Trustees not to be trusted with democracy: Board abuses power and overturns democratic decisions

Last night we witnessed an overt breach of democracy and abuse of power.

Our Trustee Board,  which is in the majority unelected, has numerous non-students and includes a University representative, threw out the majority of the decisions taken by Guild Council surrounding the Democratic Structures Review and Officer Review, after it carefully amended it for over ten hours.

They voted to abolish the Ethnic Minority Students’ Officer, Disabled Students’ Officer, Women’s Officer, LGBTQ Officer, Home Students’ Officer, Mature and Part-Time Students’ Officer, International Students’ Officer, Satellite Sites’ Officer, Ethical and Environmental Officer, Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Officer, and Community Action Officer. All have been abolished with no democratic vote, despite Guild Council voting to keep all Non-Sabbatical Officers just a week ago.

These are all campaigning positions. Last night they succeeded in removing officers who have over the  years represented and campaigned for the least represented and oppressed students at the University, and Officers that have won vital gains for the student body. The Trustee Board has succeeded in removing one of the primary means by which we represent and organise for the least privileged students.

The Trustees voted to overturn the decision to include four full-time Liberation Officers, an amendment which passed with a huge majority in Guild Council and offered the Guild the opportunity to lend power and resources to by far the most disadvantaged students at this University.

But the transgression of democracy far exceeded this. Out of the 15 amendments passed by Guild Council, only 7 were passed by the Trustees.

Amendments to change the composition of the Assessment Group, add Representative Speakers from Associations, and give students the ability to give steers to Sabbatical Officers on a monthly basis all fell. An increase in the number of forums where Officers are held to account, adding Questions and Scrutiny to Guild Assemblies, and the ability to propose amendments were also all rejected.

The basis upon which they rejected these democratically decided upon amendments far exceeded the narrow powers upon which the Trustee Board are meant to base their decisions. Page 15 of the Guild Bye-Laws read: “In accordance with Article 99, Guild Council decisions can be overturned by the Trustee Board for financial, legal or Guild reputation issues.” Time and time again, as each amendment was discussed, what was made clear from the discussion was that they were being rejected because of personal opinions. None of these amendments had legal or reputational implications and the additional financial resources required to implement almost all these changes was negligible, often hinging on some additional staff time.

What happened tonight was a group of 11 people decided they knew better than Guild Council and could ignore their decisions at will. To quote one Trustee: “we can do what we want.” Any illusion that the Guild of Students is student-led and democratic was thrown out of the window this evening.

This represents the vast power that Trustees have to override the democratic decisions of students. From the start, the Democratic Structures Review and Officer Review were inherently undemocratic. The new models were designed on the basis of an external consultant’s interpretation of market research. However much of an expert this consultant is, his findings represent one person’s interpretation of the research, backed by a small group of Officers, many of whom later disagreed with substantial parts of the models. The whole point of the models going to Guild Council was to allow student oversight and democratic control of the process. After all, students’ unions are supposed to be student-led. Only giving students a say in the Referendum gives students a binary choice over the existing model or the new model. By the models going to Guild Council, it allowed students to amend any problematic parts of the models, thus permitting student input not just in the form of filling in a survey, but through actively shaping their democratic structures. If the Trustee Board can simply choose to ignore Guild Council’s decisions based on whether they agree with them or not, then this destroys the whole point of the reviews ever being heard there in the first place.

It is clear that Trustee Boards have limitless, unchecked power to overturn or make any decisions they like about students’ unions with complete impunity. There is nothing to stop them doing this with any decision we ever make, under the current system or the new. In fact, under the new system, even more power is placed in the hands of Sabbatical Officers and Trustees with even less ability to hold them to account on a regular basis, even though students overwhelmingly didn’t want elected representatives making decisions on their behalf.

Both of us feel that we have no choice but to publish what happened last night. The two of us were the only two Trustees to vote in favour of everything that Guild Council passed. In fact, for 6 and a half amendments (one amendment was taken in parts), we were the ONLY two Trustees in favour of them passing; the other elected Sabbatical Officer Trustees chose to go against the decisions of Guild Council on numerous occasions.

The precedent this sets is one which students must not take lying down. We should be demanding that the Trustee Board implement the changes that Guild Council has debated and decided upon and we should not accept the paternalistic attitude with which we are being treated. We feel that the contempt of students and democracy displayed at the meeting tonight was nothing short of disgusting, and if it does not go unchallenged then the Trustee Board will override decisions made by students again. We must stand up for a Guild that is student-led, that is accountable and transparently run and which treats students as the adults they are, capable of making rational decisions in their interests.

