We are acutely aware that many PCS members beginning their jobs or careers in the public sector will be saddled with debt from higher education. Others will have FE tuition bills to pay or will have been put off from applying for college or university courses altogether by the cost.
On the 19th of November students from up and down the country will be demonstrating in London demanding the abolition of fees from both Further and Higher Education. University students currently pay £9k a year in tuition fees. This coupled with maintenance and support loans means that the average student leaves university saddled with upwards of £20k of debt. For those wishing to study a college course the situation is equally dire. Courses that used to be free, including basic skills courses, now either incur charges or are cut altogether as funding is slashed and local education provision privatised.
The demand for free-education and living grants for students is a democratic demand. Access to all education, like healthcare, should be universal and free at the point of use, paid for by taxing the wealthy and big business.
The demand for free-education is also a labour movement demand. Access to knowledge and learning has always been a cornerstone of the Trade Union movement. The ability to understand the world, debate ideas and learn new skills and vocations should not be the preserve of those with the financial wherewithal to do so.
The demonstration is not simply concerned with fees. The same job cuts, privatisation and attacks on pay being met out on civil servants are also impacting teachers and lecturers in Further and Higher Education. Alongside this the government is attacking the pensions of staff in the majority of universities. In response UCU members are currently taking part in a marking boycott as of the 6th of November. This demonstration also shows solidarity to those UCU members and the PCS Young Members Network echoes that solidarity.
Last year the National Union of Students, the body that represents 7 million students in the UK, changed its long-standing policy of supporting a ‘Graduate Tax’ – a form of income tax levied on students – to supporting Free Education as a universal public good. This should be welcomed and has long been the policy of the PCS and most other trade unions, including the teaching and lecturers unions.
Shamefully however, the NUS full-time leadership – most of them long standing opponents of free-education – have undermined this policy and a motion supporting the demonstration from their executive by unilaterally refusing to support it.
The PCS Young Members Network would like to extend its solidarity to those activists within organisations such as the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Youth Fight for Jobs who are working as volunteers without the funding of the NUS to ensure the demo is a success.
We encourage branches to support the demonstration on the 19th by promoting it to members and donating to the building of it. You can find more information on the link below.