FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thousands of young people to march on Wednesday Nov 15 in Corbyn-backed Free Education demonstration

  • Thousands of students to march on Parliament for free education
  • March backed by Momentum, with Corbyn urging young people to attend
  • Comes immediately following the Tories’ U-turns and defeats over tuition fees, with young people strengthening Labour’s political weight in Parliament

Thousands of young people and students will march in London on Wednesday to demand an end to tuition fees, backed by Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader.

Organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), the march seeks to capitalise on the surge in popularity of free education following its prominence in the general election that wiped out the government’s majority, and the Tories’ defeat on tuition fees in September.

The demonstration will demand the abolition of tuition fees, full non-means tested living grants for all students and an end to the wave of job cuts that are affecting universities and colleges across the country.

Organisers expect more than ten thousand students to attend, with Corbyn having urged young people to join the march. More than 60 student unions and colleges are actively mobilising across the country including Durham, Oxford and Cambridge and students are travelling to London from as far as Aberdeen, Bangor and Falmouth.

The demonstration follows significant student mobilisations in 2014 when 10,000 students attended a demonstration in support of scrapping tuition fees, and the recent NUS campaign to boycott the National Student Survey which was backed by 25 universities including Warwick, Oxford and Cambridge.

In a video posted on social media, Corbyn said “Everybody should have access to high quality from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety. No one should be shut out. That’s why I support the demonstration for free education organised by NCAFC. And Labour in government will deliver it.”

Hansika Jethnani, an NCAFC organiser, said, “We refuse to lie down in the face of the government’s relentless attacks on education. Tuition fees are fundamentally illegitimate – education is a public good – not a product – and it should be funded by progressive taxation on the rich. The orthodoxy that students can be charged more and more has been shattered.”

Chris Townsend, a student at Sheffield and first time demonstrator, said, “We’re already winning the argument for scrapping tuition fees. Now we’re going do the same for universal living grants for all and an end to campus cuts. It’s young people that drove Corbyn’s Labour leadership election and took away the Tories’ majority – and it will be through us that a Labour government will be able to create a properly funded, free education system with living grants for all.”

ENDS

NOTES

  1. For more information and interviews please contact Andy Warren on 07752640847 or Mark Crawford on 07891574894
  2. The demonstration is organised by the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts (NCAFC), a network of students and education workers founded in 2010, and backed by Momentum.  
  3. There will be a press conference on the day of the demonstration at 12 noon in the Conference Room, 2nd floor of the Bloomsbury Theatre Building WC1H 0AH. To RSVP or for more information, please email [email protected] or ring Andy on 07752 640 847.
  4. Jeremy Corbyn’s quote was taken from this video: https://www.facebook.com/JeremyCorbynMP/videos/10155912301008872/

PRESS RELEASE: NCAFC Launches Major Campaign Against The Debt Selloff

london-student-protest

For press inquiries call 07964791663, 07703114546 or 07540248868

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has launched a major new campaign against moves to make every student since 1998 pay more for their student loans. In June, the government announced plans to sell off student debt to private companies. Because there is so much student debt, it is unprofitable to own, so to sweeten the deal, the government is considering upping the repayment rates. This would be the equivalent of a huge and retroactive stealth hike in tuition fees, all in the name of an exclusive, market model of education.

In an open letter to the Liberal Democrats published on the Guardian website on the eve of their Party conference, NCAFC is demanding that the party rule out the sale of the loan book and withdraw its support for the controversial ‘gagging bill’. We have set a deadline of October 1st to receive assurances, and if we do not hear back, we will support a campaign of embarrassment and disruption aimed at any company or political party complicit in the privatisation of student debt.

On top of direct action, NCAFC will seek to create a new coalition of social movements and trade unions to fight the sale of the student loan book by mobilising students, workers and graduates.

Dear Nick,

In 2010, you were the darling of the student vote: you seemed to many to represent a new politics. What a difference three years make. Tomorrow, the Liberal Democrats will begin their annual conference in Glasgow – and, having ignored and trampled on it for years, you will be asking your members to ditch their support for free higher education. If the Liberal Democrats do not now rule out attempts to raise the rate of repayment on student loans, we will mobilise against them.

