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United for Education!

Tuesday 25-10-2016 - 14:26

With under a month to go until the national demonstration, Aberdeen University Students' Association Welfare Officer Jenny Killin tells us why they're getting involved.

On 19 November this year, students from across the country will be marching through the streets of London to demand free education. For an education that is free not only from fees, but an education that is free from debt, an education which is accessible to all and an education which is liberated. Aberdeen, famed for being both the most numerous and often most raucous Scottish contingent at National Demos, will be down en masse, joining fellow students in London to voice our collective anger – and, ultimately, to show our collective strength.

This demonstration comes at a crucial time – right now, UK further and higher education is being dismantled and destroyed: in Scotland, further education places in part-time and short-term courses have been slashed, with college staff facing waves of redundancies; in Wales, our very own Ian Diamond’s review into higher education proposes Welsh students pay £6,000 more each year in fees, burdening students with even greater debt upon finishing their degrees; south of the border, colleges face a regionalisation process that threatens their very existence, and the government’s corrosive HE reforms look set to further embed market forces within our education and raise fees even further.

We see the effects of this right here in Aberdeen, in job cuts, in course cuts and most recently compulsory redundancies. Departments forced to single out researchers who don’t bring in enough funding, staff across teaching and support who live in a state of constant insecurity and a culture which fundamentally values surplus over education. When your lecturer is laid off, it is part of this programme; when your courses are cut, it is part of this programme.

These attacks on further and higher education come also at a time of increasing xenophobia and racism, and at a time subsequently of great insecurity for EU students. Whilst the Scottish government has recently confirmed that EU students beginning their courses in 2017 will be guaranteed the same access to tuition-free education, this is no long-term measure: we must pressure the UK government to guarantee the right of EU and non-EU international students to study here free of fees and free of debt. Further, we must call on the government to allow these students to remain here post-study.

Racism and xenophobia manifests itself within the very fabric of education policy - international students are facing deportation across the country on a terrifyingly regular basis, and our institutions are acting as arms of a racist, islamophobic state through the implementation of the Prevent duty. We cannot, and must not, stay silent while our institutions, supposedly places of learning and personal growth, force our teaching staff to act as informants, and treat us as suspects.

Because when we talk about a free, liberated, and accessible education, we are calling not for mere sticking-plaster-solutions to the very worst excesses of our government's attacks on education: we are calling for a radical overhaul of our education system, and of society. We are calling for education that everyone can access, for an education free from surveillance, for institutions run by and for students and staff – not by unaccountable, unelected university managers, and certainly not by private providers.

This demo plays a crucial role in the fight to overhaul our further and higher education system. Joint hosted by The National Union of Students (NUS), and University and College Union (UCU), it shows the government that students and staff stand together, that we are not willing simply to back down to the biggest attacks we have seen on FE and HE education in decades. The interests of staff and students are aligned. Aligned not only in interest but in opposition to a government who see education as another arena for big business to make money, and to perpetuate inequality.

So, as students and staff, let’s unite and fight: join us at the #Nov19 demonstration in London.

Find out more about the United for Education demo

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