Socialist Student day of action marks the way for a national student movement for free education

Socialist Students and Young Socialists protest in York 21 April

Socialist Students were out in force on Wednesday 21 April across the country campaigning for tuition fee and rent refunds for students and free education.

Across 26 different campuses Socialist Students held lively campaign stalls, open air meetings and protests to discuss with students how we can build the campaign on our local campuses, and link up with students in struggle across the country.

Even though face to face teaching has yet again been delayed on campuses, meaning some universities were quieter than they would usually be after the Easter holidays, hundreds of students across the country put their names to petitions demanding fee refunds and signing up to get involved with Socialist Students on their campuses.

The further delay to campus reopening has only fuelled student anger and added to the feeling that once again students have been left behind. Socialist Students lays the blame for this delay at the feet of university management and the Tories, who thanks to years of cuts have collectively failed to make our campuses safe for students and staff. That’s why we say that our universities should be placed under the democratic control and oversight of student and trade union organisations.

Management have jeopardised the physical and mental health of students with the repeated lies we’ve been told over the course of this year, in an effort to get students back on campus and prop up the income of the universities.

Tuition fees made up for around half of the total income of the university sector in 2018/2019. Without a struggle for adequate government funding of Higher Education, a collapse in student numbers would mean a collapse in university income, meaning even deeper financial crisis for the universities than what has already existed for a number of years.

Socialist Students protest and street meeting at Birmingham University 21 April

No wonder then that our day of action for fee refunds was met with widespread enthusiasm from students, as well as our demand to make the government pay for those refunds as the first step towards winning adequate government funding for our universities.

But there was also widespread agreement that such a campaign would need to form the spring board to launch a battle for the complete scrapping of tuition fees and student debt, and its replacement with free education. It is clear as day that the tuition fee funding model is to blame for the crisis that students are facing.

And there was also widespread agreement that we need to build a national student movement to fight for all this. Students this year have gone to battle against marketisation using rent strikes. Students have won various levels of rebates from universities, also winning tens of millions of pounds of emergency funding for universities from government.

But imagine how much further we could go if actions across different campuses were linked and coordinated nationally. Socialist Students have laid down the marker for what is needed to end the crisis facing students and staff on the university campuses – a new national student movement to fight for free education, to scrap fees, for a cancellation of student debt, and for the introduction of living grants for students.

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