Universities and colleges have been subject to severe budget cuts, with a £16 million reduction in funding in 2015, resulting in redundancies and a reduction in places. Single-honours sociology has been scrapped from the Queen’s University prospectus. Stephen Farry – former Minister for Employment and Learning – last year called for a “big conversation” on university funding, proposing to increase tuition fees, potentially as high as £9,000. He says that tough decisions have to be made. Yet the Stormont parties are happy to reduce corporation tax at huge cost and borrow £700 million to fund public sector redundancies! Increasing tuition fees is part of an agenda to turn higher-education into a profit-driven industry, rather than a public service.
Students face a plethora of problems. Slum housing in student areas is widespread, with properties left to rot by landlords seeking to maximise their profits. Going to university will leave you saddled with debt. The prospects for skilled employment are slim. One in 5 graduates across the UK find themselves underemployed, unable to make use of their training. The workforce is becoming increasingly casualised, with zero-hour and temporary contracts and low-pay becoming the norm. Young people are unable to forge out a decent future for themselves and emigration is becoming the only option for many.
There is, however, another way. In 2010, students here rolled back attempts by the Stormont parties to raise the cap on tuition fees and scrap EMA. Large scale demonstrations and student walk outs resulted in Stormont backing down. In England, students are preparing for a large-scale rent strike in protest against extortionate housing costs and poor conditions. In Chile, we have seen a mass movement of young people for free education, which has rocked the country. It is exactly these methods of struggle which can deliver a free education for all – run for need, not profit – and investment in affordable, high-quality accommodation
Socialist Students says::
Free education for all
Living grants, not crippling debt
Stop all cuts to courses and services
End privatisation and corporatisation of education
Tackle slum landlordism
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