Socialist Worker

More barriers to working class children

JUDY COX spoke to A-level students about how the government's new policies on university fees and grants will affect them

Issue No. 1836

VIRGINIE is at Parswood Technical College in Manchester. 'I want to study medicine so the idea of top-up fees really worries me. After three years you could have £20,000 of debt, but I might be at college for four, five or six years. I could be in debt for the rest of my life. I knew it would be hard just to live for three years at university-now it is worse, because it's not just living expenses but fees as well.

Next year I am taking a year out to earn some money. I heard that essential medical books cost around £30 each. You can spend £400 in your first term just on books. I already have two jobs as a school security guard and a waitress. I am under pressure to save everything I earn and put it towards going to university.'

THAD POPE is at a further education college in Brighton. 'I am furious with the government. Tuition fees affect art students really badly because we don't know if we will get a job when we graduate or not.

My mum is a single parent-she works 38 hours a week, including 12-hour nightshifts, and earns around £12,000, but I won't get a grant. I have loads of friends who have given up on the idea of going to university-they are just hoping to get a break.

University should help you become the sort of person you want to be. I have been considering not going myself because of the size of debts I would get. Discrimination against working class people should have been wiped out of education years ago. The fact that it is getting worse in 2003-that's frightening.'

KATHERINE CONNELLY is at a sixth form centre in Cambridge. 'We organised a debate between local Labour MP Anne Campbell and Socialist Alliance candidate Howard Senter on Labour's higher education policies. It was the biggest meeting we have ever organised. Anne Campbell said so many more students want to go to university that new ways of funding have to be found. There were 60-odd students there, but only three supported what she said.

Lots of people brought up the issue of the war and missile defence. They asked if there is money for that, why not for education? When Anne Campbell talked about the terrorist threat, there was laughter and heckling.

One student said, 'It feels like our rights have been taken away from us and sold back to us for a fee.' If the National Union of Students calls some action like a student strike, we should back it all the way.'

JAVAAD ALIPOOR is at a sixth form college in Bradford. 'Everyone should be free to study to whatever level they want to. The government is keeping people down, depriving them of education. Of course, it doesn't mean you are stupid if you don't go to university-some of the most intelligent people I know never went. But if you don't, you have fewer chances.

The government is trying to reinforce the old class divisions in society. My family is not poor, but they will be if they have to pay for me to go to university. And I have a little sister who will want to go too.'

HENNA MALIK is at a sixth form college in New Malvern. 'The new policy is ridiculous. They say they want more working class students but this will make it more elitist. Some universities will charge more fees, people will be put off going to them and it will reinforce the idea that they are only for the rich.

People already think university is only for middle class people, and that will be worse if it costs more to go. I want to go to the LSE in London, and it is worse in London because it costs so much to live there.'

SEAN IRVING is at the Holy Cross School in Bury. He has got a place to study history at Cambridge University. 'The government is reintroducing a two-tier education system. Abolishing the grants made it hard to survive at university. Fees are another disincentive for poorer people to go to university.

It is ironic that Tony Blair says he supports equality of opportunity when this will stop people having opportunities. And people will be put off doing courses that don't lead to well paid jobs. There is already a shortage of nurses and teachers.

We should have a more progressive tax system to pay for education where people pay more if they earn more, whether they have been to university or not.'

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Sat 1 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1836
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