Students are facing a pincer movement of attacks as the government and its business allies prepare to slash higher education (HE) spending and push up fees.
A leaked email last week said that £4.1 billion will be lopped off the university budget.
Socialist Worker went to press before George Osborne announced his comprehensive spending review, but there is little doubt that the government is preparing a HE cuts onslaught.
The Tories welcomed the Browne review into university funding last week. Browne proposed that the cap on tuition fees be lifted so that universities can name their price for education.
Liberal Democrat leaders Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are already preparing for the mother of all climbdowns to support the proposals, going against the pre-election pledge publicly signed by Lib Dem MPs stating they would oppose any rise in tuition fees.
But students are ready to fight, and responded to the review with protests across the country.
At Birmingham University, the students’ union and anti-cuts activists organised an immediate protest of over 100 people.
A wall built of cardboard boxes was used to blockade the library entrance, symbolising the impact cuts will have.
“There seems to be a mood building against the cuts, people are interested in fighting back” Laurie McNeil, a student at the university told Socialist Worker.
“The turnout was really impressive at short notice. We’ve started doing stalls and petitioning against education cuts.
“It’s good that the National Union of Students (NUS) has called a demo for 10 November, and is backing local actions. We have to fill the coaches from our uni and we need permanent, broad networks to continue anti-cuts work so this isn’t a one-off.”
Students at Leeds University also called a protest.
Ged Colgan, a second year student told Socialist Worker, “We plastered campus with posters and about 200 people protested.”
Angry students gathered outside the Channel 4 Live debate on fees on the campus, outraged at the fees hike proposed by their own vice chancellor Michael Arthur.
A small group of students managed to break into the studio to rapturous applause.
“Things have changed since last year—the student union exec is supporting anti-cuts activity and have booked four coaches to the NUS demo in London.
“We can certainly work towards occupations across Britain. Last year only a few universities faced obvious cuts. This year, with the Browne review and the cuts in central budgets, students will feel the attacks simultaneously.
“What happens off campus matters too. Leeds bin workers struck last year and inspired students. Solidarity collections in bars raised lots of money for the strikers—workers and students are stronger when united.”
Students also protested in Manchester, in London at the LSE, Goldsmiths and South Bank universities, in Sussex, Plymouth and others.
The Education Activist Network (EAN) has called a conference on 31 October for lecturers and students. Mark Bergfeld, NUS national executive member told Socialist Worker, “EAN is a vital part of the resistance to the cuts. Students and workers can beat the Tories. Last week’s protests are a great start, but we need to step it up. Strikes and occupations can win.”
The links between students and workers on and off campus will be vital in the cuts battle.
Students will join anti-cuts protests after the spending review this week and thousands will be on the streets for the NUS and UCU education demonstration on 10 November.
Education Activist Network conference, 31 October, 11am-5pm, Kings College and LSE, London. Go to www.educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com
NUS and UCU demonstration, 10 November, 12 noon, Horse Guards Avenue, Westminster, London, SW1A