The National Union of Students (NUS) hosted its first-ever ‘Student Strike for Education’ in Central London yesterday (Wednesday 2nd March) in a bid to build strong student momentum behind its “New vision for education” campaign.
Despite the national advertising campaign running up to the day – largely carried out via social media – the event attracted around only 300 hundred people with this figure reducing further after the first scheduled hour.
The campaign calls for radical policy reform from the Department of Education including the abolishment of tuition fees, the “demarketisation” and “decolonisation” of the higher education system and an end to ableism within all national higher education institutions.
With the two former issues having been at the heart of the reactionary student riots seen across the country in August 2011, many student reps attending expected the event to be well attended and supported.
A student council member from the University of Westminster described to Concrete the extent of their disappointment: “There’s just no point in this – the NUS have completely failed in utilising anywhere near a significant student base to put even minute pressure on the Department for Education or our senior management. We can shout these powerful words through microphones as much as we like – but nothing will get done if there isn’t enough momentum or intelligent organisation by the NUS and individual uni SU’s. It’s just so disappointing to see for someone like me who so passionately wants systemic change”.
Evelyn Parker, a ‘Socialist Students’ representative, added: “There’s been a lot of energetic language and rightful challenging of the current government’s educational agenda today – but I don’t feel the NUS and the student community in general are really getting anywhere with presenting solid and radical alternative policies. There might be a lot of passion amongst the few hundred students here, but this needs to become a mass movement and we’re so far off that right now”.
Alongside the live event, the NUS’ own online campaign petition stood at 1000 signatories (at the time of the event) – representing just 1% of the 100,000 needed to have the policy issues raised in Parliament. Questions will undoubtedly be asked as to the effectiveness of the current senior campaign and marketing team within the organisation ahead of its Officer election campaigns which begin next week.