The executive council of the National Union of Students (NUS) has voted to throw its weight behind a demonstration which will call for the abolition of tuition fees.
The protest – organised by a coalition of student activists, including the Student Assembly Against Austerity, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and the Young Greens – is due to take place on 19th November. Protesters will call for free education and the abolition of student debt, funded through “ending tax evasion and avoidance”, “imposing serious taxes on the incomes…of the rich” and “taking the banks, and their wealth, under democratic control”.
The NUS National Executive Council’s (NEC) vote follows a motion passed at NUS National Conference, which committed the NUS to free education. Proponents of the November demonstration argued that this provided a mandate for the NUS to back the demo, although opponents pointed out that the same conference saw delegates reject a proposal for the NUS to hold its own demonstration on the issue.
Labour Students, the student wing of the Labour Party and an active grouping within the NUS, expressed opposition to the motion over social media. Michael Rubin, a Labour Students member and member of the NUS NEC, said that a 2012 education demo organised by the NUS had failed: “No-one listened, no-one cared and we all got very damp”.
“[This demo] is the wrong tactic for the wrong reasons”, Michael said. “Less than 10 months out from the general election, we can’t afford to carry on being self-indulgent and wasting our time on tactics that won’t deliver for the students we were elected to represent. While thousands of students are about to be taking off the electoral register by a Tory-Lib Dem coalition terrified of the student vote, I struggle to see how a national demo changes the outcome of the general election”.
However, other members of the NEC defended the demo. James Elliott, an NUS NEC member and member of the NCAFC National Committee said: “It is great that the NUS has followed the mandate of conference to campaign for free education. We know that free education is not won just by passing policy, but by taking concrete action on the streets and in our communities and colleges.
I am glad that the NUS has caught up with the students it represents who have already been working hard to build the demonstration”.
The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) supports free education but has not yet taken a position on the demo. Chris Jarvis, Campaigns & Democracy Officer at UUEAS, said:
“As of yet, UUEAS hasn’t made a decision as to whether it will be funding people to attend the demonstration on the 19th. UUEAS policy on Higher Education funding currently calls for the shift away from fees and supports the move towards free education for all on the grounds the education should be a right not a privilege”.