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Students worse off under Labour
STUDENTS TODAY are well-off. At least that is what Malcolm Wicks, New Labour MP for Croydon North, says.
Kieran Roberts, Save Free Education and Socialist Students
According to Wicks, students must be well-off because they apparently spend so much time living it up in the student union bar, frittering away cash on drinks or else spending it on other luxury goods.
This is no doubt handy for Wicks, education minister responsible for lifelong learning in the New Labour government, who will be keen to justify extending tuition fees, in the form of top-up fees after the general election.
However, his crude stereotypes of student life will convince few people of the justification for paying for higher education. Nor has the prospect of the 'good life' at university convinced students.
The number of students dropping out of university has so alarmed some MPs that the Commons Education Committee is conducting an inquiry. Nearly 40% of students at some universities - about one in six overall - now drop out of university. Student debt has tripled in the past four years according to a government-funded survey.
In reality life for students today is harder than since higher education was expanded after the second world war. That's why 25,000 students marched through central London last autumn.
Tens of thousands of students are forced to work in poorly paid, casual work, in order to survive. These students often work during anti-social hours, and are left with little time to study. Most students also leave university up to their necks in debt.
If, in a few years time, most students really are rich, this will only be because the policies of New Labour put a stop to working-class students going to university because of the cost.
Malcolm Wicks didn't face these problems when he was a student. In fact he enjoyed the experience so much he did an MA at the LSE, one of the universities first in line for introducing top-up fees.
Maybe Wicks would like to pay back the several thousand pounds that he never paid for his university education. After all, university no doubt provided an important stepping stone in his political career.
Wicks's comments will infuriate many students, many of whom will want to take action against New Labour and the abolition of free education. The Socialist Party and Save Free Education are building a campaign of mass non-payment and mass action to make the fees unworkable.
Join us if you want to stop the introduction of top-up fees, bring back the grant and defeat tuition fees
In The Socialist 12 January 2001: