Last week saw a significant drop in temperature across Britain, and a high of only 5 degrees in London made Thursday 14th January the chilliest day of 2016 so far, a seemingly natural event for the winter period. Yet the cynics amongst us couldn’t be berated for wondering if the warmth was sapped from the air by the coldness inside one particular room in Westminster.
Behind closed doors, just 18 MPs took the executive decision that maintenance grants for students were to be scrapped – the only cost to these representatives, a measly hour and a half of their time. Conversely, the 1 million most disadvantaged students face being plunged into thousands of additional pounds of debt, compared to their wealthier peers. This only adds to the mounting cost of education in Britain, but disproportionately impacts the poorest students, who do not have the safety net of financial support from relatives. According to the OECD, students in England already face the most expensive education in the world, and this latest action will only increase and perpetuate the exclusivity of higher education across Britain.
The scrapping of maintenance grants represents the latest step of capitalist austerity undoing the reforms of the past which aimed to make education more accessible, and the further commodification of education. Our demand is for free education, regardless of class, gender, or nationality, with maintenance grants for all students – education is a right for all, not a privilege for those that can afford it.
It is worth noting, however, that this cannot be achieved along the lines of petit-bourgeois activism, and generous reforms from above. There are no ‘safe spaces’ for working class students who are starkly disadvantaged by tuition fees and the absence of grants. Truly free education can only be attained by the socialist transformation of society, with universities placed under the democratic control of students, staff and lecturers.
Until then, as temperatures fall, Britain is destined only to become an icy tundra, barren of both affordable education, and compassion.
For a fully funded education system accessible to all!
For democratic management of schools and universities!
No to austerity – yes to socialism!
by Ross McKendrick, Swansea Marxist Society