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
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
Nottingham Trent, outside the SU, 1pm
Newcastle 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, 2pm

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.

End violence against women and sexual harassment on campus

Protest with Socialist Students on April 21st for free education – get in touch at socialiststudents.org.uk/join for more info about a local protest near you. Socialist Students says we need:

  • Government funding for what women need on campus – properly funded support services, campus lighting and 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
  • A united campaign of staff and students that can fight to transform our campuses in our interests – organise for free education and make the 1% pay!
  • To fight for a socialist alternative to capitalist inequality and chaos


Socialist Students stand in absolute solidarity with all those angry about the devastating killing of Sarah Everard, including the many students and young women speaking out about their own experiences of sexual harassment and violence for the first time. We demand that Sarah’s murderer is held to account for their actions, along with the institution of the Metropolitan police. But holding an individual’s actions to account is the first step in addressing this issue; it cannot be our last.

We need to act to challenge the fundamentally unequal capitalist system and it’s structures that underpin sexist actions and attitudes. We can’t keep attending vigils for murdered women to then wake up the next day and go back to the same as before. We refuse to continue to sit and nod in empathy when our friends tell us about their experiences of sexual violence and sexism on campuses and elsewhere. It clearly is not enough.

We need to fight for better street lighting; for a fully funded, safe and affordable public transport system; for more spending on support services for victims of abuse and rape; for a transformation of the criminal justice system that means only 1% of reported rapes end in conviction; for democratic control of the police. 

In the same week Sarah was murdered it was reported a staggering 97% of young women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment. We experience it in public, where we are more reliant on walking or using public transport than those who can drive. Women students forced to work part time evening jobs to support ourselves through our studies often have to travel home late with drunken groups (in non-covid times) taunting or degrading us. Even in our homes and places of study, we face sexual harassment and violence.  A recent NEU survey found 37% of girls at mixed-sex schools have been sexually harassed while at school. Over a third of student sexual assaults take place in halls of residences. 

Instead of facing up to the scale of the problem, our institutional managers have responded by silencing us, even using gagging orders to prevent us speaking out. Recent research found university bosses have tried to conceal the extent of sexual misconduct, instead of taking action to protect staff and student welfare. As long as these procedures are in management’s hands, it is clear that reputation and cost-saving will be prioritised over staff and student welfare. Cuts to welfare services have been so extreme that students are taking to anonymously posting their experiences on social media to get help. Students and workers need democratic oversight of all policies relating to sexual misconduct and violence to ensure they are fit for purpose and enforced with processes and policies clearly outlined, alongside a huge increase in funding for university and specialist support services.

There has been an outpouring of shared experiences by women in response to Sarah’s killing; a vital first step in evidencing that harassment, violence and abuse are clearly systemic. Yet so often authorities’ first answer is to advise women to change our behaviour! We should be able to go where we want, when we want, to dress the way we please and to live our lives without fear of violence and harassment. We should challenge individual prejudices, gender stereotypes and sexist behaviour where we see it. However, the danger of this approach is reducing the issue to an individual problem. In reality, any individual’s attitudes and behaviours are shaped by the economic and social system we live in, capitalism. 

To eliminate gender violence and abuse we need to organise for structural change that tackles the problems at their very root. We need a fundamental system change that takes economic and political control out of the hands of the minority that profit from gender and class inequality: we need socialism. By changing these economic conditions, the established sexual hierarchies of capitalism, where women are inferior and subjugated, crumble.

As Socialist Students, an immediate issue is fighting against the huge rates of sexual harassment and assault on campus. It has been over a decade since the first significant modern report into sexual harassment on UK campuses.  The last ten years have shown raising awareness is not enough to simply challenge sexual harassment on campus. Neither is leaving vital support services and reporting processes in the hands of uni bosses.

We need:

  • Decisive, united action organised around a programme that includes demands against marketisation, fees and austerity.
  • Well-funded support services, non-exploitative housing, and clear and democratic reporting procedures.
  • An end to “gagging”/ non disclosure 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.
  • Democratic oversight of sexual harassment reporting procedures by joint trade union and student led committees. 
  • 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.

