The new Higher Education minister David Willetts has come
out with a clear indication about the Con-Dem coalition’s attitude to young
people, anticipating their announcement to raise tuition fees for university
students. In an interview with The Guardian, Willetts labelled students’ degree
courses a "tax burden that had to be tackled" and that students
should consider fees "more as an obligation to pay higher income tax"
than a debt! It is clear that the ruling class is bent on unloading the cost of
the crisis onto the shoulders of young people by continuing to attack living
standards and limiting opportunities. Yet for many the capitalist crisis means
a choice between joining the back of the dole queue and continuing in
The crisis has already sent official unemployment soaring to
near the 3 million mark. This was the inevitable fall-out from the failure of
the banks as cheap and easy credit dried up and businesses felt the squeeze.
The government bail-out of the banks – which was supported by both the Liberals
and the Tories – has left the system in an insoluble contradiction. The burden
of state debt means they must cut public spending. This means cutting costs to
the bone, adding to the growing ranks of unemployed . Less people in work means
less taxes being paid, and more people claiming benefits. A similar process is
happening in education.
The government has set a cap on this year’s university
intake at an extra 10,000 on last year’s figures. However Ucas predicts 100,000
extra applicants. This means tens of thousands of students being denied an
education. Therefore, it is not hard work and study that will merit students a
place at university, but the machinations of big business and their political
representatives. Add to this the findings of Lord Browne, the former chair of
BP, whose independent review has unsurprisingly recommended that the cap on
tuition fees be raised.
This rise in fees will provide the excuse needed to cut
university funding further, while at the same time weeding out more working
class youth who cannot possibly hope to take on the level of debt needed.
According to the Financial Times, "…a total of 99 of 131 academic
institutions face a decline in funding in real or cash terms in the year to
July 2011, according to the Higher Education Funding council for England.
"Many have said privately they expect reductions up to
25 per cent in the coming years, because of the parlous state of public
finances." (FT, May 11th).
David Willetts has said that, following the Lord Browne
review, ‘tough decisions’ will have to be taken. Estimates are the tuition fees
increase could be anything between £5,000 and £9,000. The Higer Education
minister, who apparently has such an intellect that he is nicknamed in
parliamentary circles ‘the man with two brains’, is infamous for making his
name in the MP expenses scandal last year as the man who billed the tax payer
for 10 light bulbs. This was on top of £1,000 charged for building work done to
his house. So much for students being a tax burden.
Willets certainly has the intelligence to realise that, in
the short-term, pushing up student tuition fees means increasing the deficit,
as it is the state that lends the money to students in the first place.
However, the Tories plan to compensate for this by cuts in university funding.
What the Tories omit is that the investment in students today is paid back a
thousand-fold in the long term by the education and skills that qualified student
graduates add to the economy and society as a whole. That is why we say:
No to course closures!
For the immediate abolition of all student fees!
- Introduction of a living grant for those in Further and Higher Education
and in training!
(Article from Militant Student – Summer 2010)