Socialist Worker

Young people abandoned by the Tories

Millions with no job, no money, no future as universities turn away working class kids

Issue No. 2215

Students and lecturers in Manchester march in defence of education in March 2010

Students and lecturers in Manchester march in defence of education in March 2010


The Tory government is destroying the future of millions of young people in Britain.

This week’s release of the A-level results exposes the true cost of university and college cuts.

Hundreds of thousands of those who want to get an education will instead be hurled into competing for jobs—and add to the toll of unemployment.

There are already close to a million young people out of work, and the 16 to 24 age group accounts for three‑quarters of those joining the dole queue since 2008. The seeds of a lost generation have already been sown. This is not due to the “I want it now” culture painted of young people by the tabloids but to the shutting down of almost every avenue of opportunity.

Leila Assaf is 18 and lives in Hackney, east London. She was waiting for her A level results this week, but feels her future has already been decided.

“I’ve applied for so many jobs I’ve lost count of the number. These are in restaurants, bars, charity fundraising, call centres, everything. But noone is hiring,” she told Socialist Worker. “I’ve applied for university courses but I already know I haven’t got in.

“I’m really worried, I haven’t got any money and I have no choice but to rely on my dad.

“I’ve really been trying to avoid signing on, and thinking of different things I can do to pay my own way. But I feel like I’ve got no other option now.”

The huge rise in applications to universities this year is indicative of the depth of the crisis—particularly when it comes to the lack of work for young people.

Many terrified of a future without qualifications in a brutal economic situation are turning to education.

This year university applications have risen by 11.7 percent compared to 2009, and are up 22 percent since 2008.

The government’s cuts to education funding betray these young people’s hopes.

David Willets, the universities minister, has suggested various options, all of which make a mockery of the situation young people find themselves in.

Retake

He suggests students who do not get into university start a business, take a gap year or retake their A-levels to get a university place next year.

These are not real choices for the vast majority of people.

And it is no wonder that more and more are getting angry with a government that is attacking them from all sides.

Leila said, “It’s like this government wants us to fail.

“It’s demoralising, and in a few years they’ll complain because we’re on the dole.

“But really they are leaving us with no choice.”

The coalition of cutters has always said that it will slash university funding.

Even before the day of the long knives on 20 October—when the Tories announce further massive cuts—the government has begun to slash £200 million. Business secretary Vince Cable has gone as far as to say that universities will be “allowed to fail”.

This won’t be a gradual or painless process.

It will mean courses being cut back to the bare bones while people are in the middle of their degrees.

It will mean hundreds of job losses for lecturers and support staff, and a downgrading of education in poorer colleges, while the richer ones survive.

It is a race to the bottom that will favour richer students who can afford to buy their way into education.

Jonathon Bassnet is 20 years old and has just completed an Access course for people who don’t have A levels. He has now got a place at the University of Manchester.

He told Socialist Worker, “The Access course is geared towards university, but there are very few places available now.

“Not all universities accept Access qualifications which puts you further on the back foot.

“Although I’m pleased to be going to university I’m worried about the future.

“I don’t know how I’m going to afford to stay at university, or if I’ll even get a job when I graduate?

“When I come out I think I’ll have about £40,000 of debt after tuition fees, accommodation and other costs.

“It’s disgusting that working class people have to pay for the economic crisis that we have nothing to do with.

Opportunity

“People feel backed into a corner, the already small list of opportunities is getting shorter. Cuts are not the answer.”

Leila summed it up: “I just feel like I’m waiting around. It’s hard to stay motivated—there are all these obstacles in the way and there’s no help.

“You keep going through school and college and then at the end there’s nothing.”


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