Socialist Students conference – anger is growing, and we’re part of student fightback

Kat Gwyther, Leeds Socialist Students

Socialist Students national conference – our first in person since the start of the Covid pandemic – was full of enthusiasm for building a fightback on campuses. Socialist Students national organiser Theo Sharieff opened the meeting.

Students face a degraded future. But anger has grown as the pandemic has exacerbated the broken system created by the continued marketisation of higher education.

Staff have taken sustained strike action and students have fought back – becoming a powerful voice against university bosses and the rotten capitalist system. The student fightback has taken place through rent strikes, protests against A-level results, and against ongoing violence against women on campuses and in society.

But our student voice has not been amplified at a national level. A key question at conference was ‘where is the National Union of Students (NUS)?’

The NUS has been mostly absent from the struggle. Local student unions and student groups have been left to fight alone.

Socialist Students has been vital in combating this isolation. We have been fighting alongside rent strikers, at protests, and have mobilised students in organised action – notably on 21 April 2021 at 24 campus protests calling for fee and rent refunds. But we cannot build the student fightback alone.

Strike

Prior to our meeting, the NUS had called a ‘national student strike’ for 2 March, timed with the last day of strike action by the University and College Union (UCU). The small turnout to the demo, which looked likely at the time of the conference, has nothing to do with the lack of appetite on the part of students for struggle, but is down the failure of the NUS leadership to mobilise effectively.

Socialist Students conference discussed and agreed that 2 March should be the beginning of reflecting on what the student movement needs next in the struggle for free education. Socialist Students calls on the NUS to set a date for a national meeting that brings together all organisations – student groups like Socialist Students, student unions, and campus workers’ trade unions – to discuss the next steps in the fight. Socialist Students will continue to play a key role in this process.

Also at Socialist Students conference, motions on fighting sexual harassment and violence on campus  and defending the right to protest were also discussed out democratically and voted on.

The day ended with an energetic rally that reinforced the need for youth and student organisation, in workplaces and on campuses, and for socialism, here and internationally.

The conference took place in Birmingham, and Socialist Party member Dave Nellist – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate standing in the Erdington by-election – also spoke. He set out the need for a new political voice for students and young workers.

Socialist Students conference took place only a few days after the Tory government announced its plans to make it harder for working-class students to reach higher education. The Tories’ proposed changes in England include a 40-year tuition fee repayment scheme and a grade threshold to qualify for student finance loans in the first place.

A 40-year repayment scheme benefits the rich, and will enormously impact graduates who earn less. On top of this, young workers have also been hit most by recent increases to national insurance. Instead of making the rich pay, young workers pay almost 50% of their income in taxes. A fight against the capitalist chaos that rules our society, and our education system, must take place. Building Socialist Students is a first step towards this.

Why I’m going to Socialist Students conference – sign up here!

Sign up to come to Socialist Students’ conference, taking place in Birmingham at 11am on Saturday 26th February, here: socialiststudents.org.uk/sign-up-for-updates-about-socialist-students-2022-conference/

Noah Eden, Sheffield Socialist Students

The financial screws are tightening on students. The government is freezing the threshold when students start to repay their loans, as opposed to raising it in line with inflation, meaning they will have to pay more.

I have been an avid Socialist Students member since I joined – visiting and supporting strikes both on campus and outside of uni. Socialist Students conference, 26 February, is our chance to participate in the fight back against the unfair marketisation of universities, campaign for free, democratised and good quality higher education, and help organise the 2 March student walkout called by the National Union of Students (NUS).

Inflation is reducing the value of student loans, meaning that the government is unfairly taking £2.3 billion from students. The parental earnings threshold has been frozen at £25,000, when it should have risen to £34,000, so fewer students are receiving what they deserve in maintenance loans. On top of all this, maintenance loans are set to increase by 2.3%, which is below inflation, meaning another real-terms pay cut for students.

We can build a socialist fightback and end the conditions that we have had to endure from both Tory and Labour governments. Under Jeremy Corbyn, students got a glimmer of hope of what a fair and proper education system could look like. But Labour has returned to its Tory-lite policies under Keir Starmer.

