Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/496/2654
The Socialist 19 July 2007 |
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Education - not safe in Brown's hands
MANY UNIVERSITIES are in financial crisis, student debt has risen to over £3 billion and there is massive pressure on students and their families. It is clear education is not safe in New Labour's hands!
Matt Dobson Socialist Students National Organiser
Gordon Brown, the new prime minister, has assumed office intent on driving full steam ahead with the privatisation agenda of the Blair government. This has already brought about a situation whereby 1% of the population own nearly a quarter of all marketable assets.
However Brown has made a number of small concessions to act as a fig-leaf for his pro-big business stance. He has responded to the anger felt by students with a new funding package of £400m that will be introduced from September 2008. There will be an increase in the number of students who can receive grants while they are studying. Graduates will be eligible for a "repayment holiday" of up to five years when paying back their loans.
These small improvements will help some students. It's not an accident that Brown's fig-leaves have been allocated to those who have fought and campaigned. He claims to be listening and to be changing but most students will not be fooled or satisfied by Brown's proposals. We want more!
Brown has brought the boss of Tesco into his new National Council for Education Excellence showing his real intentions for education. He aims to strengthen the links between education and business, ie offer big business further opportunities to profit out of public services.
Brown is expected to announce the lifting of the cap on top-up fees which means universities may charge up to £10,000 a year! The slight increase in the grants is almost insignificant in the face of this attack. Brown also has plans to sell off the student loan company to private investors who could hike up the interest rates on loans getting students into even bigger debts.
The extra funding is not going to solve the perilous position of struggling universities. Just days after the extra funding was announced a list of 100 universities facing financial crisis was released under the freedom of information act. The list predominantly included ex-polytechnics that are in this position because of the years of major underfunding by Tory and New Labour governments.
Having been told for years that there is no extra money for education, students will be surprised to hear that this £400m was previously unallocated.
£400m is a small part of what is needed to properly fund education but it does beg the question of what other money there is "unallocated" that could be used for public services like education or health. More to the point there are £billions being misallocated on a regular basis as money continues to be poured into war and nuclear weapons projects such as Trident.
The future for higher education under Brown is one where elite universities charge the highest fees and cater for the richest in society and the rest get underfunded universities and struggle with financial insecurity, debt and stress despite these concessions. That future will mean many thousands are denied their right to a decent education. That is not a future we can accept.
Socialist Students demands and fights for a fully publicly funded and owned education system. We call for all student debt to be immediately cancelled. We fight for the scrapping of all university fees and that all students receive a living grant.
Brown's proposals show that the government has money for services when they think it will boost their position in the polls. This shows more money can be found to properly fund higher education if political pressure is applied. But New Labour, like all the capitalist parties, would rather attack public services and protect the interests of big business than help ordinary students.
A mass movement based on mass action involving workers and students linking up with other struggles to defend public services could force Brown to scrap fees and fund higher education. The Campaign to Defeat Fees will go on the offensive in the autumn term organising protests and building the campaign starting at the freshers' fairs.
If you want to begin building Socialist Students and the Campaign to Defeat Fees in your university or college, book a stall at your freshers' fair now and contact Socialist Students at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8558 7947 for more info.