The damage that the coalition has done to education since it came to power in 2010 is unparalleled. With an electoral mandate to do precisely the opposite, and in just three years, you have tripled home undergraduate fees, and made Britain’s worst-ever cut to public university funding. We are witnessing the transformation of a public service into a luxury: fees for postgraduate and international students are hitting £30,000 for some courses; and student accommodation regularly costs more than many students get in loans. And when protest threatened your position, you stood back while police beat students off the streets and threatened us with rubber bullets.

In spring 2012, and under pressure from student mobilisations, your government withdrew the higher education bill and then, with no parliamentary mandate or scrutiny, proceeded to implement the higher education white paper anyway. Across the country, your policies have resulted in cuts to bursaries, sweeping course cuts – especially in universities with a higher proportion of working class students – and relentless attacks on staff through privatisation and outsourcing. Last week, the University and Colleges Union (UCU) reported that half of universities are now using zero-hours contracts for lecturers.

 

Because of your actions, university education in Britain is becoming an even more volatile, multi-tiered sector. Being a student is a precarious, money-driven, and often simply inaccessible experience. In your relentless quest for power, you have pushed an ideologically driven agenda of marketisation at the expense not only of the ideal of accessible universal education, but at the practical expense of institutional stability, academic integrity and human dignity.

Just as it seemed that it couldn’t get any worse, Danny Alexander announced that the government will sell off the student loan book in 2015. Student debt is a very unattractive prospect for investors, as there is so much of it that it will never be repaid – so in order to make it profitable, the government may end up changing the conditions on already existing student loans. Not content with attacking current and future generations, you have decided to pursue a policy that would attack every student since 1998.

The Liberal Democrats have now backed the transparency of lobbying, non-Party campaigning, and trade union administration bill, which is being roundly denounced by almost every third sector body and trade union as a sinister attempt to gag independent organisations in campaigning around political parties in election periods. Disgracefully, you are hiding behind restrictive and authoritarian legislation in order to avoid being held accountable for your years of betrayal.

We have no interest in stroking your ego, playing party politics, or getting you votes. Every major political party is now complicit in fees and privatisation in universities, and if there was only one impact of the growth of the student movement in the past few years, it has been that your betrayal of education and your fire sale of public services will be written on your political gravestone in 2015. The Lib Dems have lost 35% of their membership since 2010, and are running at an annual deficit of £411,000.

We demand a written guarantee that you will block the sale of student debt and rule out any detrimental changes to loan repayments; and we demand that you withdraw your support for the lobbying bill. If we do not receive assurances to this effect by 1 October , we will support direct action in the autumn term targeted against any company or political party complicit in the privatisation of the loan book.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will now build a broad coalition of activist groups, trade unions and social movements to mobilise students, workers and graduates against the sale of the student loan book, with the aim of building action nationally in early 2014.

Tax the rich to fund education: NUS calls its national demo

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts welcomes NUS’s announcement of a national demo in autumn, called for November 21st. NCAFC will be lending its full support to this demonstration, and activists all over the country will be building for maximum possible mobilisation in London on the day. However, we know that this will not be enough to stop the government’s onslaught against students, education workers and young people.

It is important that the student movement moves off the defensive and sets out its vision of an alternative to Tory class war – free education, funded by taxing the rich. We want to see a democratic education system – this means an end to privatisation, to attacks on free speech on campus and to the harassment, monitoring and deportation of international students. We expect to see a reinvigoration of localised anti-cuts groups on campuses. Students will campaign nationally, but will also hold their Vice Chancellors and local MPs to account – with direct action and campus occupations.

NCAFC will be pushing for a radical and democratic message for the autumn, in line with the motions passed at NUS’s national conference in April. Michael Chessum, NCAFC co-founder and a member of the NUS’s national executive, commented: “It’s vital that the student movement mobilises in a way that can capture the public imagination. ‘Tax the rich to fund education’ will be a core slogan, and we will be organising walkouts and localised direct action across the autumn and into the new year, aimed at triggering a broader fight to save the welfare state from the Tories.”

We will also be using the Wednesday date as an opportunity to organise walkouts among students, especially in schools and FE. Gordon Maloney, NCAFC Scotland rep and the NUS Scotland Vice President for Community, said: “FE and school students are being hit hardest by cuts to EMA and college place, and now with the widespread introduction of fees. School students were at the heart of fighting against the fee rise in 2010. We want to see a living grant for every student in education, and a fees-free FE sector.”

