Socialist Worker

Tories slam door on poor students

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2223

Students protested outside London South bank University on Tuesday. The students blocked the road and occupied a lobby in protest against language department closures  (Pic: Smallman )</

Students protested outside London South bank University on Tuesday. The students blocked the road and occupied a lobby in protest against language department closures (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Tory plan to increase tuition fees is a vicious assault on students, education and working people.

It will close off university to many more people from lower-income homes.

Ex-BP executive Lord Browne recommends in his review this week that universities be allowed to remove the cap on tuition fees completely. Average fees will double to over £6,000 a year and the highest could be double that or more.

UCU lecturers’ union general secretary Sally Hunt said, “Lord Browne’s recommendations, if enacted, represent the final nail in the coffin for affordable higher education.

“His proposals will price the next generation out of education.”

Students starting this year will face debts of around £25,000 at the end of their course. That’s enough to put off many from working class families. But the new proposals will be crushing.


They might as well put up signs in many institutions saying, “Working class students not admitted.” Today there are more students from poor backgrounds than 50 years ago.

But that baseline was incredibly low, and a two-tier system still exists. Rich students dominate Britain’s “top” universities.

Oxford University is the worst in the country, taking just 11.5 percent of its intake from working class families. Cambridge is next, with 12.6 percent, and Bristol comes in third at 14.2 percent.

Students whose parents are manual workers are concentrated in ex-polytechnic colleges and colleges specialising in diplomas and apprenticeships.

Elitism also means there are as many black students studying at London Metropolitan University as in the entire Russell Group of the top 20 universities.

This all comes on top of a ferocious programme of cuts and course closures. Over 200,000 people who wanted to go to university were denied a place this year.

The Labour government imposed cuts of £575 million in higher education. But much worse will come after the Tories’ spending review on Wednesday of next week.


Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat cabinet member, has said that universities and colleges should be allowed to go to the wall, like banks that fail.

But the banks weren’t left to go to the wall—they were bailed out by the government.

Lord Browne says no student will have to pay fees until they have finished their studies and are earning £21,000 a year. But this means a heavy tax on people earning £400 a week.

Browne asks why low paid workers should pay for the education of people who will go on to earn much more than them.

But he and his like never asked why ordinary people should shell out over £1 trillion for the bankers.

The best solution would be to tax the rich for education and other key services.

Incredibly, Browne said of graduates on Tuesday, “You’re facing better job prospects, a more exciting array of job prospects, mobility.”

But last year some 25,000 students were unemployed after completing their courses.

There are also huge gaps in employment rates between those from the top and those at the bottom of university league tables.

Students, lecturers and the working class movement as a whole must unite and fight.

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