On Wednesday 4th November we went down to London for a National Demonstration for Free Education. This demo is was supported by the National Union of Students and we subsidised travel.
As Bristol SU, the central voice for students at Bristol, we have a policy for free education therefore we are mandated to lobby for this. Free Education means that higher education would be publically funded by progressive taxation rather than tuition fees paid by students. This would recognise the public benefit that higher education provides not just to the individual
But this demonstration goes beyond free education. The current government have launched a sustained attack on higher education and have shown a complete disdain to students.
The government have recently announced the abolishment of maintenance grants which support the poorest students access higher education. Estimates suggest that as a result of the Government's changes average student debt for a three-year course will rise from around £40,500 to £53,000 for the poorest 40% of students. This means the amount of debt will now be highest amongst those from lowest-income families.
The government has also announced plans to let some Universities increase tuition fees above £9000 in line with inflation, plans to cut government grants to Universities, plans to cut Disabled Students Allowance and plans to freeze the £21,000 loan repayment threshold for five years, meaning that students are repaying more in real terms. This feeds into a wider political shift which sees Universities as free-market companies and students as consumers. What ever happened to education as a public good? Or education as a right?
We are lobbying our local MPs on a number of these issues but everything can't be won around the negotiating table and through letters. So we mobilised on the streets of London for a demonstration to put the free education and put education as a public good back on the agenda.