Callout: #BursaryOrBust – Join the Walkout and Die In!

bursary or bust profileAs part of their ongoing fight against the scrapping of NHS bursaries, NHS funded students all over the UK will walk out of their placements for two hours on Wednesday 6th April at 10am. This follows a successful walkout in February as part of a nationwide week of action and will be done in coordination with the latest action called by the Junior Doctors, a 48 hour strike which begins that day. Nurses are calling for non-NHS students to meet them in the lobby of two London hospitals, St. Thomas’ and Whitechapel at 10am, and walk out with them in solidarity. At 12pm, they will then head to the Department of Health for a die in.

The die in will highlight the number of NHS students that will be lost due to the cuts to NHS bursaries, as well as the way the government’s programme of cuts, marketisation and privatisation is killing the NHS. Most NHS funded students are from non-traditional backgrounds: a large proportion are mature students or students who have already completed a first degree, and they are disproportionately women, working class, BME or students with caring responsibilities. We know that these are the groups that are hardest hit by debt, and many could not have even contemplated the course without the bursary: following the 2011 hike in tuition fees, there was a massive drop in applications to higher education from mature students. The NHS bursary is vital for a fully funded and well-staffed NHS, and scrapping it will mean that NHS funded students will be forced into debt in order to work for the NHS. According to the Royal College of Midwives, midwifery students will graduate with a debt of £65,000 after a three year course, despite the fact that NHS students work alongside their degrees, often doing unsociable hours which make part-time work impossible. In effect, the removal of the bursary would force prospective nurses and allied health professionals to pay to work.

The campaign to save NHS bursaries is the fight to save the NHS from further cuts, marketisation and privatisation, but also for free, liberated and accessible education and universal living grants, funded by taxing the rich and big business. Fighting alongside NHS students should also be a priority for feminists in the student movement – cuts to NHS bursaries are a feminist issue which must be placed in the context of the imposition of the junior doctors’ contract. If imposed, the new contract is likely to widen the gender pay gap in medicine, and is essentially a penalty for care work, as women tend to spend more years in training than men in order to balance caring responsibilities and their job.

Non NHS students need to fight alongside prospective nurses, midwives and other health professionals – here are some things you can do:

  • Join NHS students in the lobbies of St. Thomas’ or Whitechapel hospital in London at 10am on Wednesday as they walk out of their placements.
  • Join them at the Die In outside the Department of Health at 12pm.
  • Join junior doctors and NHS students on your nearest picket line on Wednesday.
  • Link your free education group with NHS students on your campus and walk out with them!
  • If you’re a delegate at NUS Women’s Conference, vote for motion 307 #BursaryOrBust and Amendments 1 and 2.

NCAFC Northern Ireland Holds Regional Conference

North of Ireland Regional Conference

This is a callout for NCAFC NI’s regional conference on 23rd April. Join the facebook event here

Come along to our NCAFC Northern Ireland Student Conference on Saturday 23rd April. We will also be having our regional meet-up and hope to elect our new NI rep.
The event is aimed to get young people involved with NI Politics and NCAFC

The day will be packed with debates, discussions, games, and guest speakers (politicians) to put your questions too. There will be free pizza for lunch

The event is open to all however the Election/Democratic sesson is only open to NCAFC NI members. Voting Cards will be provided and membership checked

Join today for £1:

The event is free, however if you need help with travel costs please contact us and we will do our best to help!

9.30am: Breakfast & Registration

10am: Welcome & introduction to NCAFC

10.30am: Debate – ‘Is Free Education Possible?’ with Elliott Lyness Ulster University VP Campaigns

11.15am: Engaging Young People in Left Wing Politics & Socialism

12pm: Lunch

12.45pm: EU Referendum discussion (with special speaker Monty Shield, NCAFC London Rep)

1.30pm: What can NUS-USI do for us (We hope to have someone from NUS-USI Speaking)

2.00pm: Student Hustings Session

2.15pm: What can NUS-USI do for us (We hope to have someone from NUS-USI Speaking)

3pm: Northern Ireland Regional Meeting- Election of NI rep, Organising the Region etc; don’t forget to register to vote on the day if you haven’t already (forms will be available)

*If you wish to stand for the NI Rep on the NCAFC NC Please email [email protected]om with the subject title ‘Northern Ireland Rep’ no later than Saturday 20th April

Liberation Caucus will also be held. These include LGBT+, Women & Non Binary, Black, Disabled, Schools/FE & Universities

NCAFC endorses Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader

Corbyn picket lineNCAFC is a cross-party (and no party) political alliance. We have members in many different electoral organisations, including Labour, the Greens, Left Unity and others, and members in no electoral organisation – united by shared goals and principles and a willingness to debate and discuss our differences, including our attitudes to electoral politics.

