November 10 2010 witnessed tens of thousands of students marching through London in protest at plans to increase their tuition fees.
The UK government proposes to raise tuition fees, allowing some universities to charge as much as £9,000, while cutting university budgets by 40 percent. Currently, students in England pay £3,290 a year. The proposals also include cutting state funding for university teaching. These cuts are expected to hit the arts and humanities hardest, as funding for science, medicine and engineering is likely to be protected. The fear is that the arts, especially modern languages, become the preserve of the most privileged students.
The British Prime Minister who was attending the G 20 meeting in Seoul insisted he had a mandate to push through the reforms to higher education; according to him "I think the will of the public was expressed at the time of the election when they rejected debt and deficit and putting off these difficult decisions under Labour, and they chose a new approach and we've got to be true to that and stick to that".
This is a total lie, and hides the fact that in a bourgeois democracy, it is not the will of the people that gets reflected in an election. When one Party gets totally discredited, the bourgeoisie brings another in power. It was not the people's mandate but the choice of the bourgeoisie that the Conservatives should rule! The British public, like in most other capitalist countries facing the economic crisis, are very clear that none of these parties will bring a solution in favour of the people. Education, health care, housing and jobs for people are not the agenda of these parties. In fact, Britain's Liberal Democrats, who are part of the coalition government with the Conservatives, pledged during the country's election campaign to abolish fees. Protest leaders said they would attempt to use recall powers to oust lawmakers who break campaign promises on the issue. The National Union of Students said it would try to recall legislators from the party who vote in favor on the hike.
Lecturers and some university vice-chancellors say these proposals are an unfair transfer of the cost of higher education from society to the individual. “This approach assumes that higher education is of value only to the individual and not to society or the economy. It shifts the responsibility for funding almost entirely from the taxpayer to the graduate.” In a letter to a newspaper, they have warned that the move will be a blow for the poorest students.
Students dismiss the claim that cuts have to be made to budgets as part of wider austerity measures and that scholarships would be offered to the poor. The protests, the largest and most dramatic yet in response to the government's austerity measures are expected to be "just the beginning" of public demonstrations of anger over cuts. They reflect the unanimous sentiment of students that those who cannot afford are being made to pay for the crisis created by the rich. As one student is reported to have said, "Politicians don't seem to care. They should be taking money from people who earn seven-figure salaries, not from students who don't have any money."