We have to fight for a socialist system that represents an alternative to the unequal and oppressive structures of capitalism where women’s labour is exploited, our bodies presented as commodities, and our lives taken. It is only through this system that we can address the issue of sexual and gendered violence.

Building for a national student strike: Socialist Students 2021 conference, Sunday 28th February

Below we publish Socialist Students’ discussion document for our upcoming national conference on Sunday 28th February at 1pm.

If you’re a socialist student, rent strike campaigner, anti-cuts activist or a student fighting for free education, and you want to discuss how we can build the student movement for free education, then read this document and come to our conference to participate in the discussion – you can pre-register for the conference by following this link; https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMtdOypqjwtHdfngyUmOZLsj_ulPofLnSJs


Building for a national student strike

  1. Ten years after the eruption of the student movement, which saw thousands of university and college students mobilise in a struggle against the trebling of fees and the scrapping of EMA, universities have entered a new phase of crisis in 2020, ultimately thanks to the market funding model of Higher Education. A decade on, it is urgent that a national student movement to fight for the scrapping of the market model and free education is built.

  2. Students on university campuses across the country have taken the first steps towards getting organised against the symptoms of the market model of Higher Education. Socialist Students fought for and put out the call for campus protests in the new academic year, organising them in many areas. During the first term, following the A-Levels victory over the summer, students organised protests demanding fee and rent refunds, as well as demanding that no cuts are made on campuses due to the coronavirus crisis.

  3. Alongside these, students in some areas established rent strike campaigns.Since the announcement of new lockdown measures preventing many students from being able to return to university, new rent strike groups have been created. Approximately 50 official rent strike campaigns have been created since the start of the academic year.

  4. Socialist Students has energetically participated in this movement, including putting forward the need to a build a national student movement with a bold programme to kick profit out of Higher Education and student housing.

  5. We fight for free education – the scrapping of tuition fees, the introduction of living grants for students and the cancellation of all student debt.When Jeremy Corbyn raised this in his 2017 manifesto of scrapping tuition fees, it enthused thousands of students and young people. While scrapping tuition fees was estimated in Labour’s 2017 manifesto to cost roughly £9.5 billion a year, the Tories have spent an eye watering additional £280 billion in 2020, mainly to prop up the profits of their big business friends.

  6. In student housing, we have been fighting for 100% rent refunds for students unable to move back into their halls, with the funding for those refunds made up for by the government. We also fight for the right of students in private accommodation to be released from their contracts early, with compensation paid to the landlords only on the basis of proven need, and for rent controls.

  7. Concrete victories have been won by students at universities across the country who have paid out partial refunds on this term’s rent to students in halls, despite the fact that students have been scattered across the country because of the lockdown.

  8. This movement has already won small gains from the government. On the 18th of January, Welsh Parliament announced that it was releasing £40 million of emergency funding to Welsh universities’ hardship funds. Two weeks later on 2nd of February, the Tory government announced £50 million of additional funding to universities in England.

  9. The level of additional funding won so far is inadequate, representing about £25 per student for those studying in England. But it shows that when we fight, government funding can be won.

  10. Although the education secretary is, at the time of writing, expected to announce a phased return to campuses for students from 8 March onwards, the announcement by Universities Wales that face to face teaching will not recommence in Wales until at least the Easter break is an indication of what university managements may do in the rest of the UK.

  11. Anger amongst students will undoubtedly grow if the return to safe campuses is yet again delayed. This could mean further calls for not only rent refunds, but tuition fee refunds as well.

  12. The renewed crisis on campus has also meant a drive by university management to attack jobs and conditions of staff on campus. Staff on many campuses in the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have taken strike action since the start of the academic year against threatened cuts to jobs on campuses.

  13. Socialist Students stands in solidarity with those strikes. We stand for uniting students and staff in a collective struggle for an education system run in our interests – against all cuts on campuses, for health and safety on students and staff, and for the government funding our universities need.

