Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 9 September 2015

The Socialist Students contingent on the 19 November 2014 free education march in London, photo Jonny Dickens

The Socialist Students contingent on the 19 November 2014 free education march in London, photo Jonny Dickens   (Click to enlarge)

Students under siege

How students can fight debt, cuts and sell-offs

Students face massive attacks: on our wallets, on our courses and on our future. Mary Finch, Socialist Students member and Leeds for Free Education organiser, looks at how we can fight back.

In five years, the 'Con-Dem' coalition government trebled tuition fees, tried to privatise student debt, and scrapped college EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) grants. So when the Tories narrowly scraped a solo election victory this year, students knew it didn't bode well for us.

Only two days after the Tories won, around 4,000 students and young people were protesting in Westminster against plans for more brutal austerity. Thousands more protested on the day of the state opening of parliament.

The 2015 budget has been an absolute vindication of those fears.

It included a stealth rise in tuition fees. Universities deemed 'good' will be allowed to hike prices with inflation, which could lead to annual fees of 10,000 or more.

Means-tested maintenance gra-nts, created primarily for the poorest, are being scrapped and replaced with loans. Even the grant and loan system as it existed before was nowhere near sufficient.

Many students are forced to take on long hours of work alongside their degree.

Student poverty is a growing problem. A Guardian study recently found students are left - on average - 265 short every month. Further increasing the sky-high debt students leave university with could have a catastrophic effect on higher education.

This will only be exacerbated by freezing the income threshold for starting to repay student loans at 21,000. Graduates will pay back more each year in real terms.

And if revived plans to privatise student loans go ahead, a private company will be the debt collector. The Tories have no regard for whether students can afford to pay their debt back. A profit-driven business will have even less.


The further education budget is being cut by 24%, meaning redundancies and course closures left, right and centre. When the cost of university education is going up and up, many working class students turn to vocational education. The billions of pounds of cuts being made to further education colleges will drastically limit our access.

Housing benefit has been scrapped for 18 to 21-year-olds, and the new 'living' (minimum) wage doesn't apply if you're under 25. As victims of the crisis in housing, employment, and education, the next five years under the Tories may seem bleak for students.

But we can defeat austerity if we prepare ourselves for struggle. The fact that the Tories are ramping up attacks on students means there's renewed potential for a movement to develop.

Students have already shown we're willing to organise. In Lewisham, secondary school students organised protests and walkouts against their school being turned into an academy (a step towards privatisation). By linking with their teachers in the local branch of teachers' union NUT, they forced the governors back.

We can win similar victories nationwide - if we have the right leadership, with the right strategy.


The National Union of Students (NUS) is the biggest national student organisation. It's gained a justified reputation for selling out student struggle.

But this year, four out of the five new vice-presidents - who run the NUS day to day alongside the president - stood for election as left-wingers.

Socialist Students argued the NUS should have called a national demonstration to defend education. It could have used the huge resources, organisational weight and mass platform of the NUS to make it big and bold.

Disappointingly, the outgoing national executive council, the 30-member leadership of the NUS, decided against this. It voted only to support a demonstration called by others.

Nonetheless, the national demonstration in the autumn term is a positive starting point for bringing the movement together nationally. Especially if combined with robust local action from individual student unions and campaign groups. Socialist Students in Leeds helped organise a well-attended free education demo this year through the Leeds for Free Education campaign.

But this starting point has to be just that. Demonstrations alone aren't going to defeat the attacks.

In Quebec, in 2012, a mass movement of students defeated tuition fee rises. They went further than student demonstrations, organising occupations and student strikes, with tens of thousands of workers marching alongside them.


In 2010, when 50,000 students marched on parliament on the issue of tuition fees, Socialist Students raised the need for student strikes to take the movement forward.

With mass involvement, those tactics can be hugely successful. If a mass movement of students develops, we would argue for them again.