Nevertheless, we cannot and should not say that it is irrelevant to us, as an anti-austerity campaign, that a socialist who stands for many of our principles and has long been a prominent ally to left-wing struggles in education and beyond – Jeremy Corbyn – is credibly contesting the leadership of the main parliamentary opposition party.

Corbyn’s platform is not merely the “least bad” of the contenders – it represents a significant break with the right-wing factions that have controlled the leadership for a long time and that are represented by his rivals.

Most importantly for NCAFC, in education Corbyn proposes to restore maintenance grants and scrap tuition fees, at least for UK students – this was his campaign’s first formal policy announcement. That will help us to shift political debate about education funding onto our terrain both within Labour and more widely, especially if Corbyn does well in the vote.

More broadly, Corbyn’s platform stands for ending austerity, and taxing the wealthiest in our society to shift the burden onto big business and the rich. He led the rebellion of 48 Labour MPs to oppose the government’s brutal attacks on welfare claimants.

The response to this left-wing platform has been huge, and Corbyn’s candidacy has become the focal point of a substantial campaign of supporters. He now leads the polls on first preferences, and some polls predict a win. We are under no illusions that installing a new leader could, on its own, transform the Labour Party, but this is nevertheless a very significant development. (As part of working beyond the leadership contest, we encourage Labour members who agree with our stance on fees and grants to join the Labour Campaign for Free Education, which is affiliated to NCAFC.)

Corbyn should not be uncritically supported. NCAFC encourages him to go further than he has, and commit to both introducing grants and abolishing fees for international as well as UK students, at all levels of further and higher education. And many of our members, including firm Corbyn supporters, have various other political disagreements with him. These should be discussed, not shied away from. Nonetheless, NCAFC believes that fully supporting Corbyn in this election is the only reasonable choice for Labour members and supporters who share NCAFC’s goals and principles.

NCAFC includes both many Labour Party members, and many others who don’t agree that joining Labour is the best course for left-wing activists, regardless of current events in the leadership contest. After discussion among our members and a vote of our National Committee, NCAFC has decided to endorse Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, although we take no position on whether activists should become Labour members or supporters to vote for Corbyn. We invite NCAFC members to keep debating this question, including by writing opinion articles for

If you do want to vote for Corbyn, you can do so by joining Labour as a full member or becoming Labour supporter, or if you are in a Labour-affiliated trade union you can sign up to vote for free. The deadline to sign up is 12 noon on 12 August. More details can be found on Corbyn’s campaign website.

Emergency motion proposed to 3 Dec NUS National Exec after free education demo

NCAFCNCAFC members and supporters have submitted the following emergency motion to the 3 December NUS National Executive Council meeting in Liverpool, follwing the success of our free education demo.

In the aftermath of the appalling move by the NUS leadership to withdraw support in the run-up to the demonstration (despite a democratic mandate from the NEC), we demand that our national union reinstates its support for a meaningful campaign for free education. A meaningful campaign – a campaign that can win – must embrace protest and direct action, such as the days of action that NCAFC has called on 3 and 6 December. It must respond firmly against violence and repression inflicted on student protesters by police. And it must hold to account both the Coalition government and Labour for their failures on the question of education funding.

We are calling on the NUS National Executive to pass this motion and commit to the fight.


NUS NEC notes

1. The big turn out, positive vibe and impact of the 19 November free education demonstration.
2. The violence and repression police once again handed out to student protesters, including arrests, assaults by the cops and one student from Goldsmiths who was badly beaten and had to go to hospital immediately after his release.
3. That the government has responded to the demo by saying that it has no intention of abolishing fees, and that free education is incompatible with well-funded universities; while the Labour Party has not responded at all.
4. That the racists of UKIP demagogically “expressed support” for the demo, while also condemning alleged student violence.

NUS NEC believes

1. That the thousands of students who worked to make the demonstration a success should be congratulated.
2. That it is vital that NUS speaks out, firstly, to condemn the police response and secondly to challenge the government and Labour on the question of education funding.

NUS NEC resolves

1. To reaffirm our support for free education.
2. To issue a statement condemning the police violence on the demo, and replying to the government’s claims (we want a free, well-resourced education system, in both FE and HE, and other services funded by taking wealth from the rich).
3. To include a call on Labour to adopt free education as its policy.
4. To support and promote the upcoming 3 and 6 December days of action.

Free Education and PhD students

ucl_ucu_strike_28jan2014_marchingFree education isn’t just a question of abolishing undergraduate fees, writes NUS Postgraduate rep Ben Towse.

