Sunday, 10 October 2010

Graduate tax off, but students still about to be screwed

Back in July, business secretary Vince Cable proposed to solve the problem of tuition fees with a graduate tax. Needless to say many, including my other half, thought this another way of pricing the poor out of higher education. Now, it seems that the government has responded to this feeling.

However, as so often in politics, the good news is just sugar-coating for the bad;
Vince Cable has admitted the government will not make any move towards a graduate tax to fund universities.

Tory and Lib Dem members are to receive an e-mail explaining the decision in a move that will be seen as preparing the ground for a hike in tuition fees.

Lord Browne's review of fees in England is expected to recommend more than doubling fees to about £7,000 a year.
Yes, because lord knows that students don't come out of university in enough debt as it is. The figure is currently set to reach an average of £25,000 per student, and will only grow exponentially as fees are hiked up.

We should add to that the fact that it is especially low-paying and casual jobs, i.e. those frequented by students to make extra cash, are seeing pay freezes or below-inflation rises, both of which amount to a cut in pay. Thus, whilst the money they will owe out is rising, the money they can rake in is steadily falling, which will further mount up the debts.

All of which is compounded by the fact that after university graduates are no longer able to make up for that by entering lucrative careers. Many are among the one in five workers who are trapped in low-paying employment, even long after they leave university.

This is a slap in the face to all those students who (naively) supported the Liberal Democrats for their tuition fees pledge. But it is also another example of what is really happening in the economy - with universities dragging more money out of students whilst cutting what they can get in return. The only beneficiaries of this will be those raking in the cash, as ever.

When the graduate tax was announced, the National Union of Students urged a "critical mass" to mobilise against the fees as "the arrogance of vice chancellors and the supine response of spineless politicians in the Labour and Tory parties must not go unchallenged."

But this is not just about students, as employees of the universities are affected by the same cuts. This is, in fact, a microcosm of the wider class struggle, wherein the interests of the workers and of the broader community don't simply overlap: they are virtually identical. It could also provide a model for how workplace and community resistance could work in tandem.

University staff need to get behind the students and support their actions, especially more radical ones such as occupations. At the same time, students must refuse point blank to cross a single staff picket line. It is only with solidarity, and coordinated militancy, that any victory can be won.