  14. Meanwhile, the capitalist class and the Tories are split over the question of how to resolve the crisis in Higher Education. This represents a big opportunity for the student movement to boldly go on the offensive and fight for free education.  

  15. While some students have taken the first steps towards getting organised, the key task of linking up these separate local movements into a national movement is yet to be achieved. This is a reflection of the crisis of student organisation and leadership nationally as well as locally. We desperately need democratic and fighting student organisations locally and nationally to discuss out the crisis facing students and the strategy and programme necessary to fight back.

  16. That is why Socialist Students is launching its campaign for a national student strike. We are writing to the leadership of the Rent Strike network as well as the NUS and others to propose a ‘council of war’ to bring together students in struggle across the country to discuss how we can build a national student movement to win free education.

  17. This we believe must also include a discussion on how we can build a political voice for students and young people. Currently, there is no party students can rely on to fight for our interests – only 20 MPs so far have signed a Parliamentary petition supporting student rent strikers. Since Starmer took the leadership of the Labour Party, his priority has been to prove his loyalty to big business and that he is not prepared to fight for our interests. We need a new party that will fight for the interests of workers and students.

  18. Our campaign for a national student strike also happens on the ground locally. Although it is still unclear when exactly students will return to the campuses, Socialist Students has the opportunity to put out the call now for campus protests as soon as soon as students return to campuses.

  19. This means organising Socialist Students public meetings over Zoom, and writing to different campaigning organisations locally, not only rent strike groups, but UCU branches, local anti-cuts groups, liberation societies, and anyone who wants to fight for free education, to discuss campaigning alongside Socialist Students.

  20. We are fighting to draw broader layers of students into the struggle for free education by mobilising the many tools at the disposal of the student movement – not only rent strikes, but occupations, walk outs and mass marches. Key to achieving this is by raising a bold programme which takes up the many crises facing students, staff and post-grad students.

  21. Socialist Students’ programme includes the demands for rent and fee refunds for students, for an end to all cuts on campuses, for democratic trade union and student oversight of health and safety on campuses, and for free education, all linked to a programme of public ownership to make the 1% pay for free education.

  22. We will continue to build Socialist Students as widely as possible on the campuses. We want to reach the best layer of campaigners and students who are interested in discussing and debating socialist ideas to change the world by holding regular Socialist Students meetings and campaigning activity on campus.

  23. Socialist Students says that capitalism has failed our education system and offers no future for young people whatsoever. Despite the huge crisis facing working class and young people, Britain is the 5th richest country on the planet. That’s why we fight for socialist policies – to take the banks and monopolies which dominate the economy into democratic public ownership in order to provide a decent future of young and working class people, including affordable housing, decent jobs, and free and high quality education for all.

Socialist Students steering committee

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network: Building the fightback for free education

Below we carry an open letter from Socialist Students’ steering committee to the Rent Strike network’s national co-ordinating committee, requesting a meeting with representatives from the Rent Strike network to discuss what the next steps for building a national student fightback for free education are. The Rent Strike network has links to rent strikes happening at over 45 universities across the country, with Socialist Students members on both its national co-ordinating committee and its national reps group, as well as leading rent strikes in different areas.

We are writing to you today in hopes of initiating a discussion on how our organisations can work together to build the fight for rent and fee refunds for students for the year, as well as the fight for free education.

Across the country, universities this year have been thrown into financial crisis as a result of decades of cuts to funding for Higher Education. The market model of education has meant that students have been lied to by university management, just so they could gain access to our tuition fee and rent payments.

In response to the lies we were told, as well as the complete lack of support given to us by our universities, students have begun the process of getting organised on campuses across the country in the rent strikes. By getting organised, we have demonstrated that students can win – millions of pounds in rent refunds have been won by students so far.

Socialist Students demands 100% rent refunds for students who are unable to move into their halls because of the pandemic. We also demand the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts, with compensation to the landlords paid out only on the basis of proven need. We also put forward the need for rent controls for students to end the rent rip off.

