UK stu­dents protest planned univer­sity re­forms

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

BRI­TISH stu­dent lead­ers have con­demned gov­ern­ment plans to al­low uni­ver­si­ties to raise tu­ition fees in line with in­fla­tion, among other changes.

At a protest in Lon­don on Satur­day, the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents (NUS) and the Uni­ver­si­ties and Col­leges Union (UCU), which rep­re­sents lec­tur­ers, said they would not com­ply with any at­tempt to im­ple­ment the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive party’s Higher Ed­u­ca­tion bill.

The new mea­sures would rank uni­ver­si­ties against a frame­work that in­cluded grad­u­ate em­ploy­ment rates and a sur­vey of stu­dent sat­is­fac­tion, al­low­ing those that per­form well to raise fees. The move would also make it eas­ier for for-profit in­sti­tu­tions to ob­tain univer­sity sta­tus.

Of­fi­cials be­lieve the plans would im­prove the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties and give stu­dents more value for money, but the NUS pres­i­dent Malia Bouat­tia said the leg­is­la­tion was an at­tempt to pri­va­tise ed­u­ca­tion.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to feel the strength of our move­ment unit­ing in the face of this gov­ern­ment’s at­tempts to pri­va­tise our ed­u­ca­tion,” Bouat­tia told pro­test­ers gath­ered near par­lia­ment.

“The strug­gle for an open, ac­ces­si­ble, and crit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, is cru­cial in de­ter­min­ing what to­mor­row will look like,” she added.

The NUS be­lieves the gov­ern­ment mea­sures would put at risk univer­sity de­part­ments where grad­u­ates tra­di­tion­ally had lower job prospects, such as in the arts and hu­man­i­ties.

Bouat­tia put the num­ber of those at­tend­ing the march at 15 000 but po­lice sources put the fig­ure at less than 5 000.

The last ma­jor stu­dent protests in the UK took place in 2010 af­ter the newly-elected Con­ser­va­tive-led coali­tion gov­ern­ment tre­bled univer­sity fees from $3 700 to $11 000.

Many of those at­tend­ing Satur­day’s protests were only just start­ing high school when that fee hike took place.

Alice Der­mody-Palmer, an 18-year-old plan­ning to study his­tory and pol­i­tics at univer­sity next year, said the gov­ern­ment had its pri­or­i­ties wrong in mak­ing ed­u­ca­tion more ex­pen­sive for stu­dents.

“We (stu­dents) think it’s not fair that we are made to pay for ed­u­ca­tion to the level that we are,” Der­mody-Palmer said.

“Cuts to our schools mean that we’re not get­ting the ed­u­ca­tion that we’re en­ti­tled to have.”

The teenager warned that she prob­a­bly could not pay back the debt she would likely leave univer­sity with.

“I’m just never go­ing to pay it off and there are so many other debts ... the chances of me own­ing a house are so min­i­mal that it feels like ev­ery­thing is clos­ing for our gen­er­a­tion and it’s not fair.”

Danny Nasr, the stu­dent union pres­i­dent of Gold­smiths, Univer­sity of Lon­don, said al­though many ex­ist­ing univer­sity stu­dents would es­cape pay­ing higher fees, they wanted to stand in sol­i­dar­ity with fu­ture stu­dents. — AFP

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