While you're planning your Come Clean campaign activities, it should be heartening to know that throughout Europe students are organising to fight back against similar efforts to raise fees, marginalise students in governance and reduce financial support. We're not alone in being asked to be passive participants in the sale of our education, but neither are we alone in our efforts to campaign for a more just settlement and a better deal for students.
In Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece and Spain, students are calling for change – for a change to the regressive, unjust and socially damaging policies being proposed by their respective governments, often as part of broader (and many have argued, short-sighted) measures to address financial crises they did not cause, but yet are being asked to pay for.
In the Czech Republic, students are campaigning in a ‘Week of Unrest’ from 27 February to 2 March, facilitated by the Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). They are campaigning in response to proposed reforms to higher education and student financial support, in ways which may seem all to familiar to those of you who have read the now shelved UK Government’s HE White Paper: strengthening the role of external stakeholders in the governance of HE institutions and reducing the role of students and academics; introducing tuition fees and student loans without additional grants or assistance for students from low socio-economic backgrounds; significant changes to Quality Assurance, as yet undefined.
Some of the activities students have planned, along with teachers and lecturers in the Czech Republic include protests in 12 cities with HE institutions, public lectures, workshops, concerts, discussions, theatrical performances and film showings. Universities will open to the public for one night during the week with programmes for children, lectures and exhibits in regard to engaging people in what the universities do. Students also plan to stay overnight in some of the universities’ buildings.
As we are calling for the Government to come clean on its plans for education funding and for a public debate on the issue, in the Czech Republic, despite being rejected by representatives of academics, students and HEIs, the proposed reforms are still on the governments’ agenda. Moreover, the particular document being discussed by the government’s legislative council differs significantly to that which was consulted upon.
The issues we face are common to students throughout Europe and our struggle is part of a wider struggle. Take heart from the imaginative efforts of students from other countries and let’s redouble our efforts to ensure vice-chancellors and principals come clean on course costs and the government comes clean on the future of our education system.