The recent announcements by some universities that there will be no face to face teaching for the rest of the year will rightly fuel the demands of students for further rent rebates for unused accommodation, as well as tuition fee refunds for the year, both of which Socialist Students supports and has campaigned for this year.

Without government funding to make up for these refunds however, universities face deep financial crisis, which means the threat of further cut backs, meaning a further eroding of the quality of education students receive. The threat of divisions between staff and students, which would only benefit university management, is present. Socialist Students has a history of campaigning alongside UCU members to mobilise student support and solidarity with striking campus staff fighting against cuts and job losses on the campuses.

We think therefore that there is a burning need now to discuss how we can build a national student movement which will fight the Tories for the funding which our universities need.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Tories have spent a massive £280 billion, largely towards propping up the profits of big business. The Welsh government last week announced £40 million emergency funding towards Welsh universities hardship funds.

While still an inadequate level of funding, we nonetheless think this represents a victory for students. In addition to this, as a cross party Parliamentary group has called on the Tory government to release £700 million towards the hardship funds of universities in England, the lid is being lifted on what is possible from the point of view of fighting for fully funded and free education.

Socialist Students says that now is the time for the student movement to go on the offensive and boldly demand free education – for the scrapping of tuition fees, the introduction of living grants for students and the cancellation of student debt, linked to a programme of democratic public ownership. Socialist Students says that capitalism has completely failed our education system and young people, which is why we fight for socialist policies to provide every young person with a decent future which includes access to free and high quality education.

We would therefore like to invite a representative or representatives from your national co-ordinating committee to attend a national steering committee of Socialist Students to discuss how we can broaden the current rent strike movement in the fight for free education, to mobilise alongside the rent strikes all of the potential tools at the disposal of the student movement, including occupations, walk outs and marches on campus.

We would also like to invite local rent strike organisers to speak at local public Socialist Students meetings, as well as to invite rent strike organisers to speak at our national conference on Sunday 28 February.

We look forward to hearing your response,

Socialist Students steering committee

Socialist Students calls for;

  • Rent refunds for students. For 100% rent refunds for any student unable to move into their halls for any reason, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.
  • For the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts. Compensation to the landlords only on the basis of proven need!
  • For rent controls! Bring all third party halls into ownership and control of the universities, as a step towards democratically set rents, decided on by elected committees including students.
  • Refund our tuition fees – this year and every year! Fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!
  • For a no detriment policy to be introduced for assessments affected by the lockdown.
  • End all cuts! No attacks on jobs, wages and conditions on campus to pay for refunds – make the government pay. For student and staff unity against all cuts on campus.
  • For democratic trade union and student oversight of all health and safety measures taken on campus to stop the spread of the virus – no trust in Vice Chancellors, management or the Tories to handle this crisis in our interests!
  • Build a national student movement to fight for the funding our universities need. Scrap tuition fees, cancel student debt and introduce genuine living grants for students. Fight for fully funded, high quality and free education.

Socialist Students launches petition: Refund student rent and fees – fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!

To sign the petition, visit http://chng.it/nKBMzv6FMT

Students have been lied to. We were lured to the campuses on the false promise of real life teaching and real life freshers and social events and then locked down, just so university management could get our fees and rent. We’ve suffered the consequences of these lies as we’ve been left by management to virtually fend for ourselves, with the mental health of many suffering.

Students however are fighting back, getting organised to demand rent and fee refunds from their universities. We say universities should pay out those refunds, with the funding made up for by the government. The Tories have spent billions to prop up the profits of big business during the pandemic – why not that kind of money for our education and futures?

But this crisis did not just fall from the sky along with Covid. The disaster faced by students and staff on campus is the result of years of cuts, outsourcing and marketisation on campus, all linked to the completely broken tuition fee funding system.  

That’s why Socialist Students fights for free education – for the scrapping of tuition fees, cancellation of all student debt, and for government funding for free, high quality education for all. We stand for the building of a national student movement to fight for free education. If you agree with us, you should join us by visiting socialiststudents.org.uk/join.

