Cuts to Higher Education were one of the first to grab the headlines last year after the coalition government’s budget announcement. Most notable for the rise in the tuition fee cap and the resulting demonstrations throughout last winter, a year on, Higher Education is in the firing line once again and it doesn’t seem as if students will give it up quietly.
This time the battle is one of a very different nature: it is a battle of ideas and ideals, with the government’s ideas laid out in the Higher Education White Paper produced by David Willets and Vince Cable. Their proposals seek to drastically change the look and feel of HE and how it is run. Students become mere consumers and universities become little more than service providers where learning is secondary to value for money.
…giving up on HE altogether…
Unfortunately, when you look at education as simply something to put down on a CV in order to get a job, it casts doubt on what most see university as.
One institution that knows this better than most at the moment is London Metropolitan. It is a university which has more Black and Minority Ethnicity students than the entire Russell Group put together and takes on a vital role in providing unique courses such as Caribbean Studies. It is sad then that London Met’s entire HALE (Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education) provision including courses in History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies and Theatre Studies are to be cut. This represents 70% of the university’s courses and means that students mid-way through their degrees are facing either having to transfer university or giving up on HE altogether.
…gone into occupation twice in protest at the cuts…
London Met provides access to higher education to London and the rest of the country’s poorest communities and current students are simply not prepared to abandon it like the government is.
The joint student, lecturer and staff campaign, ‘Save London Met’, has taken on the university management directly to say these cuts are simply not necessary or logical as most of the threatened courses have high intakes and rank excellently in student satisfaction surveys. This is why London Met has now gone into occupation twice in protest at the cuts, with the most recent being under the slogan ‘70% of courses cut – London Met occupied’.
…launched a campaign…
Lecturers facing redundancy also joined in the protests by holding a rally outside the occupation on several occasions and often brought concerns directly to the university management where it was hard for students to do so.
Sadly, London Met seems to be the most prominent of a number of universities that have fallen foul of the plans to create a ‘market’ within the higher education sector. Royal Holloway students are currently fighting to save their Classics, Modern Languages and Computer Science courses, while the University of East Anglia has launched a campaign to save its music course.
…they will not stand for privatisation and course cuts…
Seen in this way it is hard not to think of the government’s plans as a fundamental attack on education itself. Students, supported by their union, plan to hold a national demonstration in London on 9 November to present a united voice noting they will not stand for privatisation and course cuts.
Fees were only the beginning for the student movement.