Joyce CanaanJoyce Canaan, Professor of Sociology, comments on the significance of today’s student demonstrations against tuition fees:

It is now a year (10 November) since the first national student demonstration of 2010, when an estimated 52,000 people, predominantly students—tens of thousands more than expected—took to the streets of London. Their protest was against the then proposed doubling or trebling of individual  tuition fees charges (and 100% cuts to state  funding of undergraduate programmes outside so-called ‘STEM’ subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (and some modern languages)). Students and lecturers argued that government policy would shift university degrees from being ‘a public good’ to being ‘a private investment’ (http://globalhighered.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/the-end-of-the-public-university-in-england/ ). Further national and local protests followed over the next month—culminating in the 9 December demonstration that ended outside Parliament, where MPs were then voting on whether or not to pass this proposal into law—which did occur.

Media coverage of these demonstrations focused on some young peoples’ ‘violence’ –with little attention given to police violence or to the violence that would be caused by cutting off young peoples’ possible futures, as indicated by higher tuition fees and the elimination of the Education Maintenance Allowance to aspiring college students from families on incomes of £30,000 or less.  Few realised that still more dire consequences would follow:  not only would students be positioned as customers receiving a service, but private educational providers would be encouraged to enter the higher education market place, offering cheaper courses, with some offering classes from 7 am to 10pm seven days a week.  Some students and lecturers recognise that the end result could be a much less engaging higher education experience for all:  today, 9 November, there is a national student demonstration against privatisation which will be followed by a day of strike action on 30 November  by the lecturers’ union and by other unions, supported by the NUS.   In this context, then, is protest not an appropriate way for students and lecturers to express their dissatisfaction with what will likely be the effective dismantling of the state funded higher education system as we have known it?

Professor Joyce Canaan, Professor of Sociology, Birmingham City University.

National Student Finance Day will be held on Monday 14 November– and the regional launch will be hosted by Birmingham City University in partnership with Aston University and the University of Birmingham:

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Joyce Canaan

Joyce Canaan

Professor of Sociology
Joyce Canaan

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