Please sign if you agree with the following, and discuss with any group you’re a member of to endorse these demands;

  • Rent refunds for students. For 100% rent refunds for any student unable to move into their halls for any reason, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.
  • For the right of students in third-party accommodation or the private rented sector to be released from their contracts. Compensation to the landlords only on the basis of proven need!
  • For rent controls! Bring all third party halls into ownership and control of the universities, as a step towards democratically set rents, decided on by elected committees including students.
  • Refund our tuition fees – this year and every year! Fight for free education and make the 1% pay for it!
  • For a no detriment policy to be introduced for assessments affected by the lockdown.
  • End all cuts! No attacks on jobs, wages and conditions on campus to pay for refunds – make the government pay. For student and staff unity against all cuts on campus.
  • For democratic trade union and student oversight of all health and safety measures taken on campus to stop the spread of the virus – no trust in Vice Chancellors, management or the Tories to handle this crisis in our interests!
  • Build a national student movement to fight for the funding our universities need. Scrap tuition fees, cancel student debt and introduce genuine living grants for students. Fight for fully funded, high quality and free education.

Refund the rent, cancel the fees, and fight for fully-funded, publicly owned education

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students National Organiser

The government’s announcement of a new national lockdown on Monday evening has left a huge question mark over what university students can expect for the rest of the academic year. At the time of writing, it is totally unclear to millions of students, many of whom have already paid their rent for the term, whether or not they will be allowed to return to campus.

This episode has yet again underscored not only the complete incompetence of the Tory government, which has sought at every stage of this pandemic to put the profits of big business ahead of our health and education, but also the broken funding model on which universities are run.

With the new lockdown, students across the country face the possibility of being made to pay both full rent and tuition fees for stay-at-home, online-only university courses.

In particular, the prospect of paying thousands of pounds of rent for rooms which they won’t even be able to live in will be outrageous to thousands of students. Students who for any reason are unable to move into their halls of residence and have already paid this terms rent should be given 100% rent refunds by their universities, with the money for those refunds made up for by the government.

Students who are yet to pay their rent, or no longer require the use of accommodation should be released immediately from their contracts should they wish, including those living in either third-party accommodation or in the private rented sector, with landlords given compensation only on the basis of proven need. 

Universities were already in the midst of a huge funding crisis prior to the arrival of Covid. Students last term were lied to by university management so that universities could get access to our rent payments and tuition fees.

That’s why Socialist Students is fighting not only for rent refunds for the year, but for free education. This means tuition fee refunds through a cancellation of all student debt and the scrapping of tuition fees, and replacing the broken market model with a fully-funded and publicly owned education system.

Part of fighting for free education is fighting to kick profit out of higher education. This would involve placing all halls of residence currently owned by private companies under the ownership and control of the universities themselves. This would lay the basis for democratically set rents in student halls, decided on by democratically elected committees with the involvement of students themselves.

To win all of this will take the building a mass student movement, uniting rent strikers, students struggling for free education and university staff fighting cuts to fight the Tories for the funding and resources our universities need. Come to Socialist Students online national conference on Sunday 28 February to discuss how we can build such a movement.

Build on the Manchester rent strike and A-Level victories!

National movement needed to fight for free and quality education for all

Birmingham Socialist Students protest, October 2020
  • Scrap tuition fees and end the market model – government investment for free, high quality education for all
  • No cuts on campus – end low pay and privatisation. For a united student and staff struggle for the resources we all need
  • Take the wealth off the 1%, fight for socialism

To discuss how we fight for an education system in our interests, come to Socialist Students national conference on Sunday 28 February.  Get in touch at socialiststudents.org.uk/join for more info.

Students have been lied to. We were told to move onto university campuses and into halls of residence on the promise of real life teaching and real life freshers and social events. Vice chancellors guaranteed students over the summer that very little would be different for us this year.

But within a matter of days of term starting, it became clear that none of this was true. Students were lured to the campuses and then locked down, just so university management could get our fees and rent. We’ve suffered the consequences of these lies as we’ve been left by management to virtually fend for ourselves, with the mental health of many suffering.

