Year 2000 No. 194, November 15, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Grants Not Fees Winning Together
For Your Reference: History of Grants and Fees
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The demands being put forward by the many thousands of students demonstrating today, and all those supporting them, under the slogan "Grants Not Fees" are very just.
· Maintenance grants should be restored so that higher education is available to all, regardless of socio-economic background, eliminating the need for loans and huge graduate debt.
· Tuition fees should be abolished, with higher education made free at the point of entry, so there is absolutely no discrimination on the basis of ability to pay.
· No university or college should introduce differential or top-up fees higher education at the highest standard must be available to all, with no discrimination based on ability to pay and with no creation of an educational elite.
The principle underlying these demands is: Education Is a Right, Not a Privilege!
Basing themselves on this principle and uniting around their just demands, students will be able to Win Together!
Winning together does not just mean lobbying political parties to get them to adopt these demands. It means that students should themselves be an indispensable part of the decision-making.
In fact, students need to look to the future and to the kind of society which will guarantee that education is recognised as a right and not a privilege. This means students fighting to end their marginalisation from the political process.
Marginalisation from the political process means that at present students have no say over education, the direction of the economy or how society is run. Winning together means that this must change!
Students must join in this struggle for change and to ensure that a pro-social programme wins out. It is up to students, along with all those fighting for the success of the pro-social programme, not the political parties. The demand for grants, not fees that education be freely available to all without discrimination is a fight which is part of this fight for change and for students to work for a society in which people make the decisions and not the political parties.
Grants Not Fees!
Education Is a Right, Not a Privilege!
For Your Reference:
· Education Act, 1944, introduces equality of access and educational opportunity for all.
· Grants for University and college students were introduced in 1964.
· From 1984, the Conservatives, under Margaret Thatcher, removed students entitlement to cover for travel expenses, a Special Equipment Grant on certain courses, Income Support, Housing Benefit and access to a Vacation Hardship Allowance.
· Minimum maintenance grant abolished in 1985. Student Loans Bill becomes law in 1990.
· The Major government began the dismantling of the maintenance grant. After a period of being frozen (and therefore decreasing in real terms), the Conservatives cut the grant by 10% per year from 1994 until the election in 1997. By that time, the grant stood at less than half of its level in 1979. At the same time, more than £1 billion was owed to the Student Loans Company in unpaid debt. Mature students lost their Older Students' Allowance.
· In the run-up to the May 1, 1997, Election, the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, chaired by Sir Ron Dearing, was set up jointly by the Conservative and Labour Parties. Labour argued that grants were "unrealistic" in a "fiscally prudent world" and that the NUS should concentrate on preventing the introduction of fees.
· The Report of the Dearing Committee was released on July 2, 1997, recommending universal tuition fees for university students. The newly elected Labour government welcomed the findings of the Dearing Report. Later that year, the government began to privatise student debt and announced the sale of £1.6 billion of student loans.
· In September 1998, tuition fees of up to £1,000 per year began. At the same time, the maximum grant was more than halved to £810 per year. By November, UCAS figures showed mature student numbers on college courses had dropped by 10%, and the number of people with places in higher education by October 21 was down by 1.7% from 1997.
· In September 1999, the student maintenance grant was abolished, thirty-five years after it was introduced.
· On December 21, 1999, the Cubie Report was released, calling for an end to fees and a re-introduction of a maintenance bursary in Scotland. In the term beginning in the autumn of 2000, Scottish students have means-tested grants and a graduate contribution replaces fees.
· On February 14 this year, Education Secretary David Blunkett announced in a wide-ranging speech on the future of higher education that universities could charge up to £6,000 per year in "the near future" instead of the flat rate of £1,050 per year at which tuition fees stand at present.
· In July, the "Greenaway Report", commissioned by the Russell Group and compiled by Prof. David Greenaway and Dr. Michelle Haynes of Nottingham University, was published, calling for differential fees, allowing universities to set their own undergraduate fees, and suggesting students should pay at least £13,000 for a degree.
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