International and postgraduate students are also mobilising. Arianna Tassinari is NCAFC International rep and a student officer at the School of Oriental and African Studies. She said: The fight on postgraduate funding and for fair working conditions for all postgraduate research students must be a central component of the NUS mobilisation. Meanwhile, international students have are increasingly being treated as criminals and cash-cows – ripped off through an unregulated fees market, and subject to xenophobic, draconian visa regulations.”

NCAFC will organise and support direct action, and will put serious energy into backing strike action by workers. Alex Peters-Day, General Secretary at the London School of Economic Students’ Union said, “In 2010 and 2011, we learned that if we are willing to disrupt the ordinary running of education, and unite with workers and academics, we are impossible to ignore. When democracy fails ordinary people, we will have no qualms about using other non-violent means.”

28 days to save profitable course that faces closure because it does not fit “business model”

There is now only 28 days left to save this unique course. As environmentalists and anti-cuts activists we should all get behind this; it is essentially a case study of all the changes we stand against in the education sector. This is a market in education destroying a valuable course. This articulates in practice all that is wrong about the white paper.

This is a market in education destroying a valuable course. This articulates in practice all that is wrong about the white paper.

This is a course that is; valuable to the UK economy, which is helping conserve the environment and which is a profitable course for the University of Birmingham to run. Yet it is being closed because it does not fit the universities “research profile” because it is not a research intensive department.

Only one other institution in the entire country teaches these skillsl and both of these courses are oversubscribed. These skills are immensely valuable to conservation work and specialists have warned that its closure will lead to a “skills gap”. The Institute for Ecology and Environmental Matters (IEEM) the professional body that represents and supports ecologists and environmental mangers has condemned the closure for this reason.

There is a high demand for graduates from this profitable course and they nearly all go on to work in the sector.  Worse still as pointed by the IEEM in their report “closing the gap”   there is a growing gap in skills in this sector as the government and the EU create more jobs. Both The IEEM and Plantlife  have expressed concerned that this closure means that the demand naturalists with the necessary field skills won’t be met.

I met the students on the course this week and they have an incredible community, are dedicated to the course and are extremely angry. They are right to be angry, this course is perfectly profitable and is being closed as it does not fit in with the universities “business model”.

To summarize the need Biological recording is now widely regarded as vital for biodiversity processes within Britain; this course closure will affect this valuable work. On another level to close such a useful and economically valuable course because it won’t fit in with the “research profile” that a university is trying to create for the market is abhorrent and above all stupid.

Please all sign this petition and spread and share also if you can get any high profile endorsements against the closure that would be great .

10,000 demonstrators kick start student fightback

10,000 students from across the country demonstrated in London today on the national demonstration against cuts to education and public services organised by the NCAFC. [Read more…]

Statement on Charlie Gilmour’s injustice

The rejection of Charlie Gilmour’s appeal yesterday does nothing but confirm what we had already suspected after his initial sentencing: the political victimisation of yet another individual, and an attempt to strike back at the student movement by a state which fears it might lose control.

Charlie was dealt a 16-month custodial sentence for “violent disorder” at the NCAFC-called London demonstration on December 9, 2010. In fact he hurt no one, unlike an unknown number of police officers on that day and on many others. We note that not one single police officer has been summoned for brutalising demonstrators, let alone sentenced.

Charlie’s actions on 9/12/10 would normally be described as “antics” when in reference to the activity of David Cameron’s alma mater, the Bullingdon Club. It is clear then that Charlie’s actual crime was to have been part of a strong and militant student movement. His imprisonment is entirely political, as is the decision to uphold his sentence.

The fact that Frank Fernie’s recent appeal was rightly upheld but Charlie’s was not is further proof of the extent to which the judiciary panders to tabloid smear-campaigning. The corruption of the system is equalled only by our contempt for it.

We will not forget the political sentencing of protesters like Charlie Gilmour, Frank Fernie, and Edward Woollard. When we march on November 9th, we will be marching for them too.

The National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts extends its regards to the friends and family of all the sentenced protesters, who likewise suffer from this twisted idea of “justice”.

