Nottingham Students Confront Universities Minister over Cuts and Fees

A group of approximately 40 students from local universities and colleges confronted Universities Minister David Willetts MP outside the annual Lord Dearing conference on “The Globalization of Higher Education” held at Nottingham University. After trying to present the minister with a set of proposals from students about alternatives to the cuts that had been drawn on a banner, a number of the group engaged him in argument about the cuts to Higher Education and the fees being raised in universities across the country.

When confronted by female students with the charge that the cuts will hit Women the hardest, Willetts tried to argue the cuts were “progressive”. He claimed that women were less likely to have to pay back student loans, because they would be less likely to earn over the £21,000 threshold for repayment, heard to acknowledge that; “a lot of women will never earn enough to pay back their loans”. The students then politely suggested that the minister acquire a dictionary to familiarize himself with the term “progressive”. Willetts beat a retreat from the debate, at which point students took to shouting chants about ConDem policy and chased his car until it was out of view.

Students had hoped to gain entrance to the conference, but a £95 per ticket charge meant that it was inaccessible to most. Had they been able to afford entry, they would have been treated to a substantial buffet, as well as speeches from representatives of companies such as BP and Vice-Chancellors from the most privileged universities around the world. While we were unable to attend, it is clear from the list of speakers that few, if any, serious alternatives to the privatization of higher education were on offer from the speakers.

Amongst the requests made by students were calls for free education funded by the wealthiest 10%, the restoration of funding to the Humanities, and an end to corporatization of campuses.

We are not prepared to sit around and wait while expensive knife-sharpening conferences happen at our expense. We will not negotiate the terms on which we are pushed into an abyss of debt. The time for asking ministers nicely to not cut our futures is over. The time has come to create an opening for a truly progressive and democratic alternative.

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4 responses to “Nottingham Students Confront Universities Minister over Cuts and Fees

  1. Is he for real? He seriously believes it’s a “progressive” policy because women will always be slaves to men and never earn enough to pay back their loan?

    He’s a fool!

  2. Pingback: Two brains, neither working « Notes from a Broken Society

  3. I wrote him a letter a few months ago, and the response I got was the same rubbish about fee rises being “progressive”. He seems to think that if anyone disagrees with the policy then they must have just misunderstood it.

    Of course, if the cost of higher education is to be foisted onto students paying collossal fees, it is better for there to be nothing to pay up-front, nothing before you earn £21k/year, and for it to eventually be written off. But that doesn’t mean that cutting teaching budgets by 80% and making the students pay is in itself remotely progressive!

    I’m glad to see you’ve been trying to present alternatives, especially including higher taxes for the richest 10%. It’s difficult to get suggestions like this heard as they don’t fit into catchy slogans, but I think we really do need to start making strong arguments for tax not cuts, so people realise there is another option. It’s shocking that no-one really seems to be arguing for this…

  4. You Can’t decide on what college student loan you should take? Read this article to find out what are the best college loans for students.

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