What ever happened to cuts?
Gabriel Pogrund laments our collective apathy
UCLU yesterday celebrated a “victory for democracy” and the success of a campaign against reforms to the university’s governing charter, Statute 18, which threatened teachers’ jobs and streamlined the process for cuts to (and even cancellation of) courses.
Good job UCLU. (Yep, the Tab just said that.)
The article touched on a topic conspicuously absent on campus: cuts. Only a three years ago, 50,000 vociferous students marched on parliament protesting against the tuition fees cap rising to £9000.
“When I say Tory, you say scum! Tory – scum! Tory – Scum!” they chanted outside Westminster. It was the end for higher education. No one would ever cough up that amount for university. You’ve got to be joking! I’ll buy a Mazda convertible and keep my job instead.
Armed with effigies of Nick Clegg – and posters suggesting he “must die” – students issued the heartiest middle finger to Britain’s political establishment in a generation. The Duchess of Cornwall and her poor husband’s motorcade was attacked. A besieged Millbank Tower was stormed. One student dropped a fire extinguisher off its roof. Fortunately riot police below were unharmed, though across the week, fourteen were hospitalised. It was chaos.
The President of one student union suggested that “this is the day a generation of politicians learn that though they might forget their promises, students won’t.”
Well, it appears we in fact have… two year groups already pay the full £9000 monty of fees and soon, every one will be doing so. We forgot about the Higher Education Act of 1998 (or rather, were still gobbling apple puree), which imposed the now very dear looking £3290 cap to begin with and, in spite of the big words and protests like “Demolition 10.10.10”, we seemed to have forgotten about this too.
And if we’ve not forgotten, we’ve hung up our anarchist anoraks and submitted to a government the leaders of whom were the subject of death threats and mock hangings only recently. The end of higher education? Probably not. Enrollment numbers are higher than ever. The end of Nick Clegg? Unlikely. There are groups like Bloomsbury Fightback! that attempt to keep policymakers in check but it seems to be a lost battle.
Maybe we’ll wake up to austerity and jump back on the bandwagon in due course. As fees are more accurately ‘instant debt,’ the entire affair is a ticking time bomb. When entering the world of real things like regularly priced booze, employment, and “tax” (still not entirely sure what that one is), the profligacy of a three year stint of wining and dining in Bloomsbury will dawn upon the hundreds of cash-strapped grads desperate for shifts chopping carrots, selling old Pokémon cards to make it through the winter.
Right now, however, the entire affair seems to have passed us by. What ever happened the power of youth, to student protest? Your overdraft offers a compelling answer.