The Socialist Students conference has moved to Birmingham. So we’ll also get a chance to campaign for Dave Nellist in the Birmingham Erdington by-election. Socialist Party member Dave Nellist is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate – standing to be a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage (see pages 8-9).

Sign up to Socialist Students’ 2022 conference here! Organise to fight for free education on March 2nd

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Students need a fightback! After nearly two years of Covid, the effect of Tory and New Labour marketisation of our university campuses has been laid bare.  In September 2020, students were lied to about in person teaching and then locked down on campuses across the country just so university management could keep our rent and tuition fee payments. This came on top of years of cuts to jobs, wages and conditions, and courses on campus, meaning a slow decline of the quality of education students receive while paying £9,250 a year fees.

Last year saw students organising rent strikes across the country, succeeding in winning millions of pounds in rent refunds. Far from just being a fight for compensation for the disruption to campuses caused by Covid, for many students the rents strikes were a first step towards fighting against marketisation, cuts on campuses, fees and student debt. It was during this time when the rent strike movement was in full swing that Socialist Students organised campus protests to demand tuition fee and rent refunds for students, funded by the government as the first step towards the complete scrapping of tuition fees.

Since then there have been further developments on campuses. The UCU took three days of strike action last term over attacks to staff pay and pensions, and is continuing with action short of strike this term with more possible strikes to come. And students have been protesting against the failures of management to effectively tackle the pandemic of sexual harassment and assault on campuses.

All of these events combined have been mounting pressure on the leaders of the NUS to act. The National Union of Students has launched its campaign for a ‘student strike for education’, calling for a national student demonstration in London on March 2nd. The NUS is demanding among other things “higher and further education to be funded by governments – free at the point of use for students – with proper pay, pensions and conditions for staff across education and beyond”.

Albeit a whole year after the campus rent strike movement developed, that the NUS has finally called for a national demonstration to stop these attacks is a welcome step. Given the depth of the crisis facing students, March 2nd could find a significant response from students looking to fight for free education.

However, guaranteeing the best possible turnout for such a demonstration will take a fighting campaign on the ground on campuses to link the day to day attacks on students and staff to the need for free education. This should include a campaign by Students’ Unions around the country to mobilise students, including the funding and organising of transport to London for students and staff.

This demonstration has been called at a time when rumours are swirling that the government are considering lowering the student debt repayment threshold, threatening to trap particularly working class students in a lifetimes worth of debt repayments. This is a prime opportunity for the NUS to put forward the cancellation of student debt, the replacement of loans with grants, as well as the scrapping of tuition fees, all funded by taking the wealth out of the hands of the super-rich.

Socialist Students is going to be organising local campus protests as part of the campaign to mobilise students for March 2nd, and will be demanding that Students’ Unions organise coaches for students to London.  March 2nd could be a significant step in building the fightback against marketisation of the universities and for free education. Socialist Students is holding its annual conference Saturday 26th February in London to discuss how to rebuild the student movement and what next after March 2nd – visit socialiststudents.org.uk/sign-up-for-updates-about-socialist-students-2022-conference to sign up for updates about the conference.

What is socialism?

Adam Powell-Davies, Oxford Socialist Students

In recent years, there has been an explosion of the word ‘socialism’ among young people in the UK. Many like myself will have been inspired by the ideas of Jeremy Corbyn – a self-described socialist politician who raised ideas like free education, nationalisation of the railways and public utilities, investment in council housing, and rent controls, among other things. According to a poll commissioned by the Institute of Economic Affairs this year, 67% of UK respondents aged between 16 and 34 in the UK said that they would like to live in a socialist economic system. So, what is socialism? And how can we achieve it?

Under capitalism, our current economic system, the means of production – raw materials, machinery and tools, workplaces, transport networks, and so on – are owned privately by a tiny minority of individuals. Workers – who sell their ability to work, are employed by these private owners (the capitalists), and the products made by the workers become the private property of the capitalists, who then look for a profitable market to sell them in. In the end, the capitalists will organise production – what is made, in what way, in what quantities – in pursuit of their own private profit, conceding just a small fraction of this to workers in the form of wages and other ‘perks’.

