How to hit tuition fees without violence

The Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts march yesterday (11/11/10) was an eye-opener for many reasons.


One reason why it drew our attention was the lack of unity shown by the student reps. The NUS leader seemed more intent on covering his own back by saying that the violence had overshadowed the purpose of the demo, while other union reps – less concerned with cosying up to current politicians – seemed happier to justify the violence and predict more to come.

Our advice is that the students bodies get together and show a united front. But, also, we urge non-violence, as it simply criminalises proceedings and the matter at hand is lost in the smoke and mirrors of media images and MPs diversionary soundbites. For example, Cameron is already claiming he was deeply concerned for the welfare of staff in Tory HQ even though we know opposite the ‘violence’, patrons of a pizza parlour were happily chomping away seemingly unperturbed by what was going on, if anything was.

Hypothetically-speaking, if students really wanted to hurt universities, then they could think for starters about how unis are assessed and rated. For one thing, there is the Annual Student Survey. You would think that it wouldn’t take much organising for this to be sabotaged by misresponding and presenting the uni in the worst possible light. By doing so, unis would worry that under current conditions no parent or future student would consider them, and have no choice but to offer more reasonable terms to them including, you would hope, lower fees. The beauty of the market is that if you can’t compete on quality, you can on price.

Hypothetically-speaking, also, and this would take much more unity and personal sacrifice, students could deliberately not submit their assessments or sit exams. Now, of course, this would be asking a lot, but would have the effect of hitting unis where it hurts i.e. league tables and grade awards. The lower the degree classifications the uni awards, the less likely a student will wish to go there. Oxbridge have been playing the grade-inflation game a long time but this would be impossible if students deliberately underachieved. They wouldn’t be able to differentiate themselves by number of degree awards or table position. Again, they would have to offer something else to pull in students i.e. lower fees

The third option, and one that takes no effort at all, is that the unis charge the full whack (£9000) and then no-one can or wishes to go to university anymore. The effect will be that reforms designed, it would seem, to maintain salary levels for more senior staff and retain funding for status quo subjects (i.e. science) will actually lead to the bankruptcy of the very institutions that the reforms were intended to save. Like signing your own death warrant, and without the violence…hypothetically of course!

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