The Trustee Board should reverse its decision with immediate effect.

Signed

Hattie Craig, Vice-President (Education) and Guild Trustee; and Tom Wragg, Vice-President (Democracy and Resources) and Guild Trustee

UPDATE: A Facebook group has been set up by Birmingham students who oppose the Trustee Board’s decision. If you want to get involved with the campaign please join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/543274009127181/?fref=ts

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Statement from Hattie Craig, Vice President (Education), on the demonstration 26th March

This is what I had to write to satisfy the University in order to ensure the demonstration yesterday even went ahead. It was a peaceful demonstration and would have been with or without this statement. If anything, this shows the impact that demonstrations have had on the university, when they respond to me organising one by making me revise my risk assessment multiple times, give public assurances that I want the demonstration to be peaceful and call me into what was an incredibly intimidating and unnecessary meeting with 3 police officers and the head of security. All of these things limit our right to protest and I am sad that in this situation I felt that I had no choice but to go along with the university’s agenda in order that this demonstration was backed by the Guild of Students and had as large a turnout as possible:

“The Guild of Students and the University of Birmingham branch of the University &College Union (UCU) have called a joint demonstration under the banner of ‘Lift The Suspensions’ and ‘Staff & Students Against The Suspensions’ at 1pm on Wednesday 26th March. We called this in order to highlight the ongoing (over seven week) suspension of two final year undergraduate students at the University of Birmingham. As of 1pm today the two students had their criminal investigations discontinued, charges dropped and the University havenow reinstated the students.

 

The Guild and UCU wants to show that both academic staff and students believe in the principle of‘innocent until proven guilty’ and wish to defend freedom of speech and encourage divergent opinions in our academic community. In addition, Unison extended their support to the students following a meeting yesterday.

 

Staff and students are welcome to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1pm in Mermaid Square at the Guild of Students, before marching around campus past the Main Library and in front of the Aston Webb building. This demonstration will now undoubtedly take a more celebratory tone, and we invite people to come and show their support in spite of the short term aim of this campaign having been met. It must be remembered that we still have a lot to protest about: these suspensions should not have happened in the first place and we want the university never to enact similar suspensions again.

 

In organising the demonstration on behalf of the Guild, I have reached an agreement with the University on how the rally and march should happen and the route that the march will take.  The arrangements I have made for this Guild demonstration are what I believe to be in the best interests of the Guild, its members and in achieving success in the campaign.

 

On this occasion, I believe that direct action will not be to the benefit of students or the Guild.To ensure the safety of those students taking part and on campus I will keep to the arrangements I have made with the University and ask students to stick withthe agreed plans for the demonstration. I must remind participants that anyone engaging in criminal behaviour could be prosecuted so I would ask that everyone refrains from this type of activity.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My censure, the protest on 29th Jan, wrongful arrest and the Guild’s response

Originally posted on Facebook on 30th Jan:

I have been told that Guild Council has voted in favour of censuring me (62%) for my involvement in the occupation of Senate Chamber last term. They have done this in my absence: I was not there to defend myself on account of offering support to arrested students, who are still being held in custody 24 hours after their arrest. Many Guild Councillors were also not in attendance for the same reason.

I would like it known that I am proud to be standing in solidarity with these students. They have been arrested for maintaining their right not to give their personal details to the police. Lawyers have confirmed that police demanding details as a condition for release from a kettle is illegal (http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/police-accused-of-kettling-student-protesters-at-a-national-demonstration-in-birmingham-9095907.html). Students have been wrongfully arrested. I feel it is entirely appropriate, and my duty as a Guild Officer, to be supporting these students in their time of need.

I would further like to publicly state that I do not agree with the Guild’s statement regarding yesterday’s demonstration. At the time this was written and published I was being kettled along with 150 other students. The statement mentions the “negative impact” on students as a result of the “Give it a Go Fair” and that we do “not condone the action taken”, but where is the condemnation of students being kettled for 4 hours in the cold and rain? Where is the outrage that they were refused water, food or access to toilets? Where is the criticism of the police for using illegal tactics and wrongfully arresting students? Where is the outcry against the actions of security, when there are pictures like this and when one student was pulled to the floor by her hair whilst shouting “peaceful”? Where is the indignation that a student collapsed in the kettle and the police refused to allow an ambulance onto campus?

