In early July, , the University of Manchester (UoM) announced that they would continue online lectures in the new academic year, without reducing the tuition fees paid by students. This has sparked outrage among students, with over 3000 students immediately signing a petition to condemn the move.

After close to  2 years of COVID restrictions, (which have affected students quite severely) , so many are eager to get back to real life and have a full university experience. This announcement by the University means more time spent in small bedrooms, more isolation from coursemates, and learning which simply isn’t as good. 

Money for nothing 

The move to online lectures is motivated solely by the chance to cut costs. So far, there has been no consultation with students and staff. Yet it is the students and staff who are most affected. The Vice-president for teaching, learning and students, (Prof April McMahon) has already ruled out offering a tuition fee discount.

Essentially, the university is making more money, at the expense of staff and students.This is the product of the ongoing marketisation of education. University management are forced to cut corners in any way they can. 

Online teaching can work, if properly prepared for and students know what to expect.  The Open University spends time and energy curating its online courses. This decision by UoM however is unlikely to involve training for academic staff on how to engage with students in an online format. 

The decision to maintain tuition fees at their current rate despite this significant change  illustrates that the institutions care more for their own pockets than the education of students.

After backlash from students, the university sent an email to explain that they would not permanently move all lectures online but provide “as much flexibility as possible” for students within government guidelines. 

Fear of backlash

This U-turn demonstrates their fear of students fighting back. After the barrage of rent strike movements this year, including at UoM,  universities cannot risk giving students any extra ammunition. There remains a deep rooted anger in the student body, as just last year students tore down fences put up to keep them in isolation. These events are bound to be fresh in the mind of management.

However, we cannot ignore the clear demonstration of the marketisation of education. The decision to maintain tuition fees at their current rate rather than reducing it due to the chance of lectures being held online clearly illustrates that the institutions care more for their own pockets than the lives and well-being of students.

The UoM students have, once again, shown their strength. We must support these students in their struggles against these constant attacks. However, to create an education system which works for all we must kick capitalism out of education, and call for democratic workers’ control of these institutions. It is only on this basis that decisions will be made in the interests of staff and students, not university management. 

River Currie, UoM Marxists


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