Free education? OUSU, you’re having a laugh

Why the NUS and OUSU’s new policy is absolute nonsense

Free Education nus ousu politics

Shakeel Hashim thinks OUSU knows less about economics than Russell Brand.

A couple of weeks ago, the OUSU council voted overwhelmingly in favour of supporting the NUS’ latest policy: that university education should be free for all.

And this week, students will be sent down to London to participate in the NUS’ big, totally meaningful protest. Transport costs are, of course, being funded by JCRs.

Probably won’t look like this

The sheer absurdity of this process struck me. Why exactly are the NUS proposing such an idiotic policy, why is OUSU supporting it, and why has no one realised the damage this could do to students?

The NUS’ motion, passed earlier this year, is utterly ludicrous, and quite possibly the flakiest thing you’ll read in weeks.

The council resolved to “reject the absurd idea that our society lacks the resources to provide decently for its citizens” (because as we all know, the whole concept of a deficit was made up), and demanded that free education should be instituted by the next government.

5.2k to 47k – Impressive turnout to invited ratio

How will we pay for this, you might quite sensibly ask. Ah, the NUS have thought of that. We’re going to “end tax evasion”, “impose serious taxes on the incomes of the rich” and “take the banks under democratic control”.

It’s like a five year old wrote this. Somehow, I lack the confidence that the NUS have single handedly managed to solve all the issues with our economy, and I have little faith that their understanding of economics is any better than what a preteen might have picked up from a brief flick through Freakonomics and a skim read of Russell Brand’s new book.

This isn’t the place to explain how you can’t just “end tax evasion” without serious repercussions, or how “imposing serious taxes on the rich” may well cause the rich to…well…leave.

Their jokes are as bad as their policies

And the concept of free education is absurd in and of itself: why exactly should the government subsidise your utterly useless Media Studies degree? Hopefully this doesn’t need to be laid out too much – the economic nonsense is self evident.

But let’s be fair: we can’t expect the NUS to be masters of economic policy. We can’t even expect OUSU to be better (although it does disturb me that the so-called ‘brightest minds of our generation’ voted in favour of such nonsense).

At the end of the day, at least the NUS is standing up for something. Better that than sitting around doing nothing, right?


By constantly trotting out utopian scenarios and bullshit policies, the NUS is undermining itself.

Ultimately, it exists for a reason: to allow the views of students to be heard in a political context. It’s a mouthpiece. And when that mouthpiece constantly vomits shitty rainbows all over the place, people tend to stop listening.

To rephrase with less graphic imagery: no one can take the NUS (and, by default, students) seriously if they continue to show a fundamental misunderstanding of how society functions. We want politicians to take students’ opinions into account, but if we support motions like this they will just ignore us. It makes students seem self-centred and selfish – reinforcing the “millennial” image that we should be trying hard to shed.

Nothing more than a stock photo

If, rather than this ludicrous demand for free education,  OUSU put its weight behind a policy proposing lower tuition fees, we might be able to get some traction.

Even if we simply expressed strong resistance to any further increase in fees, we might be able to get somewhere (although the fact that students cost the university roughly twice as much as what they receive in grants and fees is something that will need to be addressed in future).

But by going all out and demanding something so unfeasible that it’s never going to happen, especially in a situation where lowering tuition fees isn’t remotely on the political horizon, we’re damaging our future potential to achieve change.

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