Earlier this month, on a miserably cold morning of Wednesday 4th November, a small but enthusiastic delegation travelled from Swansea University Students’ Union to join thousands of other students from around Britain, in protest on the streets of London. The demonstration, called by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, offered students an arena in which to express their discontent at this government’s plans for education over the coming years.
Armed with nothing but indignation and a placard reading “Cameron likes big cuts and he cannot lie”, Swansea University Students’ Union’s Education Officer, Robiu Salisu, was apprehended by the BBC within minutes of leaving the coach, providing a perfect opportunity to reiterate the demands of NCAFC and an enormity of students: the scrapping of tuition fees, maintenance grants for all students, and the safeguarding of Disabled Students’ Allowance, to name a few, to ensure that education is open and accessible for all, regardless of racial, social or economic background.
After all, education is a right for all. It’s not selfish to fight for free and inclusive education – it’s selfless. 2010 and 2011 saw tens of thousands of students march through London in opposition to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s plans to treble tuition fees to £9000 per year, especially important to students at the time following the betrayal by the Liberal Democrats, who won a huge amount of support only months before with the promise of free education. Just like the students in 2010, we weren’t marching for ourselves, but for future students who will be held back by these barriers to education, with the recognition that with an inclusive education system free from obstacles, all of society will benefit.
It has become clear, however, that this brand of Conservatives views the average student with the utmost contempt, treating them as nothing more than petty customers, at universities which serve only for monetary gain. This problem is endemic to capitalism, an anarchic economic system which must conquer new markets in order to survive – unfortunately for students, education is being treated as a commodity which can be bought and sold for profit.
Students have been presented with the potential for free education through the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party – for the first time in most students’ living memory, they have a leader of the opposition who is easily distinguishable from the government. The NUS, the collective voice of students, must marshal its resources to defend Corbyn and to realise free education – it’s important to note, however, that this is only possible through a movement, based on the unapologetic expropriation of the wealth of the top 1%.
The future of education is in jeopardy, and it is vital that students take a stand, and continue to fight its liberation.
Ross McKendrick, Marxist Society. Swansea University Students’ Union Ethics Officer and NUS UK Delegate