We’re fighting back however. At Manchester, hundreds of students mobilised in protests to remove two metre high fences which were set up by management around Fallowfields student halls to pen students in.

On a number of campuses, students have been organising campaigns to protest against the conditions we’ve been forced to endure this term, including demanding fee refunds.

The pay-out worth £12 million won by students at Manchester University for 30% rent reductions next term following a rent strike and occupation shows that when students organise, we can win. Imagine if the Manchester students were linked up with students on every campus across the country to organise coordinated actions. On that basis we would have the potential to win not only rent reductions but fee refunds – a step on the road to ending student fees.

Build on the rent strikes
Rent strikes, alongside mass protests, occupations and walkouts, are an important tool in the arsenal students have at our disposal to fight for an education system run in our interests. Socialist Students supports rent strikes and calls for them to be democratically organised, with elected rent strike committees set up to spread the campaigns and democratically discuss the tactics and programme of the movement.

The victory at Manchester University is just the start however. Following this victory, students at Manchester and across the country will be faced with more of the same problems next term.

We need to build a national student movement to extend this victory onto every campus – for affordable rents, but for free education as well. That’s what Socialist Students is fighting to achieve.

To win all of this will mean taking decision-making on campuses out of the hands of the vice chancellors and management who have made one disastrous decision after another for students and staff alike. Their priority is carrying through the Tories’ agenda of cuts, privatisation and attacks on our education, not standing up for what we need.

That’s why Socialist Students is campaigning for united student and staff struggle, including the establishment of campus councils of war made up of campus trade unions, workers and students.

By bringing together students, staff, and campus unions, we could discuss what resources we need to build an education system run in our interests, how best to fight the Tories for those resources and make the decisions about the day to day running of the universities.

Students haven’t been the only ones to suffer. Campus staff have been at the sharp end of the bosses’ attacks, which include vicious cuts to jobs, wages and conditions, often through outsourcing.

In the last 3 years, university staff have turned towards their trade unions, such as the UCU, which has taken multiple rounds of industrial action to battle against those attacks. On a number of campuses, the UCU is balloting yet again for industrial action against the threat of even more job cuts.

Thanks to the broken tuition fee funding model, our universities are facing a funding crisis. Management will seek to solve this crisis by carrying through further attacks to the jobs of staff and our quality of education.

This illustrates why democratic staff and student control of our universities would need to be accompanied by a complete break with the market model of university education. This means scrapping tuition fees, reversing the underfunding and privatisation of our campuses, and replacing fees with full government funding for free and high quality education for all. Socialist Students stands for the building of a mass student movement which can link struggles on campus locally into a national movement to fight for free education.

Capitalism to blame – fight for socialism
While the billionaires have increased their wealth over the course of the pandemic, capitalism is unable to provide young and working class people with the basics – a free education, decent jobs, and a future.

Capitalism is a system in crisis. Winning free education will take building a democratic and united student and workers’ movement to challenge capitalism itself. That’s why we fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism – to take the vast wealth and resources in society into democratic public ownership, to meet the social needs and wants of the majority in society.

Solidarity with Manchester students – Fight for democratic control of campus safety

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Socialist Students sends solidarity to students at the University of Manchester (UoM), who through their protests, have ensured the removal of two metre high security fences designed to pen them in. University management took the outrageous decision to set up fences around the Fallowfields student accommodation, with the only available exit for students guarded by security.

After the protests, UoM Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell apologised and announced the fences would be removed first thing the following morning, begging the question why they were ever set up in first place? This incident highlights the crucial need to take decision making about how to curb the spread of the virus on campus out of the hands of university vice chancellors and management, and put it in under the democratic control and oversight of staff and students ourselves.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Socialist Students has been calling for the establishment of democratically elected health and safety committees on the campuses, made up of campus trade unions, staff and students. For years, management on campuses have been happy to implement vicious cuts to jobs, courses, and student support services, as well as privatisation and outsourcing – attacking both our education and staff. Why should we trust them to run the campuses in our interests in this time of crisis?

