Students of Birmingham are back in occupation
What has education meant to you? The chance of coming to a university like the University of Birmingham has most likely changed your life. Education is an opportunity to transform yourself to be something you can never otherwise be. This opportunity, to get an education; to go to a good university is being stolen from those coming after us; the door is being slammed in their faces.
I admire the students at University of Birmingham, I feel privileged to know them. They are totally irrepressible, dedicated to learning as much as they can and willing to put themselves on the line to defend others. I admire them because they take personal risks and direct action to blow that door back open again.
Today they have gone again into occupation for the fourth time in 13 months. This is despite the fact that last time they occupied 15 of them were put through the university disciplinary mill and 13 of them were arrested for the peaceful protest at Fortnum and Mason on March 26th. Like many young people they realise that this is the “big one”, that education is the silver bullet for social mobility and that we have no choice but to defend it now.
What is happening to education is a disaster. The government has asserted that its education plans are to provide students with “more choice” and to “put students at the heart of the system”. What their plans really mean is privatisation of our education system.
In the case of universities, it’s essential that we have independent, reflective institutions that aren’t tethered to the short-term interests of profit for the 1% but, the public interest. It has been shown time and time and time again that the interests of private companies conflict with the long term interests of the public at large. Companies like Enron, News Corp and RBS cannot be allowed to dictate what is studied and researched at universities.
Even by the governments own logic their plans make no sense as they will not reduce public debt. The white paper will not save the government money either in the short or long term. By 2015 the debt from student loans will have more than tripled from 24 billion to 75 billion due to the increase in tuition fees. Conservative estimates predict that by 2047 the total student debt will be £192 billion.
All the government is doing is helping private for-profit companies take over the higher education system. The entrance of these new providers combined with the funding cuts and reduction of student numbers mean that many universities will go bust. Then in a similar process as NHS hospitals set up to fail, they will be given free of charge to the private sector who will be free to asset strip. Furthermore, the extension of the government’s student loan system to private companies means that huge amounts of taxpayers’ money will be handed over to for-profit businesses with no benefit to education.
The students at the University of Birmingham are only a small part of a national fight back. All across the country tens of thousands of students are mobilising, taking action and getting ready for the national demonstration on November 9th to defend education and stop privatisation. If education is something that means something to you, isn’t it time you did something to defend it?