Compared to society as it existed beforehand, capitalism increased the productive forces in society and has raised living standards. Further, innovation has led to new technologies like electricity, computers, phones, aviation, rail – all things that have helped to increase global economic productivity at a rate once unimaginable. But the question for socialists is: who is currently benefiting from society’s productivity? Are these new technologies being utilised for their full labour-saving potential and how can production be revolutionised and developed further, to the benefit of all humans?

Capitalism is based on a minority of individuals growing richer and richer off the backs of workers – the people who actually create wealth through their labour – but this fact is especially clear today. The coronavirus pandemic has shown who really keeps society running – postal workers, nurses, factory workers, lorry drivers, refuse collectors, shop assistants, and many more.

Yet in the UK, it is precisely these working people who are now faced with pay freezes, brutal fire-and-rehire measures, and post-furlough redundancies. Young people in particular have been hit by massive redundancies during the pandemic, while graduate job prospects have fallen dramatically. But at the same time, UK billionaires increased their collective wealth by over a third in 2020, and similar gains (27.5%) were made globally by billionaires in the same year. Overall, the world’s 2,153 billionaires now have more wealth than 4.6 billion people, about 60 percent of the planet’s population. 

In place of a system that produces profit for a small minority while throwing billions into unemployment, poverty, and – ultimately – needless and preventable death, socialists fight for a world in which all humans work together to meet everyone’s needs.

A socialist society would cut out the unnecessary capitalist, whose only job is to own the means of production and its derived products while skimming off private profit. Instead, the means of production would be the collective property of workers, who via a socialist plan of production would decide democratically what to produce, using what resources, and who for. Why should there be a separate class of individuals in control of the economy, when it is the workers actually involved in production who possess the real talent and expertise to run and plan society, based on socialist co-operation, not capitalist competition?

Investment under capitalism is directed only towards goods and services that are deemed profitable. This means that socially useful advancements get put on the backburner in favour of short-term profits and financial speculation. In a socialist world, production would be planned to develop and implement new technology as and when its need became apparent. In fact, in the absence of multiple competing firms, resources and collective knowledge could be pooled to develop production far beyond what is possible under capitalism.

For young people in the UK, socialism would mean an end to the capitalist crisis that has characterised our lifetimes. We have grown up in a period of vicious austerity triggered by the global financial crisis of 2007-08; and with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we face the deepest crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s. Youth unemployment is set to worsen as we witness the reconfiguration of the economy post-covid and post-Brexit. If not unemployment, then it is the quality of jobs that will affect young people. And how many of these jobs will help us move out of our parents’ houses after we finish school and university? All of these issues compound a mental health crisis that blights young people in particular.

Economic crisis is endemic in capitalism but the scale of the covid crisis is a sign of a socioeconomic system on the brink.

Yet capitalism will not automatically give way to socialism overnight. The capitalists will battle tooth-and-nail to maintain control of the economy and society, using the power of the state – like with the law, the police, the courts and the media.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels explained that the working class is the only force capable of leading the socialist transformation of society. A couple thousand billionaires would be unable to stop the billions from taking control – if properly organised.

The working class must also be linked together by international organisations, as socialism can only be achieved through the defeat of the global capitalist class. A socialist society cannot survive on a permanent basis surrounded by a world capitalist market. In a similar way, gains won by mass movements of the working class and young people – things like the NHS, council housing etc. – are always at risk of being eroded and made temporary within a capitalist society.

We can’t reform capitalism, which is a system based on exploitation, into its opposite – a socialist society. We need a fundamental change – a revolution – which means the permanent transferal of economic and social power to the working class on a global scale.

It is not enough to just wait for socialism to happen, We fight for any improvements in the living standards of the working class here and now. Through fighting, winning and building mass organisations the working class can feel our collective power to run society and democratically plan what we need.

As an activist group, Socialist Students campaigns against all forms of inequality and oppression. We seek to mobilise young people with a political programme that connects all struggles within the fight for socialism. It would also relay the basis of social relations, with the abolition of class divisions and the construction of a society centred on cooperation and genuine democracy. It would be a society based on need, not what makes a profit.

If you want to discuss with us how to change society and fight for socialism then join Socialist Students.

