Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/734/15261

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 September 2012

Interview with NUS vice-president for union development

Building the fight against fees, cuts and privatisation

'Clearly the NUS has a job to do'

In 2010, tens of thousands of students took to the streets against the tripling of tuition fees in England. 2012's intake will be the first lot to face these fees of up to 9,000 a year, as the Con-Dems stop central funding of higher education.

A student studying for three years, with fee and living cost loans, could owe over 50,000 at the end of their degree if they study in London, or a mere 43,500 for studying outside London. No wonder student numbers have dropped by 57,000!

This year's NUS conference called for students to march in London on Wednesday 21 November. This is an improvement on 2011, when the New Labour-led NUS leadership refused to call a demo, but should be just the start of mobilising the anger of students against the divisive 'free-market' in higher education.

At the 2012 National Union of Students (NUS) conference, Socialist Students welcomed the election of Vicki Baars as vice-president for union development as a step forward for the left.

Socialist Students spoke to Vicki:

What do you think the Con-Dems' 'vision' for universities would look like?

David Willetts' current strategy seems to be to drastically cut public funding, creating a huge range of problems, after which he turns around and says: 'I know what will solve this - privatisation'!

Do you think the NUS strategy of lobbying government ministers has been successful?

I've always been clear that lobbying ministers can never be our only strategy. I think that research can have an impact, but over time NUS has become more and more comfortable with just doing this side of things and not protesting.

I'm pleased that in the last couple of years that has started to change.

For many in NUS, I think having a Tory government has made them more comfortable with protests. They believe they're now less likely to gain the ear of ministers than they were under Labour. But I would hope that, even with a change of government, this new temperament would continue. Labour leaders Blair and Brown both headed regimes happy to do things contrary to the interests of students. Labour's introduction of top-up fees is the biggest example. In my view NUS's opposition wasn't strong enough. I think one reason for this is that many in the leadership of NUS are uncomfortable to protest while Labour is in power.

I hope that, following the demonstration on 21 November, NUS will keep up the direct action and build on the momentum that a big national demo helps to create.

What was your role in the 2010 student movement?

In 2010 I had just left being a sabbatical at Leeds Met and this was my first year at NUS as an LGBT officer. My colleague Alan and I were heavily involved in organising the student protests, after being involved in organising Pride demonstrations.

We went along to all the protests and argued on the NEC that NUS should not condemn students who took part in the Milbank occupation, as Aaron Porter (then NUS president) had done. We said we needed to stand with our students rather than victimise them.

What do you feel were the successes of the movement?

While we failed to prevent the rise of fees and cutting of EMA in England, I think it would be wrong to say that 2010's movement won nothing. Wins in Scotland have so far saved a lot of student support funding and prevented the government introducing fees. Clearly Scotland's devolved government felt the hot breath of the student movement on their backs.

Since becoming vice-president for union development what have been your top priorities?

My main role is to help maintain and develop our student unions. I'm involved in helping to train activists to lead the fight on their campuses.

One of my key priorities at the moment is campaigning on unemployment. For me this is about saying to the government: we're doing as much as we can to help make graduates employable - but what are you doing to create jobs?

What is your feeling on the 21 November demonstration's slogan 'employ, educate, empower'?

It's not ideal. I would have preferred slogans more like 'fight unemployment' or 'no to cuts'. The intention of the slogan is to say we want investment in education, the government to create jobs and for students to feel empowered by using their collective strength. So I think when you pick apart the slogan it's not quite as bad.

Whether NUS should call for free education still divides opinion within the union. What do you think about this?

I believe in fully funded education, completely free at the point of use. I think that it should be paid for by the highest earners and the rich through taxation, regardless of whether they are graduates. I was in favour of raising the slogan 'tax the rich' on the demonstration. But I know my fellow vice-presidents don't agree.

How do you view the student movement in the context of the wider struggle against austerity?

I'm very supportive of UCU and Unison in their struggle against cuts and job losses. I think sometimes that there are student union officers who have the 'wool pulled over their eyes' about their university management's intentions. Some vice-chancellors are determined to privatise almost all support services. Clearly NUS has a job to do in educating and politicising this layer of student union officers, especially at such a crucial time for education.


Socialist Students says:


Stop press: Irish students victimised

A county council is refusing to grant aid third level students whose parents have not paid the Household Tax.

Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins has said: "Clare County Council are an example of victimisation of young people for the principled stand their parents have taken against this unjust and unpopular charge that is being boycotted still by some 50% of liable households... Hence we see more bullying tactics to squeeze money out of people. It will not work!"

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 19 September 2012:


Socialist Party news and analysis

We can beat Con-Dems' austerity

All forces to the point of attack against austerity

NHS: Condition critical

Cable launches new attack on workers' rights

Global warming: Capitalists skating on thin ice

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

Marikana miners remain defiant


Education

Stop the deportation of London Met students

Interview with NUS vice-president for union development

No to Gove's counter-reforms


Socialist Party feature

Hillsborough disaster: Truth is out, now justice


Socialist Party workplace news

Sparks' picket blockades Crossrail site

Workers die on tower cranes - Con-Dems cut safety regulations

HMRC seeks to axe workers' childcare

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Save Oaklands Pool - "This is what we pay our council tax for!"

Salford: Uniting to save mental health services

Fight Tameside library cuts!

Save Hampshire residential care homes

Stop the fire service cuts in West Yorkshire

NSSN supporter invited to address RMT


Socialist Party women

Rape is no joke

Slutwalk: there's NO excuse for rape

Sexism - a product of capitalism


Socialist Party review

Review: "From dole queue to corner and back again"


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 September 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  




Related links:

NUS:

triangleHow students can fight and win

triangleLincoln Uni NUS disaffiliation: a question of on-campus democracy

triangle'Reforms' hollow out the NUS

triangleReject the rotten NUS 'reforms'

triangleSocialist Students LJMU victory

Students:

triangleYoung Socialists and Socialist Students day of action

triangleWhat would socialist universities look like?

triangleA socialist programme for schools

triangleTV: The school that tried to end racism

Privatisation:

triangleHugo Pierre for Unison general secretary

triangleWater shortage warning: nationalise now!

Fees:

trianglePay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!

triangleNorth London Socialist Party: How can Corbyn's policies be implemented?

Cuts:

triangleUnite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

Student:

triangleSouthampton: University workers win full pay for casual staff

Education:

triangleA-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

5/8/20

Young Socialists

Young Socialist day of action

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Campaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

5/8/20

Black Lives Matter

North London: Socialist Party speaks at BLM protest

5/8/20

Hull

Engage for Change Hull - trade union youth festival goes online

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Why I joined - Covid changed my outlook

5/8/20

Socialist Party

Socialist Party meetings: Online and in-person

5/8/20

Young Socialists

A-level results day 2020: Fight for our future!

5/8/20

Caerphilly

GE Aviation workers march to save jobs

5/8/20

Trotsky

80 years since the murder of Leon Trotsky rally

5/8/20

BAME

Fighting to end racism and capitalism

5/8/20

Doncaster

Doncaster: Vigil for murdered women

5/8/20

The Socialist

The Socialist summer schedule

5/8/20

Unite

Unite union branch pledges to support socialist candidates who oppose cuts

5/8/20

BT

Oppose BT site closures - national strike ballot needed

5/8/20

Hospital

Sick pay victory at Homerton hospital!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999