Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Where next for the student movement?

IF YOU ARE a new student reading this there’s a good chance you’ve started a course that will see you graduate with around £50,000 worth of debt. Two years after hundreds of thousands took to the streets against the tripling of tuition fees, the student movement is on life-support; its campus anti-cuts groups diminished, its national campaigns fractured and divided. Sally Turner writes

But fear not! The Tories plan to impose cuts until 2020, providing each new intake of students with plenty of opportunities to reinvigorate our campaigns and turn to face the new struggles thrown up by the politics of permanent austerity.

Hands off our education

The example of London Met shows how real the danger of privatisation is for dozens of universities which don’t rely on big private research funding.

Privatisation of university services is simply privatisation of education by the back door. As public universities go bankrupt because of declining student numbers, private universities will seek to cut costs and maximise profits. This means overcrowded courses, reduced one-to-one teaching time and a worse student experience.

From school academies to universities the profit vultures are circling our institutions, ready to grab profitable parts and toss aside the rest – like support services for disabled, poor and international students.

Unite students and workers

But unlike pensions, privatisation is an issue affecting students and staff in equal measure. Non-lecturing staff face huge cuts in jobs, pay and working conditions when they are contracted out to private companies. Lecturers face widespread sackings as “unprofitable” courses are cut and class sizes increased.

The student unions and anti-cuts groups are the key to forging unity in struggle. We need to fight for a return to the democratic general assemblies which can decide policy and hold leaders of campus student unions to account.

Where our unions lack democratic structures we should rebuild the anti-cuts groups to mobilise students to rid our unions of the influence of university bosses.

These groups should exchange delegates with the branches of workers’ trade unions – UCU, Unison, GMB and Unite – and carry out joint actions.

But local activism won’t be enough to win. Our most urgent task remains overcoming the senseless national divisions undermining our movement.

We want to organise a national conference to unite the three different education campaigns on a democratic basis.

A united campaign could start to organise school and college students who have few rights and no representation.

All out for 21 November

The NUS has called a national demonstration on 21 November. We should organise to make sure our local student unions organise their own transport and demand the NUS puts its money where its mouth is – and mobilises on a grand scale.

We want the non-education trade unions and anti-cuts campaigns to support the demo too. A big and militant demonstration against privatisation could be the launch pad for a national campaign fighting for free and equal access to education for all.

The explosive struggles of students in Chile and Quebec over the last year shows that radical, united action is the way to win mass support and throw the government onto the defensive.

If you agree with this article, please join or donate
Send news, comments and reports to contact@workerspower.co.uk

Sign up for our Newsletter