‘Sir’ Keir Starmer has predictably thrown students under the bus by finally scrapping his pledge to abolish tuition fees. This is simply the latest of his attempts to signal to the ruling class that he will be their faithful servant, as capitalism slides deeper into crisis.
The promise to abolish tuition fees formed part of Starmer’s infamous ‘ten pledges’, with which he hoodwinked sections of the left into believing he would preserve the left-wing policies of the Corbyn period.
Since he took the top spot, however, Starmer has remained vague and elusive on his position regarding tuition fees. Now, Starmer has finally come out with the truth that he has been hiding all along – Labour will in fact not abolish tuition fees.
This comes as no surprise whatsoever. Starmer is pulling out all of the stops to prove to the bosses that he will act in their interests. And if that means breaking promises, and casting aside the interests of workers and youth at a whim, then so be it.
It was only four short years ago that the Labour Party had reaffirmed its promise to scrap tuition fees, and also promised to reintroduce maintenance grants, and provide free education from ‘cradle to grave’.
But a lot has happened in those four years. This pledge was put forward under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Since then, Corbyn has been buried, along with his legacy, under a heap of lies, manoeuvres, and purges by the Labour right.
Starmer’s latest attempt to ingratiate himself and his party with the establishment demonstrates even further that Labour is back in safe ‘responsible’ hands.
The sheer hypocrisy of this move is found in the fact that Starmer, on his journey to become a Knight of the Realm, never had to pay a single penny in tuition fees himself. He has even acknowledged publicly the burden that tuition fees place on the backs of graduates.
Keir Starmer in 2020: I will abolish tuition fees.
Keir Starmer in 2023: I will not abolish tuition fees. pic.twitter.com/ZCPY6YWScZ
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) May 2, 2023
Starmer is happy to set all of this aside, however, so that he can carry the torch passed down to him by Tony Blair, and continue the marketisation of education.
Lifetime of debt
All of this means that students will continue to bear the brunt of the cost for the failing model of marketised education – itself a product of the capitalist system in crisis.
Tuition fees now stand at an exorbitant £27,750 for a British citizen studying a three-year undergraduate course in the UK. And that’s not even mentioning the costs for international students, which are up to three times higher!
Nor does that include the maintenance loans which many students rely upon, which effectively leave students indebted for the privilege of sliding into poverty.
Coupled with the rising interest rates on these loans, the cost of studying puts many graduates into a lifetime of debt.
The skyrocketing costs of pursuing higher education is affecting all young people. A study acknowledged the government found that students from poorer backgrounds are increasingly abandoning any prospect of entering higher education because of the costs associated with it.
Some commentators have spoken in support of Starmer’s decision to retain tuition fees, arguing that the money used to abolish tuition fees could be better spent elsewhere, such as on retaining teachers.
This, they argue, would benefit everyone, whereas the abolition of tuition fees would only benefit university students.
This attempt to pit the interests of university students against the interests of teachers and school students is laughable. The crisis facing schools is a result of the very same cost-cutting and profiteering which has driven universities into the ground.
Rather than arguing over which part of our education system should be cut the least, as the reformists do, we understand that it is possible to improve the entire education system. But only if we expropriate the billionaires and put their hoarded wealth towards the benefit of everyone in society.
With the boss’s wealth expropriated, and the commanding heights of the economy nationalised under democratic workers’ control, the strife that students face under capitalism could be ended straight away.
Tuition fees could be abolished, and debt written off. Maintenance grants could be provided that cover the full cost of living. Lecturers’ pay and conditions, and the student experience as a whole, would improve massively if universities were placed under the democratic control of staff and students.
Neither the Tories nor Starmer’s Labour – nor any other party for that matter – will fight for such a programme. These ladies and gentlemen do not have the interests of students and workers at heart.
We need to organise and fight alongside the working class for a socialist programme, to kick capitalism out of education.
This is what we are fighting for in Socialist Appeal and the Marxist Student Federation. If you want to help us in that fight, then join us today!