As the cost of living continues to spiral, undergraduate students are set to receive a measly 2.8% ‘increase’ in their maintenance loans in the next academic year – a real-terms cut. Students and staff must unite and fight for free education.
Last month, the government confirmed that they will increase student maintenance loans by a measly 2.8%. Students who receive the maximum amount of maintenance will receive £9,978 in 2023/24, which is £1,583 less than the £11,501 they would receive if maintenance was tied to inflation.
Meanwhile, the price of a student staple – tomato pasta with a sprinkle of cheese on top – has skyrocketed by 54% in the past year.
This is an insult to students! If students were workers, they’d undoubtedly be joining the hundreds of thousands of workers striking to defend their pay and conditions.
In other words, the Tories are willingly allowing millions of students, along with the rest of the working class, to slip into deprivation – left to the mercy of soaring prices and greedy landlords.
Students have struggled for money for some time now, however this is an unprecedented real-terms cut to student maintenance loans. Since 2016, students have seen their maintenance loans cut by 15% in real terms.
This reduction has not been a gradual reduction either, but sudden and sharp. Across the current academic year and the next academic year, maintenance loans will be cut by 11% in real terms.
This means that we are living through the biggest drop in students’ standard of living in living memory. The effects of this will be unparalleled.
Already, students have been pushed to the brink. A recent study by the National Union of Students revealed that one third of students are left with only £50 per month after rent and bills. Shockingly, it is also reported that one in ten students are now relying on food banks.
In desperation, a growing number of students are even turning to prostitution to make ends meet.
This is the grim reality of student life under capitalism – which is now set to get even worse.
A government report has stated that students from the poorest households without family income to fall back on will be the worst affected.
But this crisis cuts so deep that students from ‘higher income’ households will also be affected.
The ‘income threshold’ – which determines whether a student receives a reduced maintenance loan – has been lowered. This means more parents will have to fork out more money to support their child at university.
But, in a lot of instances, that support simply doesn’t exist. In many cases, the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ has been whittled away on all sides: by the bosses’ attacks on pay and conditions, the Tories’ higher income taxes, and the bankers’ rising interest rates.
In short, the marketisation of education – as well as capitalism at large – is dragging students, their families, and the whole education system over a cliff, whilst allowing the fat-cat employers to get rich.
Unite and fight
This sudden, sharp attack on students’ standard of living will deepen the radicalisation of young people that we are already witnessing.
This radicalisation will be compounded by the fact many students are joining the workforce to make ends meet. Students most commonly find part-time jobs in some of the most exploited and precarious sectors, namely retail, hospitality, and online tutoring.
These attacks on students are taking place with the backdrop of the long-standing dispute between university employers and staff. After years of battling with higher management, UCU members are continuing to wage a fierce struggle.
The struggle that staff are waging for better pay and working conditions is tied to our struggle for better learning conditions. Students and staff share the same enemy: the marketisation of education, driven by capitalism’s insatiable drive for more profits.
And crucially, university staff have the ability to bring campuses to a standstill, and show the university managers who really holds the power. It is only by linking up with the organised working class that students can achieve their demands.
Ultimately, the crisis in education reflects the crisis of capitalism, a system in senile decay. The basis for common struggle lies in the fight against capitalism.
Kick out capitalism!
Students should therefore join the Marxist Student Federation on the UCU picket lines – to support our lecturers’ demands, and also to raise our own demands: for the abolition of tuition fees, and for maintenance grants to be reintroduced and tied to inflation.
The fat-cat managers have proven themselves incapable of running our universities. Therefore, we must demand that our universities are placed under the democratic control of staff and students.
To ensure that universities are properly funded, and that students and staff can pursue their work and studies comfortably, we must expropriate the banks and monopolies, and put their idle riches to good use!
The need for socialism has never been more clearly presented to students and young people: we face skyrocketing rents, soaring energy bills, eye-watering food prices, a growing mental health crisis, and the highest tuition fees on record.
This is the best capitalism has to offer. Only the socialist transformation of society can remedy these ills.
- Students and workers unite and fight!
- For mass coordinated action to topple the Tories!
- Kick capitalism out of our universities!
- Fight for free education through expropriation!