Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Student Leaders oppose the government’s suggestion to increase tuition fees to £7,000 a year

We totally oppose the government’s recent suggestion to increase tuition fees to £7,000 a year. Such a move would have disastrous consequences.

Current tuition fee levels already deter those from less well off backgrounds from Higher Education. Any increase would make this situation even worse.

Britain needs a highly skilled workforce to be successful in the global economy. Yet our current 43 per cent rate of university participation is lower than many other countries and will fall well short of the government’s own target of half of young people attending university by 2010.

This failure is a direct result of government funding polices that leave students with record debt levels, which deter many from entering Higher Education.

The government’s claim that this policy of shifting more and more of the costs onto individual students and their families was necessary to dramatically increase the proportion of young people in Higher Education is now completely exposed by the government's decision to freeze student numbers and, at the same time, consider increasing fees.

In reality, the whole of our society benefits from a more skilled work-force. Higher education should, therefore, be funded as part of the government’s overall economic priorities, rather than making students and their families bear the burden.

To suggest that Britain can't afford a necessary, quality, free system of higher education is simply wrong and reveals that the government has the wrong economic priorities. Rather than waste billions of pounds bailing out bank shareholders, maintaining a level of military spending far beyond the country's means (and much higher than Germany, for example, as a share of the economy), developing a new generation of nuclear weapons to replace Trident or bringing in costly ID cards the government should instead be expanding access to Higher Education, by reducing, not increasing, the cost to individual students. This would have massive long term economic benefits.

We, therefore, propose a united campaign of all students against any increase in tuition fees, in an alliance with the education unions and progressive opinion in wider society.

At the same time we will continue to argue for the abolition of fees and for a new free education funding system.

We reject proposals from some NUS leaders of replacing the current tuition fees system with a graduate tax, of up to 2.5%, payable for 20 years – which just replaces one form of debt with an even greater one. This strategy has failed to defend students and has contributed to a climate where ministers feel able to propose increasing fees to £7,000.

We propose:

1. A united campaign by the whole of NUS including a national demonstration, regional and local action against any increase in tuition fees.

2. A free education campaign, calling for the abolition of fees and for a new government policy to continue to expand Higher Education funded by a progressive system of taxation in which those individuals and companies with the highest incomes contribute most.

3. To campaign for the government to change its spending priorities to increase Higher Education funding, to cut military spending, abandon ID cards and other programmes which contribute nothing to economic prosperity and social welfare.

The NUS National Executive should lead a national campaign against any increase in fees and reject all proposals to increase the financial burden on individual students.

Daf Adley, NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place)

Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, NUS Black Students’ Officer

Saima Yousaf, NUS International Students’ Officer

Naa-anyima Quaye, NUS National Executive Committee

Khaled AlMudallal, Secretary-Treasurer, University of Bradford Union

Ian Drummond – Student & Respect Party National Council

Junaid Ejaz, President, University of Huddersfield Students’ Union

Gabriel Hassan, General Secretary, University of Manchester Students’ Union

Jennifer Okojie, NUS Women’s Committee

Saima Parveen, Disabled Students’ Rep, NUS Black Students’ Committee

Anil Joshua Sachdeo, NUS Black Students’ Committee

Rebecca Sawbridge – NUS, Mature Students’ Committee

To add your name to the statement please email: freeeducationcampaign@gmail.com