Okay, Westminster Students, here was part of my pitch ..
Why Our Education Policy should be for a FREE Education
Let’s get this straight: Free education is a political term referring to education that is funded through taxation rather than tuition fees.
Let’s now backtrack to 1996 the year when tuition fees were introduced (yes, just over a decade ago universities did not charge fees) at a fixed basis of £1000; the student resistance at the time was quite weak, according to student activists from back in the day. They believe that the introduction of fees could have been stopped with a little more FIGHT; today I believe we must advocate for a free education and the principles surrounding it but also FIGHT (like they should have then) to stop the ever increasing price and marketisation of education.
So, where are we at?
Just over a decade ago education was funded by general taxation, I see no reason at all why this cannot be today (Let’s remember the top 1000 richest in the country maximised their wealth by 77 billion this year alone. Not only that, but money can be saved in military and conflict spending; by nationalising organisations such as banks - we are the majority shareholder in RBS anyway - and using the profits to fund education and general welfare. This list goes on, and on).
In essence, problems in education came to blows when fees were introduced. All of a sudden education was seen as a commodity; not as a good in itself, for society, for the well being of the individual. It was seen as a ticket into the workplace, and although this is a true statement to an extent, it is problematic.
Top up fees were introduced and education really became something that could be bought (students felt/feel they have to go to university as it would be a barrier to entry on the job market if they didn’t) and today in 2010 we see HE priced at £3290 a year. However, when the Browne Review comes in the autumn it is almost inevitable (being an ex-chair of a corporate oil company BP an all) that he will suggest lifting the cap. Paving the way for universities to charge whatever they think their ‘breed’ of students can afford.
This will start to create a massive wedge in between the elitist institutions and the workers’ institutions. More vocational institutions. Fundamentally, they want a return to the pre-1992 polytechnic situation.
I believe we have to fight against this lift off the cap and against cuts in education too. They want to cut our funding by 25 per cent whilst hiking prices two, three or even four fold. You do the math!
So, I plead that our policy be for a FREE education, open and accessible to all who want it. It should not be a ticket which is deterministic only to job entry (also, university isn’t for everyone). The key element here is choice and the ideology that education is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT.
However, I understand that to jump from a scenario where the cap is quite possibly about to be lifted to a free education is a massive one. Nevertheless, I believe we must fight against rising fees and against the reactionary graduate tax (see below) in the meantime, but always persist and advocate for a free education and all the reasons encompassed within that.
Jade Baker, VP Education