Mass student movement needed to fight against cuts to arts funding

Bea Gardner, Southampton Socialist Students

University of the Arts London (UAL) Socialist Students

University students and staff across the country have been left outraged at the Office for Students’ proposed cuts to university teaching grants as part of the government’s “reprioritisation” strategy for universities.

The proposals include the slashing of funding by 50% for high-cost arts and humanities subjects, including music, performing arts, media studies and archaeology, in favour of so called “strategically important subjects” including those in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects). Under the proposals, courses currently identified as having high costs, but which don’t make the government’s short list of high priority subjects, will lose 50% of their teaching grant next year.

The government has indicated that this would likely be reduced further in future years. The cut amounts to £125.00 per student and adds up to over £20mn overall. In addition, the government is proposing to end the London weighting which will amount to a £64mn cut in grants received by London universities to account for the higher costs of the capital.

It is clear the cuts will result in further eroding of learning conditions and could spell out the closure of some courses altogether. Even if courses don’t close altogether, the cuts mean further redundancies and cuts to resources. We’ve already seen a huge reduction in all of our learning conditions as universities attempt to spend less and less on staff and resources, this cut will further increase the competition for university resources to the detriment of all. Universities will likely turn to further casualisation, employing staff on worse terms and conditions with less protections to save costs, all of which has a detrimental impact on student learning.

The government has tried to provide cover for their decision by highlighting that it is only a “small proportion of the income of higher education institutions” and that the reforms only affect the “additional funding allocated toward some subjects”.

While it’s true that the teaching grant now only makes up a small proportion of income, and only for some courses, this has not always been the case; there has been a 76% cut overall to teaching grant budget since 2010.

The trebling of fees in 2012 fundamentally shifted the balance of funding in universities, placing the majority of cost on to students. Previously government teaching grants was the main source of teaching income, with tuition fees partially contributing to the total cost of a course. After 2012, the government retained a small teaching grant directed toward high-cost courses that would otherwise not be funded by tuition fees alone and it is this, already significant reduced grant, that the government seeks to narrow further.

The total amount of funding allocated to the teaching grants is not being cut – instead  the Tories are proposing to divert £20mn of funding from and humanity subjects and £64mn from London universities to ‘strategically important’ subjects.

The strategic priority courses are those subjects the government deems as having “high value” including NHS courses and STEM subjects which the government suggests are subjects that supports the skills needed to “build back better”.

Socialist Students says that it should be students and staff who decide what funding is necessary for our education and futures – not the Tories or university management who have driven our universities into the ground over the years with cuts, tuition fees and student debt. We stand for the building of united student and staff struggle to win the funding our universities need to provide a high quality and free education for all students no matter what they choose to study.

Despite the Tories’ desperate attempt to frame this move as in the interests of young people’s futures, this attack will not mean more jobs and opportunities for young people – far from it. In fact, it will mean even further restrictions facing working class young people from entering study in the arts and humanities as course sizes are cut or face disappearing altogether.

Neither will it mean better employment prospects for young people. Under 25s have accounted for two thirds of all the job losses suffered over the course of the pandemic, a picture which will only get worse as the end of the furlough scheme in October approaches.

The Tories’ ‘solution’ to this crisis has been to use it to create cheap labour for the bosses – such as the Kickstarter scheme, which has meant the short term creation of 6 month long ‘jobs’ for young people on the pitifully low youth minimum wage.

Only by scrapping tuition fees and replacing it with the full government funding our universities need can the crisis in education be ended.

This would have to be accompanied with a mass programme of government investment into socially useful job creation, democratically decided on by workers and young people, in order to truly provide young people leaving any line of study with a decent future, starting with access to decent jobs.

Socialist Students says that the student movement cannot allow the rhetoric of ‘high-value’ courses to go unchallenged and let our universities to become  divided with competition between subjects over resources. Solidarity between staff losing their jobs, students losing their courses and communities weakened by the collapse of arts and humanities subjects is essential to build the forces that can fight back against the Tories’ capitalist vision of education.

That’s why Socialist Students fights for the building of a mass student movement to win free education – for the scrapping of tuition fees, student debt, and for the full reinstatement of teaching grants for all courses along with student bursaries. Join us if you agree.

