Tuition Fees. They are the bane of my very existence and the thought of a lifetime of debt, having to work mind numbing office jobs, is enough to drive you insane. Well the government has come up with a solution to my nightmares: More Debt! Personally I cannot wait for this, but for all of you who cry at the thought here is what is going to happen.
The Government proposes (it’s currently not legislation although it will be by the end of this academic year) allowing universities to raise their fees by the rate of inflation; so only an extra £250 at the moment. This will then rise over the following years, eventually reaching over £10,000 by 2020. There is a catch to this rise though, and that is the fact that it is merit based. The Government published a list of universities and colleges that meet the requirements to be able to raise their fees in 2017, and Goldsmiths was among them.
All of the above seems bad but the White Paper, which outlines these “reforms”, paints a very dark picture for the future state of our university education that goes beyond fees. The White Paper frequently uses the term “competitive”. In our current neoliberalist utopia “competitive” means deregulation and crony capitalism. The paper outlines a system were more universities will be able to open and have free rein to exploit students, because when I think of the things we need in higher education, the first thing that comes to mind is competition. Now the White Paper attempts to calm our nerves by outlining a new system of regulations that hasn’t got the power of the old ones: Woo.
Okay that’s a bit depressing of me, but things are not looking good; so lucky for us we students are riding in on mighty horseback to break this corrupt and evil system. How you ask? Well firstly the National Students Union has voted on a plan to sabotage the National Student Survey (which is used as a mechanism to define which universities will be able to raise their fees); Goldsmiths’ Student Union has also voted on a boycott through the Student Assembly. Our university of radical left-wing politics does not seem to be phased by this, and so on Thursday 6th the university management decided to raise our tuition fees.
Now being the sort of university students that bite back, we held a small but loud demonstration outside Deptford Town Hall which was where the vote was taking place. ( Side note: This was pretty annoying for me because I had a seminar in the Town Hall and so had to walk through the protesters, but also when they closed the building was forced to take the weirdest route out). Anyway the demonstration had little impact on the higher ups who decided to pass them through.
The protest did however lead to the university releasing a statement to justify their greed; explaining that inflation had caused fees to fall to a real-value of £7,700 by 2012 standards (this is the year that fees were raised to £9,000) and the university generally breaks even or runs a small surplus which all seems very reasonable. It isn’t. But this isn’t the case, the Warden, Patrick Loughrey, is paid an income of £269,000. Which if you ask me is money well spent on a true champion for students, a man who can make us sit up at night and talk about his bold plans to help the students from bone crushing debt. Or we could lower his pay and that of every other executive.
Alas this is a dream that cannot be achieved so we have to do something about it. On Saturday 8 th we organized a small protest where we handed out leaflets and interrupted the open day in the main hall by walking on stage and reading a statement. This might not seem like much but it is the first steps of what will be a long campaign to undo these grotesque changes. We succeed as long as we hold firm in our beliefs and don’t stop until the job is done.