The statement says the Guild is disappointed with yesterday’s actions; I am disappointed with the Guild.

http://www.guildofstudents.com/articles/statement-from-the-guild-of-students-29-01-14

Image

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Statement on the University putting me through their disciplinary process

I promised myself that I wouldn’t do this. The winter vacation period is supposed to be a much needed break after what is a very long, and at least for myself, very stressful, term. I wanted to clear my head of all thoughts of university and the Guild, yet the university have been seemingly determined to ensure that this cannot be the case. After spending a considerable amount of time dwelling on the subject, I have decided that I can no longer stay silent.

Earlier this term I made what was a difficult decision to stand up to our university and join students occupying the Senate Chamber in Aston Webb. (You can read more about my reasons for doing so in my last blog post).

As a result, the University already attempted to hit me and another student, Simon Furse, with costs of up £25k in legal fees. These were only dropped on the condition that the court proceedings were swift and concluded in one day. The judge felt we had had insufficient time to prepare a case and was willing to adjourn proceedings for a day in order for us to seek more legal advice, but we could not take up his offer for fear of the exorbitant personal costs we would face. Thus this was a tactic which prevented us form putting the best case forward in opposition to the injunction and possession order.

Not satisfied with forcefully evicting the occupation with university security, bailiffs and police, threatening those inside with arrest, now once again, the University are employing tactics which are designed to prevent students from standing up to them. They are currently attempting disciplinary action against me and a number of other students that could lead to our expulsion. They tried to make students attend interviews out of term time, and thus away from the eyes of students and staff and at a time when they would feel most isolated.

In addition, senior management have written to the Guild about my conduct. Some of the points of issue included such ridiculousness as the fact that the occupation continued after I had left and that I did not try to stop it. It is also alleged that I have breached the Officer Code of Conduct as a result of having broken the law, despite the fact that I have not been arrested or charged, let alone convicted. The last time I checked, it required a court of law to prove this, not university senior managers, however much they would like this privilege.

I want to make it clear that I would like these proceedings to be as open as possible. I have nothing to hide and I wish to convince the wider university that my actions were reasonable. The university have not yet given me proper details of their case against me so I cannot yet publicly write my defence case. I think all staff and students have the right to know what is going on and I hope in time I will be able to update you all.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and the other students facing disciplinaries during this difficult time. I would encourage everyone to read UCU’s statement where they offer their solidarity, for which I must thank them wholeheartedly.

I want to finish by saying that I believe that we have a cause that is worth fighting for and no amount of university threats or intimidation will stop students and university workers from working together in closer unity to achieve what have become widely accepted as reasonable demands.

Next term will see students from up and down the country converge on Birmingham to discuss where the student movement goes next and to protest against the regressive actions currently taking place. You can read the call out here and see the facebook event here. I genuinely believe that we are witnessing the biggest resurgence that the student movement has seen since 2010 and am very proud to have played even a very small part in this, despite the additional personal pressure the last term has placed on me and the uncertain future I now face.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

From inside the occupation: why I’m here and why the university is taking me to court.

banners
As some of you may now be aware, I have been taking part in the occupation of Senate Chambers in the Aston Webb Building since it began on Wednesday evening.  The decision to join was not an easy one for me to make. Since becoming a sabbatical officer, having met many students suffering from stress due to dire finical straits and staff struggling to make ends meet, I have understood that drastic change needs to happen. As I will explain in this blog, I have come to realise that this change will not come about simply through sitting in university meetings. I decided in good conscience to join the occupation and use this to fight for a fairer, more democratic university.

On Monday, I will be appearing in court against the university. To target me, they have named me on the possession order and injunction they are seeking and are asking that I, along with another defendant and ex-sabbatical officer, Simon Furse, pay their legal costs which could amount to thousands of pounds. I feel I have been singled out, not only because I am recognisable by senior management, but as a tactic to intimidate me as a sabbatical officer of the Guild of Students. This is a political move on their part. They are telling me to behave and go along with their agenda, disagreeing only within the narrow parameters they set, or I will be made to pay.  They do not want sabbatical officers, who have a platform to expose the university when they act against student interests and who can empower students to take action which the university does not want, to fulfil either of these roles. I believe they know full well the names of others inside the occupation; this is a standard political move to isolate and attack individuals in a movement.