Socialist Students taking action for free education around the country

Stanley Harris, UAL Socialist Students

UAL Socialist Students

Since the beginning of the pandemic students across campuses at the University Of The Arts London have been left feeling misled and short changed after handing over their tuition fees and signing onto courses with the assurance that they would be provided with practical and hands on learning that would give them free and regular access to the vital training and facilities advertised across all the campuses within the university. The reality however is that we have been presented instead with online courses that have been stripped down and condensed in many cases beyond any resemblance of what was promised.

In the light of continuing gains made by the collective action and struggles of many students in this last difficult last year, it is clear now more than ever that student action must be taken in order for our discontent to be heard and demands met. Since the beginning of the academic year UAL Socialist Students have been gaining support and momentum and on the 21st April called for a campus protest to be held outside Central St Martins College of Art.

Demands were made that the university refund tuition fees for the years effected by the pandemic and that it is vital that these funds are made up for by the government as a stepping stone within the wider struggle for free education and against Tory cuts. This protest gave many students an idea of the response our struggle is likely to face from both an uncommunicative management and a disparaged student body. It is imperative that students fight now for the tuition that they are due and have paid for in good faith or face footing the bill of the impending economic crisis.


Alistair Mansfield, York Young Socialists

York Socialist Students

On 21 April, members of the Young Socialists, Socialist Students and the Socialist Party gathered in St Helen’s Square alongside speakers from IWGB, York Student Solidarity Network and others to demand free education, and to speak of their experiences within an increasingly corporatized education system.

Many students spoke of being treated as “cash-cows”, brought back to unsafe campuses under false pretences to collect tuition fees and rent money. A broad coalition has been formed to organise a rent strike for the coming term, as well as a campaign for refunds on tuition fees.

A persistent theme was the crisis in youth mental health, with speakers highlighting the devastating consequences of privatisation and cuts to healthcare, exacerbated by mishandling of the COVID pandemic. Also highlighted was the systematic denial and cover-up of sexual harassment and violence at all levels of education.

Connections were made with other struggles, as youth unemployment fuels the gig economy and students are increasingly forced to work alongside their studies. Those present were also reminded of the necessity of opposing the new PSCS bill, so that our voices may continue to be heard on these and other issues. Amidst the anger was a sense of hope.

Alice Hennigan, Leeds Socialist Students

Leeds Socialist Students

Leeds Socialist Students rallied at Leeds University Union on 21 April to fight for tuition fee refunds for the year. It was a quiet local campus protest but there were many passers-by happy to stop, take a leaflet, and find out what we were up to.

The pandemic has proved to students like us that it is more important than ever to keep pushing for free education and an end to austerity and class division as a whole, especially in education centres and settings where students have been largely forgotten about. At £9,250 a year for undergraduate courses, students have been subjected to mostly online learning and minimal contact hours with university and tutors.

There was a lot of footfall through the campus, and people were receptive to our efforts in fighting for tuition fee refunds! Kat, a Leeds Socialist Party member managed to do four interviews with local radio stations and a segment was featured on the ITV news website.

Jake George, Nottingham Trent Socialist Students

Nottingham Trent Socialist Students

The stall held at Nottingham Trent University, for the Socialist Students Day of Action, had a very good response with different students who had seen it advertised coming along to help leaflet and campaign. While speaking to students about tuition fees and rent refunds, it was clear there was anger about the situation that they have been left in, many talking about the need for a protest to happen on campus to get refunds.

Hearing students complain about online learning, lockdowns and their issues with rent, etc, it is clear to see why they are frustrated as they have to pay the same amount of money than other years without that real university experience.

It’s easy to see why this crisis has developed when you look at the income figures for NTU. £260 Million of the £313 million income the university took in in 2018-19 came from tuition, highlighting the low amount of funding they receive from the government and the reality that they pack classes to maximise their income.

Due to mounting pressure by rent strike groups, NTU, along with some other universities, has eventually given some rent reductions, but as one student said, many are in private accommodation and have not yet got concessions.