PhDs exist in a grey area somewhere between being ripped off as students and exploited as workers. Free education is an issue for us, and that’s why PhD students will be marching alongside other school, college and university students on 19 November.


The hurdles begin with even qualifying for a PhD. Most PhD programs now require you to hold a Masters’ degree – but with fees skyrocketing and financial support drying up, this prerequisite is out of reach of more and more prospective students.

Masters funding could fill an article (or book) of its own, so for the sake of argument let’s say you make it through, and even get a studentship covering your fees and paying a maintenance stipend for you to live on (of course, you’d better be a UK resident – international students don’t have equal access to some Research Council studentships).

Stipend cuts

You’ve made it! Superficially, this is what we are demanding for everyone – non-repayable financial support and no fees. But even those on stipends are being squeezed by austerity. Mirroring the policies that have ground down public sector workers’ wages, the real value of Research Council stipends has been literally decimated – slashed by 10% since 2010*, cutting into our ability to support ourselves and our families.

And these are the lucky ones. The supply of studentships has long been too few for the number of students, and that situation is worsening. In 2011, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council cut more than a third of its project studentships. It focussed remaining funding in programmes that harshly restrict the number of international student places and are limited to a smaller number of institutions, helping to further stratify our education system into tiers and potentially locking out those who can’t move themselves and their families to these hubs.

Academic freedom

Some research students find funding from private industry, but this comes with strings attached, as their profit-motivated funders have the leverage to stop them following the evidence if it leads to conclusions that are bad for business (for instance in environmental research), and can block students sharing their discoveries for the common good. Of course, government-sponsored funding too is yoked to the narrow interests of capital, determining what is cut and what is prioritised – it’s not only the arts and humanities being squeezed, but blue sky scientific research too.

Unfunded PhDs

The result is that huge numbers are left paying their own way through PhDs, scraping together savings, earnings, family assistance and borrowing to pay fees and support themselves. Universities don’t even bother to track students’ funding arrangements properly (perhaps they’d rather not collect data that would highlight the problem), but we know that 40% of PhD students’ fee payments are not coming from a funding body.

Many are forced to go part-time in order to work enough hours to survive (assuming they can find paid work). So despite financial precarity, they lose out on full-time student benefits such as Council Tax exemption and childcare grants. In a survey of London part-time PhD students, one-third of those reliant on personal sources of money reported sustaining fees and living costs on less than £10,000 annual income. The result? At my own university, about half the part-time PhD students are worried that funding problems will force them to drop out, and half report suffering moderate or extreme stress.

This situation ensures the continued domination of academia by those privileged enough to be able to make it through the system. And beyond access, this is also about the injustice of capitalist exploitation. By any reasonable assessment, research students are workers. We produce knowledge and innovations that improve our society and benefit our universities and industry more broadly, and we do it for pay that is falling or non-existent. Bluntly, we make lots of money for other people and get little or none of that money ourselves. From this perspective, an unfunded PhD begins to look rather like a several-year-long unpaid internship, placed as the gateway to a career which is itself desperately insecure.

Fair Play for TAs

As well as our research, PhD students bear an increasing share of the teaching work as universities seek to cut costs and shift to casualised workforces. If we’re not being cajoled or bullied into performing this labour for free, we’re being chronically underpaid. Wages that are often already insultingly low even on paper are further undercut as almost half the hours we work go unpaid: as a result, almost one-third of us earn less than the minimum wage per hour of labour. Basic rights agreed in law and universities’ own regulations are quietly forgotten when it comes to casualised workers.

To maintain these conditions, our employers rely on our transience and disorganisation, our ignorance of our rights, and our hesitancy to rock the boat in case it affects the academic patronage we desperately need to progress our careers. In some institutions, much like many cleaners, postgrad teaching assistants are even outsourced to private companies that contract us back to our own university on cheaper pay and conditions.

We are organising to fight back in a number of places – most notably right now at SOAS where an impressively militant, democratic rank-and-file campaign is recruiting members and fighting senior management over unpaid labour. This needs to be generalised to every campus.

Free education

So what is free education for PhD students? At every level of education we demand the abolition of fees and the provision of stipends for all – not ground down by inflation but maintained at a level allowing us, and our families if we have them, a decent standard of living. We demand that as teachers, our wages are increased, we are paid for the hours we work, and we are granted secure, decent terms of employment. And we demand academic freedom: the liberty to pursue our research and challenge the interests of capital and the state, which means freedom from the control of industry funders who can cut off our studentships or determine the priorities of public research councils.

