Southampton uni students fight fees

15 12 2008

southamptonAROUND 100 students attended a Campaign to Defeat Fees (CDF) protest at Southampton University on 1 December. The protest and the strength of the event highlighted the opposition to fees but also marked a new stage in the struggle around the possible lifting of the cap on top-up fees in 2009.

Ben Robinson, Socialist Students Southampton

Vice-chancellors have been lobbying the government to be able to charge £6,000 a year or more, a doubling of the present rate. But the protest in Southampton, and the presence of a well organised group of activists with wide support, will have made that university’s management think twice about publicly backing calls for higher fees.

 

They were forced, when asked by ITV regional news, to issue a very defensive statement which claimed that the university is taking no stance! However, Southampton is part of the elite Russell group of universities which are to the fore in calling for higher fees.

Scandalously, the students’ union only attended the demonstration to tell the press that they were not backing it! Local activists had campaigned for official backing but after weeks of frustration and bureaucracy, organised a successful protest without official support. When the students union officials were asked by the rally organisers if they wanted to explain to the protest why they weren’t supporting it, they sheepishly declined!

The protest was the culmination of weeks of hard work by a number of activists, led by Southampton Socialist Students members.

Students also attended from Solent Institute, links were made with local colleges, and the protest got coverage in the local and regional press. There were speakers from Sussex Students Union, Socialist Students, the Youth Parliament, the University and College Union, as well as a message of support from John McDonnell MP.

A CDF meeting was held in the evening, which was attended by students interested in getting active in the campaign. It was agreed to organise further action in the New Year, including a debate and to organise in support of the protest in London on 25 February.

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