I want to explain my actions and I’ll begin by talking about the reasons why I feel it is entirely appropriate for me to be here as Vice-President Education. This occupation is about education. It’s about the representation of students in the university and their current lack of power. It’s about stopping our Vice Chancellor for arguing for increased fees, demanding better rights for the staff who make our education possible and ensuring that every student can afford to come to university. Many of the demands correspond to my manifesto which was: empowering students to fight against course cuts, closures and redundancies, giving students a greater say in their education and creating a level playing field for all students regardless of background. I want what the occupation wants. The platform I stood on is the same as the one now being presented by the occupation.

One argument I have seen floating around is that people agree with the demands of the occupation but not their tactics so this is something else I want to address. Sabbatical Officers are ultimately there to try to bring about positive change for the student body. Some students seem to believe that this is done through going to meetings and having a “good relationship” with the university. I have spent the last 4 months attending countless meetings with the university. I have always been polite and co-operative, aiming to work with the university to bring about changes which I feel are desperately needed. For months, my frustration has been building, but finding a way to clearly articulate what I guess I presumed all along has been difficult. It’s time to face up: we don’t achieve the change we want through attending university meetings.

I sit on some of the “higher level” committees of the university, such as Education Committee, Quality Assurance, and Senate. These are almost exclusively “rubber-stamping” bodies – decisions about what is going to happen in the university have been made long before these committees meet. Papers very rarely get rejected, with many from senior management already being aware of their content and the final approval from the meeting being simply a formality. In these situations, sabbs have very little opportunity to fundamentally change anything. Sure, I might mention a section of the paper which I have some concerns about and generally these will be “noted”, with the paper being approved anyway. Sometimes this concern will be taken seriously and something done about it, often it will be ignored completely. Either way, it is important to remember that this change is  just tinkering: a minor alteration to a policy which is going to happen whether we like it or not. These are not places for us to bring the change we want to see, but rather for the university to get us to accept the changes they are making. Their ability to set the agenda and ignore our requests demonstrate the lack of power that we as sabbatical officers have. Speaking truth to power simply doesn’t work at this university.

If we, as sabbatical officers and “student representatives”, have very little ability to change the minds and actions of the University management, then what about the student body at large? In the vast majority of meetings I sit in, I am the only student. I can try as hard as I want to represent “all students” but I simply do not know the views and nor had have the same experiences  as the 28,000 students at Birmingham. Having one sabbatical officer, sitting tokenisticly on a rubber-stamping committee which is arguing over minute changes is not giving students a say in how their university is run. Having the university decide what committees it is appropriate or relevant for students to sit on is not giving us a say. The powers granted to student reps extend only to their ability to ask the department to change certain aspects of their academic experience over which they have control. I and other sabbatical officers only sit on committees which are seen as “related” to the student experience. There is no representation on those “working groups” which decide admissions targets, whether or not to shut down a department, or whether we should be setting up operations overseas. All of these affect students greatly, yet we are seen more as customers to be enticed and catered for, not as members of a community which should decide the direction of the university, relegating student representatives to the role of market researchers. The very fact that management have chosen to pay significant sums of money to remove their own students, criminalising them and anyone else who takes part in anything they consider to be “occupation protest action”, rather than speaking to concerned students about what they feel needs to change so badly that they are willing to give up their time and effort and risk disciplinary action to do so, shows their utter contempt for the views of students when they do not suit their own agenda. There is no democracy here. Democracy is something the university will never give to us if we just ask for it in a meeting because it fundamentally undermines the power of senior management to act in whatever way they see fit.

This is why the last few months have led to believe even more in the importance students taking direct action such as occupations. I have tried sitting in meetings and going along with the university’s agenda, but I know that it doesn’t matter how nicely I ask, most of the things I want to change they will never agree to because they don’t want to and they don’t have to. We have so little power as sabbatical officers or students. Going against what the university wants and acting in ways which disrupt their operation changes the balance. It gives them a reason to listen to what we want. It shows them that students can have power if we so choose. It makes them realise that we are not simply passive recipients to whatever education, rights and conditions they see fit to give us. Direct action also makes the media pay attention. In a time where reputation and admissions figures are so intimately linked to a university’s finances, exposing the university for the wrong that they are committing is another powerful way to make them sit up and pay attention. Most of all, direct action is empowering. You no longer feel helpless. You see that the university is not an impenetrable force and that your actions can affect them greatly. It is these kind of actions which inspire students to care about issues within their university and campaign on them. This is exactly what I think student representatives should be doing. We should be creating the climate and conditions for the student body to be active in creating change. In this, I feel the occupation has already been successful. We have seen people who have never before been part in activism getting involved and campaigning on education issues.

