UCL students protest against government changes to higher education

UCL students protest against government changes to higher education

Sam Fearnley reports on the latest student protest to hit the UCL campus

UCL students took part in a nationwide protest today, aimed at highlighting serious issues with the government’s proposed cuts to higher education. The protest was a follow-up to the Free Education #GrantsNotDebt protest on 4 November.

The co-ordinated protests, organised by the activist group National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), took place at a number of universities including UCL, Bath, Exeter, King’s College London, Warwick, LSE and Sussex.

At the UCL protest, groups of students held a large banner, and encouraged passers-by to fill out ‘postcards’ for Jo Johnson, the minister of state for universities and science, detailing exactly why they oppose the plans. According to one of the student protesters, these will then be scattered near his office in Westminster.

At LSE, students occupied part of the Vice Chancellor’s office, while at Warwick University students dressed up as the grim reaper, and held a banner with “RIP PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION”.

On 5 November, the government released its green paper for higher education, which included proposals for a number of important student issues. One of the propositions would mandate ministers to further increase tuition fees at any time, without a vote in parliament.

The document also put forward a proposal which would force universities to complete a teaching excellence framework. UCL Defend Education believes that this will coerce universities into providing an education that hands graduates over to big corporations. Jo Johnson has described his vision that universities will offer a ‘pipeline of graduates‘ with which to supply industry.

UCL Defend Education, however, wants universities to be places for ‘intellectual exploration and critical thought’. The group also expressed its concern that the proposals could provide a way for private industries to get in to public universities, and that the power of student unions to defend student interests could be compromised. The green paper also highlights areas of adult and further education which could be cut.

The overall aims of the protest were to draw attention to the problems these cuts might bring about, and to publicly oppose the austerity measures. UCL Defend Education has demanded that Michael Arthur, the provost of UCL, helps by publicly opposing the plans.

Featured image credit: Twitter (@NCAFC_UK)

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