NCAFC
anticuts.com

For further information, please contact [email protected]

PRESS STATEMENT NCAFC Jan 29 Demo

http://anticuts.com/2011/01/26/2294/

BBC News article on EMA protests

A useful article from the BBC News site.

Students protest over axed EMA support allowance

Students have held protests at about 30 schools and colleges in England against the scrapping of the EMA study support grant, campaigners say.

The protests come a day before MPs are due to vote on a Labour motion calling on the government to rethink its plan.

The government says the allowances of up to £30 a week for low-income students aged 16-19 are wasteful.

But a college lecturers union said 70% of the poorest students would drop out if it were cut.

Education Maintenance Allowances were introduced by Labour to encourage young people from deprived backgrounds to stay in education and training after they reach 16.

Students whose parents’ earnings fall below certain thresholds receive payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week.

These can be spent however the student chooses, and used by many students to cover the cost of course equipment, books and transport.

‘Tough decisions’

Walk-outs and demonstrations took place at colleges around England on Tuesday.

The University and College Union said it knew of about 30 lunchtime protests that had taken place, in colleges ranging from London, to Liverpool, to Newcastle and Cornwall.

One of the biggest was at Dudley College, where several hundred students rallied, some in fancy dress.

Students in Leeds were planning to hold a silent protest later in the day, while young people at City College Norwich were to light a candle for every student at the college who receives EMA.

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Andy Burnham and Graham Stuart on the Education Maintenance Allowance

A protest and lobbying of MPs is also planned for central London on Wednesday, as the issue is raised in an opposition day debate.

The government says the £560m programme is “hugely expensive” and wasteful, pointing to research suggesting that 90% of students receiving EMA would continue with their courses with the grants.

But research conducted by the University and College Union, published on Tuesday, suggested that 70% of students in the poorest areas would drop out of college if their EMA was stopped.

UCU polled more than 700 students, in the the 30 colleges and schools with the highest proportion of students receiving EMA in England.

Also, 38% of those polled said they would not have started their courses without EMA, while 63% said they received no financial support from their family for college costs.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU said the government’s decisions over the EMA had been a “complete shambles”.

“First they pledged they would not axe it, now they say they will.

“They clearly have no understanding of how important the EMA is or the difference it makes to so many people’s chances of improving themselves,” she said.

The government says it has had to make “tough decisions” because of the state of public finances.

It will now support the most needy students through a discretionary fund administered by colleges, which it has said it hopes to triple from its current level of £26m.

The government also points out that local authorities have a statutory obligation to make sure that transport is not a barrier to students’ education.

National demonstration – 29 January 2011, London

The first parliamentary vote might have gone through, but this is not the end! That is why, in the absence of action by NUS, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has called a second national demonstration in London, on Saturday 29 January. [Read more…]

NCAFC warns supporters not to attend 20/12 “March of Resistance”

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is aware of its responsibilities vis-à-vis its supporters and the students, workers, activists and families who take part in our events in protest at the coalition’s policies of cuts and marketisation in the education sector. In light of this, the NCAFC would like to issue the following warning:

It has come to our attention that an event organised and publicised by a group calling itself the UK People’s Initiative for December 20th, the “March of Resistance”, briefly claimed our support (and used our logo!) We never supported this event and we would like to warn those considering attending that there are concerns over the motives and politics of the UK People’s Initiative. Indeed, suggestions have been made that the UK People’s Initiative may be linked to far right groups, although these remain unconfirmed. The organisers have repeatedly failed to respond to requests for information and clarification.

As an organisation we strongly distance ourselves from this event – in the absence of any further information by the organisers in relation to health and safety and the identity of the people behind the group. We have further concerns in relation to the proposed apolitical location of the event, at a time when Piccadilly Circus will be brimming with tourists and Londoners going about their Christmas shopping.

Demonstrations, actions and events organized by the NCAFC (and its affiliated groups) are debated and voted on in large and democratically run meetings; we also participate in broader forums with organisations including Coalition of Resistance, the EAN and ULU, for instance the London Student Assembly. This is an important process as it ensures that we debate and consider different perspectives and discuss health and safety.

Please spread these concerns widely.

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

The NCAFC is organising a national demonstration in London on 29 January: see here.