It’s been these cuts – cheered on by the Tories and right-wing Blairite MPs in Westminster – which have left our campuses completely vulnerable to the spread of the virus. And these cuts are the result of the tuition fee funding system which means our universities go underfunded, while university bosses compete amongst each other to attract as many students to ‘their’ universities as possible. They have gone as far this year as lying to students about face-to-face teaching and the existence of ‘real-life’ fresher’s and other social events. We demand a full refund of the fees paid this year, and public funding of free education, including the cancellation of all student debt.

Capitalism cannot deliver high quality and free education for all – fight for socialist policies

Socialist Students condemns this outrageous incident on the Manchester University campus. But attacks like this are happening on students all across the country, as the government and university management try and pin the blame for the spread of the virus on students.

We call for the establishment of staff and student health and safety committees on the campuses, as a step towards a democratic discussion about how to start running the universities in our interests. We fight to reverse all of the funding cuts to our campuses in the last decade, and to end all outsourcing on campus. We demand an end to rip-off landlords preying on students for profit, and fight for students to be able to democratically set rents in all student halls.

To win all of that means building a national student movement, armed with a programme to kick private profit out of Higher Education. It means fighting for the scrapping of tuition fees, and for government funding for our universities, to guarantee a high quality, safe and free education for all students.

Socialist Students recently held a rally bringing together over 80 student campaigners and young workers from across the country. We discussed building the national campaign for free education, for decent well paid jobs for all, and for a future for young people. Get in touch with Socialist Students to join us on your local campus.

Online Socialist Students and Young Socialists rally says: We won’t pay with our futures

Socialist Students protest at the University of Birmingham, 21 October 2020

Theo Sharieff, Socialist Students national organiser

Over 80 students and young workers attended the Socialist Students and Young Socialists online rally on 25 October. The main theme running through the rally was the abject failure of capitalism to provide young people with a decent future, and why the fight for our future is the fight for a socialist alternative to capitalism.

“We’re paying £9,000 a year to get lied to, locked in and go insane with little to no mental health support and zero financial support” explained Michelle Francis, Bangor University Socialist Students

Michelle reflected the anger of students, lied to about what was waiting for them on campus. On the basis of bold campaigning for free education, Socialist Students at Bangor is a growing force.

Bea Gardner, Southampton University and College Union (UCU), put the case for staff and student unity to fight for democratic oversight of health and safety measures on campus to curb the spread of the virus.

Attendees also got a taste of Socialist Students international links. The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) in Nigeria gave solidarity greetings. DSM is participating in the mass youth movement against police brutality and for an end to the hated and corrupt Buhari regime (see solidarity protests in Britain on this page and an interview with activists on 15-16).

It isn’t only on campus that the futures of young people are under attack. Alex Hutchinson, Hull Trades Union Council, spoke about the Young Socialist campaign for trade union action to fight against the youth unemployment crisis.

Alex explained that if the bosses were putting up a fight to make young people pay for the crisis, then young people need to get organised and fight to make the 1% pay instead.

Firms threatening redundancies should be nationalised, and have their financial books opened to inspection by the workers, to save jobs. We need to fight for a mass programme of government investment in socially useful job creation.

Deji Olay, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist, pointed to the massive explosion of working-class anger in the streets against police brutality and racism – proof that young people are up for a fightback. All the class inequality in society was magnified by the pandemic.

Deji said Young Socialists wants to help democratically organise the BLM movement and popularise socialist policies to end racism and all oppression – intrinsic parts of capitalism.

The short reports from students and young workers were a highlight of the meeting. From the A-Level protests in the summer to refund our fees protests now, Socialist Students and the Young Socialists have been to the fore organising the youth fightback.

There was enthusiasm to continue campaigning. Get out campaigning with Socialist Students and the Young Socialists in our week of action – starting 26 October – to demand that our generation is not made to pay for this crisis with our education, our jobs or our futures.