Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dear Students, it's nice to have you back!

If there's a lesson in life we should all learn it's that students must never break windows unless they're members of the Bullingdon Club...

Typical of state propaganda to focus on broken windows instead of a government breaking the education system.

I was at Millbank yesterday. It was London's biggest student protest for years and there was a fine showing from 25-50,000 students AND lecturers on the march. Compared to the importance of this major attack on university education, the spot of trouble there was is being over-reported. Typical of state propaganda to focus on broken windows instead of government breaking the education system. I was at Millbank for a considerable time. There were a few hundred students and others there and some of the number were angry and determined. There were indeed a few broken windows. There appear to have been pockets of aggression at the front near the police - and riot police - and an attempt to occupy the building. I didn't see the fire extinguisher that apparently was thrown - but then neither did it hit anyone. I'm also aware that the police could have escalated it and, this time, didn't. As one student interviewed there said: "This is scary - but not as scary as what's happening to our future."

"Nick Clegg, shame on you! Shame on you for turning blue!"

The single most frightening event was when riot police suddenly formed up in front of the main entrance. This panicked a lot of people who feared the worst, turned and ran. But it detracts from the importance of the much larger demonstration to focus on a few broken windows, or a few tussles with police on the part of a few who don't represent the vast majority. This part of the demo wasn't entirely peaceful but there was no riot to speak of. I hear a few people were taken to hospital. I don't know what for. The only person I saw being attended to was a girl a couple of hundred yards away who seemed to be suffering from cold or something when I passed her.

The state monopoly on violence will mean thousands more die this winter through not getting the care they need.

I'm also sure what violence there was was condemned by the NUS itself. But let's just remember that in our 21st century Britain it's the state itself that claims the monopoly on violence, and does violence to society again and again with its postcode lotteries for health, its attacks on benefits and pensions with a cold winter approaching, with this major attack on university education with 100s of percents hikes in fees to see students facing future bills the size of mortgages, and, especially, with November 20th's Time To Leave Afghanistan march approaching, a state which has no qualms exporting the most serious violence abroad with no remorse even to wars built on lies.

So well done to all concerned yesterday. And , dear students, it's nice to have you back!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Student debt debate

Student debt debate

This new regime proposed by the Con Dems, puts UK education amongst the most expensive in the world whereas the Green Party wants to see education free including at university level, and to fund it by tax changes for those on 100k and over, among other changes.
At least £20K for fees over 3 years, plus a similar amount for accommodation and living expenses, will be hanging over most graduates for a good deal of their working lives, and may have to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 plus over 30 years - much like a mortgage. Many young people would feel intimidated by this prospect and the total number of students is likely to fall. If a graduate who was in employment later lost his/her job, the debt would remain on the books and actually increase as there is an interest charge, so that if the graduate returns to employment in a job earning more than £21,000 pa, s/ he will stand to pay back the added charge in the long run.
The position of the very poorest students was better covered, but the implication for those just above the bread line would be serious . Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have made the economic argument that these changes are necessary and "progressive", but the changes are going to hurt and there will be political repercussions, if not on the scale of the derided poll tax, but widely and permanently. The shift from state responsibility for the costs of higher education on to the shoulders of the individual is going to be profound. with thanks for commentary from Peter Reeve.