Our future is at stake here, so the question remains: how are we going to defend it? Whatever reforms we can win under capitalism will always be clawed back by the 1% that rules society. As long as they exist, they will continue to use society's resources for their private profit, not for everyone's needs.

A fundamental break with capitalism is necessary. That means socialism: democratic public ownership of the economy. That would allow us to collectively decide what direction we want society and the economy to take, in the interests of everyone.

We would be putting power in the hands of the ordinary people who make society run.

To achieve that, we need to unite with the workers' movement. The organised working class has immense potential power. As the ones who keep society running, turning out profits for the capitalist class, workers are in the unique position of being able to shut it down.

By linking up with the trade unions, we can build a united mass movement of students and workers. We can win the fight against austerity, privatisation and capitalism.

Join Socialist Students

We're socialists because we think the problems faced by students, workers and all the oppressed have roots in capitalism. We need to fundamentally transform society so it is run in the interests of the masses.

On most campuses we hold weekly meetings to discuss the politics of changing the world. Join us and get involved!

Text JOIN plus name & uni/college to 0774 937 9010

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 9 September 2015:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Huge support for Corbyn: now build austerity fightback

Solidarity with refugees - Defend the right to asylum

125,000 renters abused by idle parasite landlords

Heartless Tories chop funds for life-extending cancer drugs

Tories allow bosses to keep exploiting workers at below the minimum wage

Them & Us

Bromyard Community Hospital victory

International socialist news and analysis

Cuba at a crossroads

International news in brief

Socialist Party features

How students can fight debt, cuts and sell-offs

Children suffer as the cuts deepen

Workplace news and analysis

Lobby the trade union leaders this Sunday!

Nominate a fighting socialist for Unison general secretary

Most important TUC Congress for decades

Pizza express tips victory

Buses fightback works in Sheffield

Great support for bus strike

Workplace news in brief

Fight against blacklisting in Liverpool

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Film Review: Stonewall

Why I joined the Socialist Party

"NHS saved my life"


Home   |   The Socialist 9 September 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleLondon Young Socialists & Socialist Students: We won't pay for the crisis with our futures

triangleSchools... no going back until it's safe

trianglePay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!

triangleCoronavirus: Students' charter

triangleCoronavirus - a students' charter


triangleSouthampton: University workers win full pay for casual staff

triangleTory student plot defeated at Cardiff uni

triangleStudent occupation in support of striking workers

triangleSolidarity with striking university staff


triangleTory full return to school plans gamble with lives

triangleTowards an anti-racist school curriculum

triangleOppose the Welsh government's reckless return to school plan


triangleHow students can fight and win

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

Socialist Students:

triangleSocialist Students speaking tour


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


triangleAct now to cancel Covid crisis rents and debt


triangleRenationalisation of the probation service


triangleLeeds City Council in danger of bankruptcy


triangleTheresa May admits tuition fees system is broken - but plans new attacks on students


triangleNSSN conference - 4th July


triangleReject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation

Tuition Fees:

triangleTop unis threaten cuts if tuition fees

Higher Education:

triangleStudents and workers out together on Budget Day, 11 March


triangleCorbyn's alternative for young people

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


Fighting Fund

Fighting Fund: Target smashed by half time



Equity union president elections: re-elect Maureen



Change in leadership needed to secure union's future


Black Lives Matter

BLM has not stopped - protesters flock to Socialists


Ken Douglas

Red flags line road for Ken



Leeds City Council in danger of bankruptcy





The Socialist

Selling the Socialist



Cardiff community fights nursery closure: Council must step in



Come to the NSSN conference


Sunday trading

Sunday trading: Government blinks first



Equity: Solidarity with Maxine Peake


Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets council strike


Ministry of Justice

MoJ cleaners' covid outbreak


Ken Douglas

Memorial funds for Ken Douglas and Mick Cotter

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



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


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: 07748 534 891

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



Alphabetical listing

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020