At some points there were queues to sign our petition to refund fees and quite a few students agreed to attend the follow-up zoom meeting on the 25 April. Socialist Students now has enough signatures to start an official society at NTU.

There was definitely a mood amongst students that it was necessary to continue the fight for these concessions by protesting, with a lot of them agreeing that a campaign to return to free education was needed and that they wanted to take it further and push for socialism.

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.

Students on 26 campuses to protest for tuition fee and rent refunds following the further delay of campus reopening until May

Socialist Students press release – 16/04/21

Students campaigning for free education are organising a national day of action next week, on Wednesday 21st April, calling for tuition fee and rent refunds for students as the first step towards scrapping tuition fees for good.

Jake George, a Socialist Students organiser at Nottingham Trent University said: “Students have once again been left behind with the government’s broken promise of a return to real life teaching by April. They’ve failed to make our campuses safe and protect the interests of students and staff.

“That’s why Socialist Students at Nottingham Trent University is demanding that our tuition fees are refunded for the year. That would be a good start to making up for the stress both university management and the government have put us through this year as they tried to get their hands on our fees and rent.

“But we demand that that money is made up for by the government. Our universities have suffered a decade of underfunding which has meant cuts on campus to jobs, student support and mental health services, courses and so on. That’s why we demand that tuition fees are scrapped and replaced with full government funding for free education.”

Theo Sharieff, national organiser for Socialist Students added, “This delay is yet another disappointment for students. Students have been lied to constantly throughout the year just so universities could get at our rent and fee payments. The tuition fee funding model is totally broken.

“The rent refunds which have been won by students this year prove though that when we organise we can win. It’s of urgent importance that we now begin to link up the struggles happening locally on different campuses into a national student movement and take the fight to the Tories.  

“Socialist Students says we need to build a national student movement to fight for what our universities need – full government funding to provide a safe, high quality and free education available to all. That’s what we’re fighting for with this day of action.”

A full list of actions can be found at socialiststudents.org.uk/2021/04/09/socialist-students-national-day-of-action-wednesday-april-21st-refund-our-fees-fight-for-free-education/

Socialist Students national day of action Wednesday April 21st – refund our fees, fight for free education!

Below is a list of Socialist Students protests for our upcoming day of action on Wednesday April 21st. Socialist Students are going to be out across the country protesting for tuition fee refunds for students as a first step towards winning free education. If you’d like to get involved or want more details of your local protest, contact us by visiting socialiststudents.org.uk/join or email socialistudents@gmail.com.

Aberdeen, NESCOL front entrance, 12pm
Bangor, High Street Clock Tower, 1pm
Birmingham University, meet outside Starbucks at Bournbrook Pavilion, 4pm
Bradford University, meet outside the university, 12pm
Brighton, 68 Grand Parade, BN2 9JA, 12pm
Bristol University, on the grass opposite Senate House, BS8 1TH, 3pm
Cardiff University, Woodville Pub, 1pm
Coventry, Broadgate in town, 12pm
Dundee, TBA
Essex University, High Street, Victoria Shopping Centre, 3pm
Glasgow, Hillhead Subway Station, Time TBA
Leeds University, outside the SU, 12pm
Liverpool, by Liverpool Guild of Students, 12pm
University of Arts London, CSM campus, 2pm
Kings College London, the Strand, 12pm
Manchester University, Fallowfields, 12pm
Nottingham Trent, outside the SU, 1pm
Northumbria University, junction of College Street and Northumberland Road, 12pm
Oxford University, Bonn Square, 12pm
Plymouth University, outside the Charles Seale Hayne Library, 2pm
Queen Mary University of London, meet outside Mile End library, 1pm
Sheffield University, outside the union, 11am
Sheffield Hallam, Courtyard in front of Owen building, 12pm
Southampton University, outside SU, 12pm
Swansea, Castle Gardens, 2pm
York, St Helen’s square, 5pm

Our campuses are engulfed in crisis. Following the countless lies we were told just so universities could gain access to our tuition fee and rent money, we have been abandoned by university management and the Tories.

The tuition fee funding system is the root of the crisis students and staff face. Our universities have been left without the public funding and resources they need, meaning years of cuts to student support services, mental health services, not to mention cuts to jobs, staff wages and conditions and courses.

