international students’ fees; abolish all fees in HE and FE – free education for all;
* A living grant for every student over 16 – at least £150 a week; and a living wage for nursing and other students who have to work as part of their course;
* Stop and reverse marketisation in our schools, colleges and universities – tax the rich and corporations to fund education.

This academic year could see the lifting of the £3,000 cap on tuition fees in higher education. Meanwhile, student debt and poverty are already spiralling, students face soaring costs of living, and the market dominates our education system from school to college to university.

After years of underfunding for post-16 education, the Government brought in tuition fees and then top-up fees. Worsening the already existing inequalities in higher education, fees are greatly accelerating the development of a competitive market between universities, with a tier of well-funded and prestigious institutions and another of less prestigious, underfunded ones. Along with the absence of decent student grants, they rule out the possibility of seriously expanding access, force most students who do get to university into debt and push many into casualised, low-paid jobs. Lifting the cap will, of course, make all this worse. Meanwhile most further education students have always paid fees and never had grants.

Top-up fees will be in the headlines this year, but fees are not the only issue. Even those who do not have to pay fees, such as Scottish students and FE students under 19, do not receive a living grant and are also forced into poverty and debt. Nursing, midwifery and other students who have to work as a large part of their course receive a bursary as an on-the-cheap substitute for a living wage.

International students are exploited to subsidise higher education institutions through higher and higher fees, while postgraduate study is limited to a small elite through a more and more restrictive funding system.

Women and disabled students are affected and disadvantaged disproportionately by the growth in student poverty and debt.

As education is commodified and most institutions are run more and more for profit, the wages, conditions and rights of our teachers and other education workers are also coming under attack.

Also note that, as the economic crisis bites, the Government has announced that it plans to cut student numbers and further limit eligibility for grants.

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quick report from autonomous bloc

25.02.2009 18:26

About 30-40 anarchists and assorted libertarians were present on the autonomous bloc. Most from London, although also a good turnout from Sheffield and Sussex.

Once the march reached High Holborn, the SWP section (who were directly in front of the anarchists at the time) decided to mount a sit-down at the junction of High Holborn and Kingsway (?). About 100-150 people sat down initially, but after literally one or two minutes, the SWP leaders told their contingent to get up and carry on, which they did, leaving about 70 or so protesters who had sat down with them on their own. Stewards harassed those sitting and despite @ calls to remain seated, most were convinced to continue within about 15 minutes by the scaremongering of the stewards. As the cops came in to kettle the remaining 40 or 50, it was decided that if those who started the sit-down, and their lackey stewards, weren't prepared to stay and show solidarity with those still there, there was no point. the protest continued, and reached King's without incident.

FIT were there in force throughout the march, concentrating (surprise surprise) on anyone with a red and black flag or who fraternised with the autonomous bloc. As 20 or so of the autonomous contingent left the final (and utterly tedious, vacuous and pathetic) speeches, a number were stopped and searched and police were clearly reluctant to cite under which law they were being searched. It was clearly retribution for refusing to obey the SWP and their lackey volunteer bureaucrats.

This demo reminded us of three key principles: never trust the SWP, never trust the cops, and never trust stewards (no matter how friendly and understanding they may sound).

All in all, same old same old.



Display the following 7 comments

  1. Where were you? — Inquisitir
  2. poor turnout — Nonalligned
  3. Turnout and Stewards — Lloyd Russell-Moyle
  4. report on the demo — David Broder
  5. the Anarchist Federation helped organise this?! — shocked
  6. Silliness — rogue
  7. we should have stayed sitting down. — nonalignedanarchist2