That’s why we will be marching on 19 November, and why beyond the demonstration we need to organise on our campuses and in our workplaces, to build ourselves into a force capable of fighting and winning this struggle in the long-term.


* Calculated using these figures and this RPI calculator

NCAFC National Conference will be on 13-14 December – save the date!


This autumn we may well see a major wave of action from students for free education, against fees cuts and debt. We need action now to save education – demos, walkouts, occupations and more.

But action can’t happen in isolation. It needs to be co-ordinated nationally and it needs to be democratically agreed. That is why NCAFC exists.

NCAFC’s National Conference is where we students from all over the country come together to discuss the progress of the struggles for free, just and democratic education, and to democratically plan action in the months to come. We also elect a National Committee to coordinate things for the coming year. There will be workshops, discussions, debates and votes as well as caucus meetings of our liberation campaigns.

The date has been set for the weekend of 13-14 December, so put it in your diaries! Attendance, as ever, will be free of charge. More details will be released as the venue is confirmed and other arrangements are made.

In order to attend NCAFC conference, you will need to be a member. Joining costs just £1, and can be done online or by post.

Trade unionists support the demonstration for free education and donate to NCAFC

ucl_ucu_strike_28jan2014_marchingThis Thursday, a general meeting of the UCU trade union branch at UCL voted with no opposition to back November’s national demo for free education and to donate £300 to NCAFC’s work. We are very grateful to our trade union comrades for their support.

The UCU and other trade unions in education have long backed the abolition of tuition fees, even during the period when our own union, the NUS, abandoned this stance. Our campaigns, our protests and direct actions have always been strengthened by the solidarity of campus workers. Likewise, NCAFC has built for student solidarity with workers’ struggles in our colleges and universities and beyond. This is not just because it’s the right thing to do but because we’re stronger together.

It’s particularly apt that UCL UCU should offer its support, as it was at UCL that the NCAFC was founded in 2010. As we enter this next stage of the fight for free, democratic and just education, we are grateful for the continued support of campus workers is a real boost. And since NCAFC’s work is carried out entirely by the volunteered efforts of its members, and funded only by members’ and supporters’ donations, financial contributions like this are warmly received and very much needed. Organising and campaigning require resources!

NCAFC members will be approaching more trade union branches over the coming weeks, and we hope that this is just the first of many supportive branches. If you are a trade unionist and would like to propose that your branch support us and the campaign for free education, please get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Noam Chomsky supports Aberystwyth occupiers

Occupiers at Aberyswyth University have received a message of solidarity from Noam Chomsky. Aberystwyth University went into occupation on February 22nd in protest against the ongoing marketisation of higher education in the UK and the lack of transparency and political engagement of senior management at Aberystwyth University specifically. The full message can be read below:

“The attack on public education in the US and UK — higher education in particular — may bring short-term benefits to small sectors of concentrated wealth and power, but it is a very serious blow to the population at large, and to prospects for a decent society in the future. The protestors [sic] in Aberystwyth — like those in Tahrir Square, Madison Wisconsin, and many other parts of the world — are in the forefront of global struggles for basic rights, freedom, and democracy, and merit full and committed support.”

Fb: Occupied Aberystwyth

Aber Students Against Cuts

Aberystwyth Re-occupied! Day 5

We have occupied Hugh Owen A12/A14 in opposition to the decimation of higher education in the United Kingdom. We act in solidarity with all those facing the barbaric and unnecessary cuts across society. We reject the idea that the cuts are necessary and recognise that they are motivated out of political choice rather than economic necessity. 

We recognise that the space we occupy is ours and as such we have made it a place where critical thinking and dialogue occurs, involving all in the university and the general public. As part of this we are committed not to disrupting the ongoing lectures happening. We occupy in solidarity with future generations, fellow occupiers and movements across the globe. 

We recognise a burning need for participatory democracy within the university, and many students feel marginalised by the management. We feel this occupation raises awareness of our campaign not only to students, but to senior management. We believe that in the spirit of academia the university management should engage in open and public dialogue and debate willingly. This will ensure that the students see the university management as acting in their interests and not following the government in market-driven policy.

We reject the idea that “we’re all in this together” when the ideologically driven cuts will affect the poorest and the vulnerable the hardest, while large corporations and the rich avoid taxes successfully. 

We reject the idea that knowledge is a commodity, and believe these austerity measures are neither progressive nor just.

Please send messages of support and solidarity to [email protected]

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‘Teenage Riot’ Part I

VICE’s TV production arm have put together a new film about the student protests entitled Teenage Riot. In the film VBS followed the progress of the largest period of civil unrest in England since the 80s, available in 5 parts all this week, the full length film will be available next week at Check it out here