And now the Tories are trying to attack our right to protest at a time when they’re looking at making us pay for the coronavirus crisis with our futures. Socialist Students says we need to build a mass movement to defend the right to protest and fight for our education rights.

Now is the time for our movement to go on the offensive and demand the full funding that our universities need – to end and reverse all cuts on campuses, to provide affordable housing for students, and to kick the failed market model entirely out of education for good, by scrapping tuition fees and cancelling all student debt.

A good place to start for this would be to demand a refund of our tuition fees for the year! But we don’t want to stop there. If we’re to guarantee that we never see the chaos which has erupted on our campuses ever again, we need to fight to scrap tuition fees altogether, along with student debt. That requires the building of a mass movement.

That’s why Socialist Students is organising campus protests on Wednesday 21 April to demand that universities refund our tuition fees for this year, with the funding for those refunds made up for by the government, as the first step towards winning free education.

We want to unite rent strikers, free education campaigners, campus staff and unions, anti-cuts and liberation groups on campus around a common programme – for rent and fee refunds for students, for an end to all cuts on campuses, for rent controls for all students, for properly funded student support and mental health services, and free education. And we need to build a national student movement to take the fight to the U-turn Tories. Join us!

All of our protests will be socially distanced and safe. If you’re attending, please wear PPE, bring hand sanitiser and maintain at least a distance of 2m.

Socialist Students says:

• Refund our fees and our rent
• Defend the right to protest
• Build a national student movement – democratic and active
• Organise for free education and make the 1% pay!
• Fight for a socialist alternative to capitalist chaos

Sexual harassment on campus: Birmingham university students say enough is enough!

Emily Griffin, University of Birmingham Socialist Students

Birmingham Socialist Students

On Wednesday 17th March, Socialist Students at the University of Birmingham stood in solidarity with the Reclaim Our Campus protest; a socially distanced vigil recounting the horrific abuse women and other marginalised genders face every day. 

With a huge turnout of roughly a thousand UoB students, we listened to impassioned speeches and testimonies of those who had suffered as a direct result of the University’s sexist and capitalist ideals. With speeches lasting well over 2 hours, it was no surprise that the university has a long way to go to ensure the safety of its students. 

Socialist Students stands wholeheartedly with this movement and demands immediate action to be taken by the University of Birmingham. As of the 16th, there have been 6 reported cases of women students being forcibly pulled into cars and assaulted surrounding the key student accommodation neighbourhood.

And yet there are hundreds more cases of women being harassed, abused, and made to feel unsafe in their place of learning.  Management have failed us. 

We say that in order for ‘rape culture’ and misogynistic attitudes on campus to be truly stamped out, the day to day running of the university has to be taken out of the hands of management. As a start, sexual harassment reporting procedures should be placed under the democratic oversight of trade union and student led committees to ensure that procedures are actually implemented and accessible to those who require them to help create zero tolerance of harassment and abuse on campus. 

For too long has the university ignored survivors, facilitated rape culture, and consistently put profits above the safety of their students. We demand better funding and signposting for victim support services, a commitment of concrete action to be taken against perpetrators, and better lighting around campus and accommodation at night. You cannot put a price tag on the safety of women students, and it is all too clear that the university must do better. 

The only way we can guarantee this is to build a united movement for free education and to take the decision making powers over our universities out of the hands of management, who from the coronavirus pandemic to the pandemic of sexual harassment and assault on campuses have failed to protect our health and safety.

Socialist Students says we need to fight for;

• Government funding for what women need on campus – properly funded support services, campus lighting and non-exploitative, affordable housing. Scrap marketisation, fees and debt!

• Democratic oversight of sexual harassment reporting procedures by joint trade union and student led committees and ensuring procedures are implemented.

•    An end to “gagging”/ nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual assault.

•    A trade union and student-led inquiry into the true extent of sexual harassment and violence on UK campuses, as well as in schools and colleges.

•     A united campaign of staff and students that can fight to transform our campuses in our interests.

•     Build a movement for free education – scrap fees and debt and introduce student living grants. Fight for full government funding to provide a safe and free education for all.