THE NATIONAL Union of Students has called a national demonstration on the theme of 'Grants not fees' for Wednesday 20 February. Some 20,000 students joined a similar demonstration in 2000. NUS leaders have tried to channel the anti-fees campaign into small local actions and lobbying activity.
Yet where last term's regional rallies were built for they were large and angry, showing that the mood among students is there for a fight over the issue. We have to make sure the February demo is as big and militant as it can be. Student unions should have coaches booked up by now-if yours hasn't, ask them why not! This demo is crucial, as New Labour has finally admitted it got it badly wrong on fees.
Universities are finding it hard to fill courses because working class students are put off going to university by the prospect of enormous debt. The government also admitted that tuition fees were the issue most likely to be raised on the doorstep during the general election campaign.
However, New Labour's planned changes to the system are little better. Education will not be free. Tuition fees will, at best, be replaced by a graduate tax, and low interest student loans could be scrapped. Loans will not be replaced by a living grant, so students will be forced to take out high interest bank loans.
And if New Labour succeeds in making students pay for their education after college, what implications does this have for the rest of the welfare state? We've got to build the 20 February protest and say the only fair way to fund education is to tax the rich, not penalise students. If the money is there to fund war, it is there to fund free education and living grants.
Demonstrate, Wednesday 20 February, assemble 12 noon, ULU, Malet Street, central London.