Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Student Protests Nov 23rd: Defend Our Education!

Across the UK students and lecturers

are today participating in different forms

of protests in opposition to the proposed

changes to the education system.

Over 20,000 students will take part in

numerous peaceful protests much like the one being staged in Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth University is working with local schools to stage a mass student march through the town centre, and are planning a “sit out” in which students of the university walk out of classes and study sessions to do their work in public spaces. Although the Welsh Assembly Government is yet to announce its plans for the future of education in Wales, protesters in Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea all fear the negative impact of London’s decisions for England on those of the Welsh Parliament. University fees will inevitably rise in light of the increase in England and students hope that staging protests against Westminster’s proposals will prevent such a sharp incline of fees in Wales.

Heralded as a “national day of action”, today highlights the solidarity amongst students of all ages who are determined to fight the government’s proposals to cut EMA, increase tuition fees and cut education budgets.

The honourable plight of students, who fiercely want to defend the education system from Con-Dem attacks, is underpinned by the fear that swingeing cuts to university budgets, and the possible tripling of tuition fees to £9000 a year in some cases, will mean the end of affordable and fair higher education. In light of government plans to remove funding for arts and humanities subjects students fear that government reforms will transform the education system into one which merely invests in individuals seeking power, rather than in society’s future as a whole. These concerns mirror those that suggest education will no longer be valued in it or as a way of enriching culture, but rather solely as a means of career based training.

The concerns that increases in fees will mean university becomes an establishment of societies privileged, thus entrenching poverty, alienation and inequality, are not to be taken lightly and certainly raise serious issues when considering the proposed cuts. However is it possible to identify a silver lining to this grey, fatalistic cloud? The fear that the proposed cuts will prevent those from less wealthy backgrounds from attending university and in this sense universities will become exclusive and favourist. In this time of financial crisis and necessary hard-line decision making for the British government is it really as inappropriate as it may initially seem to suggest that the tax payer should only subsidise courses from which they may all benefit in the future such as medicine and engineering? The ConDem government’s current proposal to continue to provide state subsidies to so called “core” subjects such as law, medicine, engineering and some areas of business, but not to subjects of a humanitarian or arts orientation, is based on this logic and in times of such financial crisis some may argue is an unfortunate but necessary compromise.

However, attempts to challenge the assumed fatality of the impending cuts are flouted when considering the context within which today’s cuts are being made, with the current job market only intensifying the severity of the education reforms. How else are students to feel other than fatalistic about the future when they are given no options of how to improve it? An imminent increase in job cuts and reforms of the welfare state alongside the changes to the education system leave many students feeling they have no job prospects and no chance of furthering their education and thus no future. The cuts in education are extreme in failing to provide any alternative for young people the Con Dems have left students with no choices and no hope.

Written by Plaid Cymru Intern

Bex Llewhellin

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