For these reasons I stand by my decision to join the occupation. It is not up to the university to determine the appropriate manner for me to represent students. It does not matter what measures the university uses to intimidate me, this will not stop me from calling them out on decisions which damage the interest of students or deter me from taking action in defense and for the improvement of the education of students now and in the future.  I would like to say thank you to all those who have supported me as an individual, the aims of the occupation and everyone inside it. None of this would have been possible without you. No matter what happens in court tomorrow, our campaign for a fairer, more democratic is not over. Solidarity.

To find out more about the occupation visit: http://www.defendeducationbrum.org/statement-on-the-occupation-of-senate-chambers/

Protest outside the court tomorrow at 10am: https://www.facebook.com/events/165987633610690/

Protest on campus tomorrow at 2pm: https://www.facebook.com/events/176694295859418/

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Why students should support the staff strike tomorrow!

It seems like it’s becoming an annual tradition that the VPE must publish a blog in support of a strike. I’d like to think that as this is a discussion which we have every year, and which, whether by referendum or vote in Guild Council, students always vote to support the strike, it’s something that I wouldn’t have to do this year. However, it has become clear that a number of people have been questioning why students should support a strike if it means they miss a lecture or two. So I’d thought I’d outline a few of the myriad of reasons why students should be supporting this strike and joining staff on the picket lines tomorrow and the rally at the East Gate at 12pm:

1) Empowered and well paid staff improves the quality of our education

It makes sense. How much better is a lecture when the staff member has had the time to prepare well for it and is enthusiastic and upbeat? The quality of education we receive is tied up with the delivery of it by staff. If lecturers are feeling stressed and undervalued, worrying about time and money, the quality of education they deliver is bound to suffer. One day of missed lectures is a fair trade off in my mind for years of better, higher quality ones.


2) Our voice in the university is stronger if we work together

Right now, the amount of power that your average academic, support staff or students has in decisions of the university is effectively zero. We don’t have democracy. Occasionally a sabb will sit on a committee, although we will be hugely outnumbered by management. Elected academics sit on senate although this acts as a rubber stamping body for the most part, and is filled by people appointed by the Vice Chancellor himself. The most important decision making body in my mind is the University Executive Board, where there is no representation for students, academics who aren’t management, or support staff. Basically, they’re completely unaccountable and almost everyone within the university has little say in it.

However, a university cannot function without staff and students. The power that we have derives from the impact when we refuse to play the management’s game. This makes them listen to us. A strike is a way to do this, as is students supporting this action by joining them on the picket line. When management send out emails blaming staff for the strike, instead of acknowledging that it is their decisions that have led them to strike, this is classic “divide and conquer” tactics. The demands of students or staff are much easier to brush aside when the two groups are pitted against one another. We must realise that both of us occupy a position in the university where we have no say or control, and that attacks, whether towards staff or students, are coming from management and that they are the ones towards which we should be directing our anger.

Cancelling contact hours and pickets encouraging people not to come onto campus may be seen as unnecessarily disruptive by some who just want to get on with their education. Given the changes currently going on in Higher Education and the deteriorating positions of students and staff I think it is only natural that people feel forced to take these kinds of disruptive action. We need a higher education system that puts the interests of staff, students and the public ahead of the interests of the government and senior managers.

3) Students are often also staff

Many of our students are employed by the university, either in support staff roles, or, especially in the case of PhD students, as academic/academic related staff. They are often on low paid and precarious contracts with poor conditions. Many of them take on work to help meet the cost of studying here. This affects them massively, and the wins that the strike could bring should improve their lives and education.

4) More money spent on staff = more money spent on our education

Students pay an astronomical amount to study here. The university spends so much money on things which are far less related to our education than than the staff who deliver it, like on marketing, overseas recruitment centres and the extortionate pay of our Vice-Chancellor and his chauffeur driven jaguars. The university spending more money on staff should definitely be encouraged as this has a real tangible impact on our education.

5) Staff have stood by us in our battles over fees and cuts, it’s our turn to stand by them

Staff have continually supported students when we have faces detrimental changes to our education. They marched with us against £9,000 fees, have policy calling for free education for all and even right now are opposing the stringent monitoring of international students. It would be easy for them to say that these issues don’t affect them greatly, but they care about students and recognise the importance of standing up for us and with us. The very least we can do is support them in their battle for fair pay. Especially if we want their support in future campaigns, such as the selling off of the student loan book.

