Hot on the heels of a national protest for free education two weeks ago, a group of UEA students are organising a “mass stunt” on campus to demand the abolition of tuition fees and higher living grants. It is planned for 3rd December, and will start in the Hive at 12 noon on that day.
Defend Education UEA – founded earlier this year to oppose the privatisation of student debt – is organising the demo. The group advocates “an education system that is free from fees, that is fair and is accessible to all”, as well as calling for cuts to benefits to be reversed and restrictions on migration to be ended.
The group argues that other countries like Germany and Scotland have abolished tuition fees, and that Germany abolished them after “a huge, radical and widespread campaign for free education”.
Chris Jarvis, Campaigns & Democracy at the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), is involved with Defend Education UEA. He told Concrete:
“With tuition fees at £9,000, cuts to education funding, the scapegoating of international students, reform to DSA, squeezes on staff pay and pensions, and the slashing of bursaries and scholarships, access to education is for many becoming more of a myth and less of a reality. Instead of an education system that works for all, Universities are undergoing a lengthy process of marketization and privatisation which prices the poor and disadvantaged out of ever getting a degree.
“Not only are Defend Education calling for the abolishment of tuition fees, they are also calling for a more inclusive, accessible education system”.
However, free education has not been received without controversy; a proposal at Union Council to support free education was opposed by some student union officers, including the Undergraduate Education officer, who argued that the demand was not practical. The free education proposal was, however, passed by a vote of 79 to 8. The National Union of Students conference in April also saw a heated debate over the issue; a proposal for free education was voted through by delegates despite opposition from the NUS President, Toni Pearce.
The protest on December 3rd is supported by the student union, as well as UEA Green Party, UEA People and Planet and Counterfire UEA.