6) We’re not going to be students forever. When we graduate, we’ll want jobs with good pay and conditions.

One day we’ll be workers, if we’re not already. When that happens, we’ll want our jobs to be well paid. We’ll want to feel valued, to be able to support our families, to be free from stress and harassment. Personally, I think we have a moral obligations regardless of this to ask that the institution that we pay money into treats its staff well regardless of our own interests. But even if you want to look at this in a self-interested way, it is clearly to our benefit to be ensuring that jobs which we might one day enter into have the conditions and pay that we would like to see for ourselves.

So instead of treating tomorrow like any other day, recognise that this is our opportunity to demand so much more from the university for our staff, our education and ultimately ourselves. Don’t play the management’s game and let them play students and staff off against one another: join your lecturers on the picket lines and come to the rally at 12pm at the East Gate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s happening to our student loans?

The subject of this blog is not a new topic or breaking news story, but for some, this might be the first time you’ve ever read about the plans to privatise student loans. The implications of this move are incredibly serious, some might even argue as serious as the tripling of tuition fees, yet the media silence on the subject has been overwhelming. This has to change. If the government thinks it can get away with doing something quietly, then it’s far more likely to go ahead with it. But first, what is happening to our student loans?

Danny Alexander revealed a few months back of the government’s plans to sell the student loan book to private investors. This has since been confirmed and is due to take place by 2015. The government commissioned the Rothschild investment bank to write a document, named ‘Project Hero’, . This advised the government on the sell-off, and what private investors could be offered with the sale of the loan book. An estimated £40 billion of debt is being targeted, composed of loans to students between 1998 and 2012.

Obviously investors want a return on the original payment they make to secure the loans, but the kind of debt generated by student loans is risky for investors as much of it won’t be paid back. The government’s own estimates such that 40% will not pay back their debt in full, but some research suggests the figure could be as high as 85%. For this reason student loans will need sweeteners to make them more attractive to buyers. One way is through “synthetic hedging” – promising whoever buys the student loans that they will be paid the difference between the actual cash flow and the estimated cash flow which would have been received without the cap. This is using public finances to guarantee returns to private investment and will cost the government greatly. Financial experts has rushed to criticise the move, with Martin Wolf from the Financial Times branding it “economically illiterate.” Yet for the government’s short-term agenda of securing re-election, it allows them to claim that they have gotten rid of the deficit and kept their election promise. However, this is a cosmetic move which will end up costing us much more in the long run.

The use of, and high cost of, a synthetic hedge could potentially be used as an argument in the future for changing loan repayments or further cutting the HE sector. The other way to guarantee investors a return is to remove the cap on student loans. Currently, the interest rate on our loans is the Bank of England base rate +1%, so it’s 1.5% right now. In America,  the interest rate is 6.8%. Vince Cable has promised they won’t do this, but assurances made by this government have no bearing on what future governments might do. Once the loans are sold and the sweetener is being paid, there is a good chance that the government will decide it can no longer afford to pay the sweetener (which it has to pay for 25 years!) and transfer the cost onto students and graduates instead by changing their loan repayments. We shouldn’t buy the NUS’ assurances that the problem is now solved as this is far from the case.

If the sale is to go ahead, we’ll be starting down a path from which there is no return. Once the loans are privatised, they’ll be out of the government’s hands and ultimately lose accountability. If this lot of loans are privatised, it seems incredibly unlikely that they will decide not privatise all loans in the future. We’ll be condemning people to a life of never-ending debt, which becomes impossible to pay off. We’ll be opening the door to profit being extracted from the fundamental right of education and we’ll be allowing private companies to decide the fate of students and graduates. The disastrous stories coming out of America demonstrate how we cannot allow this to happen.

This is potentially as, if not more, serious than the tripling of tuition fees in terms of the long term impact it could have on people’s lives. We need to be pulling out all the stops to prevent this from happening. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts have already called for action to take place this term and I urge students and unions across the country to begin campaigning on this issue. A couple of years ago, the government withdrew the Higher Education White Paper, fearing the backlash from the public. We must again deter them from worsening the conditions of our education and sinking us further into debt by making this move politically toxic for anyone involved. Look out for a forthcoming campaign by the Guild, letting people know what’s happening to their loans and what they can do about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments