Category Archives: student fees

Young people demand – FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL

Belfast SY Public Meeting on why you should fight for socialism

Thousands of secondary school students awaited A-level and GCSE results anxiously last month. Again it was another record-breaking year for Northern Ireland students who again improved on the previous years results. But even pupils who have achieved top grades will be forced to compete for the miniscule amount of university places on offer. This, and the fact that the education budget faces cuts of 25% this year, leaves tens of thousands of young people in the North without any access to education or a decent job.

By Patrick McGeown, Socialist Youth Lurgan

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Campaign to scrap €20 health charge established in UCD

By Elisa O’Donovan

UCD ARE planning to introduce a fee of ?20 per visit, each time a student uses the health service on campus. Presently, students are not charged when they see the doctor/nurse, but pay a fee towards the health service annually in their registration fee. The health service is vital for the students of UCD.

It provides year long access to all types of medical treatment, from medical emergencies to a contraception clinic. The centre is paramount to maintaining both the physical and mental well being of all students on campus.

However, for a number of years the student health service has been chronically under-funded, with a minimum waiting time of two weeks to see a doctor. The college’s response to the lack of resourses and medical staff in the centre is to charge students each time they see a doctor/nurse. However, forcing students to pay for their health care is not the answer. A health service fee will only further isolate students from seeing a doctor.

When asked why no university money is being put into a service so central to students’ well being, UCD said there was “no extra money” to put into funding the student health service. Yet last year, UCD authorities spent ?4million on PR firm fees, in order to sell the UCD “brand”. The college is also spending millions of euro in renovating the campus with plush new plants, water features and plasma screens throughout the university.

Is it right that in a college of 20,000 students there’s only one psychiatrist available one afternoon a week, with a two month waiting list? Or that a student struggling to pay their rent with a chronic condition such as epilepsy or depression will have to pay €20 each time they need medical attention?

Students have successfully fought back against the college before. When library cutbacks were threatened hundreds of students took action with a library sit-in resulting in an extended library service. Student protests have also continually prevented the reintroduction of 3rd level fees.  UCD students must get organised to defend their health service and demand that it is properly funded by the college authorities.

Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford… Desperate students turn to prostitution

By Elisa O’Donovan

Students across Ireland are having to resort to prostitution in order to pay their way through college.

“19 year old Waterford student, tall attractive, badly in need of a few quid”; “Open minded, young sociology student looking for fun”.

Adverts such as these are now common among the booming business of escort agencies in Ireland – a business that is thriving on the financial insecurities of young female and male students.

It is becoming increasingly more expensive for students to further their education in Ireland. With many students unable to afford decent accommodation or even books for their course, and with agencies such as Escort Ireland network offering students ?135 an hour it is not difficult to see why students are being reduced to selling their bodies in order to afford a decent standard of living. One agency, D4 escort agency, even boasts “many of our ladies are students or recent graduates”.

The lack of any decent affordable accommodation for students reached crisis point this summer with some students having to resort to sleeping on the streets . The maximum higher education grant stands at ?3,420 yet students living in Dublin can expect to pay ?500 a month on accommodation costs alone. With the maximum grant hardly covering living expenses let alone money for food, books, lab equipment etc. students are forced to work low paid inflexible jobs which badly affect their studies. The governments inaction on students plight has only pushed students to desperate measures such as prostitution to see them through their course. The student support bill which was to offer a definite schedule for reform of the grants system is now 6 months overdue.

There is no doubt that the gradual glamorisation of the so-called “sex industry” has had an impact on the attitudes of some students towards prostitution. Escort agencies promise glamour by showing pictures of models in luxury hotels with expensive underwear however the reality is very different. A large majority of prostitutes experience violence including rape, at the hands of men who pay for sex.

When asked about the increasing number of students having to turn to prostitution to pay their way through college, Education Minister, Mary Hannafin ,said she was “appalled” at the situation.

But the government is responsible for this scandal. USI should take on the government and mobilise students nationally in a campaign for a living grant for all students.

North: Breakthrough for socialists in northern colleges

By Daniel Waldron, QUB Socialist Society

Students in the North today face huge debt, exploitation by profit-hungry landlords and a future of insecure, poor quality jobs. However, the Socialist Societies are building a radical alternative for students to organise to fight for a better future.

In Queen’s more than 50 people joined the Society. Already we have had lively discussions on issues like the mass movements in Latin America and the rebellion that has taken place in Burma, to draw out the lessons of these struggles, and more events are planned. In Coleraine, where we are an officially recognised society for the first time, a debate was held on the merits of fair trade. But the Societies are not just talking shops.

In Queen’s, we held a protest outside the Vice Chancellor’s office on the issue of student fees. Mr Gregson and his friends in the Russell Group of elite universities want fees to go as high as £10,000 per year as part of the agenda of making education profitable so it can be handed over to big business. We got an excellent response from students on the issue. Not surprisingly, the Vice Chancellor, who benefitted from free education, was not available to receive the bill we produced for how much his education would cost him if he were a student today!

This is an issue that the Socialist Societies are determined to fight to organise students on. Under pressure from a campaign initiated by Socialist Students in Britain, NUS/USI are organising a series of protests. One will take place at Stormont on 19th November. No doubt, they want this to be a token protest where they can cosy up to the politicians but we will be mobilising ordinary students from all campuses where we are organised to make sure the MLAs really get the message about what we think of fees!

In Queen’s and Coleraine, the Socialist Society is fast becoming established as the most active and combative political voice for students. Despite anti-free speech censorship against political groups in Jordanstown, activists went along to the Fresher’s Day and met with a number of students enthusiastic to fight for their right to organise and build a Socialist Society on campus.
If you are tired of the situation students face today and want to get involved in the fight against the capitalist system which breed poverty, war and discrimination, join the Socialist Society on your campus today! Contact 07821058319 for more details.

North: Scrap fees – Free education for all

by Daniel Waldron 

Students today face an increasing struggle to meet the financial costs of studying for a degree. The loans we receive are simply inadequate to survive on, especially when the extortionate price of private rental accommodation and many basic commodities are taken into account.

And of course, when we have finished our degree, we are burdened with the huge debt that we have been forced to take on.

This problem has been exacerbated by the introduction of top-up fees as high as £3,000 a year. Many young people, particularly from working class backgrounds, are wary of going into higher education because the cost of getting a degree may well outweigh the benefits in the future. Applications to university from Northern Ireland fell 11% last year!

Student loans and top-up fees are part of the neo-liberal agenda of New Labour, who want to turn all public services, such as education, into private enterprises run for profit, not those who use them. But students can fight back! Many of the capitalist ministers implementing these attacks on students today got their degrees under a system of free education and grants. These gains were won through struggles of workers and young people, fighting for a better future. Determined action by students can force the government back again.

The potential power of students was shown in the movement against the CPE, a draconian youth employment law in France in 2005. Hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets and occupied campuses. The working class came out in support of the struggle, recognising that the CPE was part of an offensive by the government against all workers. This movement rocked French society and forced the government to scrap the law. And this is only one example!

The Socialist Societies and our sister organisations in Britain have launched the Campaign to Defeat Fees to help students organise to fight for free education. The campaign has got a huge response, pushing the NUS to take action on the issue. We also campaign on many other issues, including the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the destruction of our environment, sectarianism and racism.

However, the root of all these problems is the capitalist system, which puts a tiny, rich elite in economic and political control of our world. If you want to fight against capitalism and the destruction that it brings, and for a socialist world run by the millions, not the millionaires, join the Socialist Society on your campus today!

Wed 10 October, Outside Vice-Chancellors Office, Lanyon Building QUB

For more details contact:
Queens: 07821058319
Jordanstown: 07786874718
Coleraine: 07837510885
Magee: 07876146473

North: Working class students need not apply for Uni

By Daniel Waldron, QUB Socialist Society

Northern Ireland is becoming a cold house for working class young people wishing to enter higher education.

The new financial arrangement New Labour introduced last year, which brought in top-up fees of up to £3,000 per year, has hit the North harder than any other area, with an 11% drop in applications over all.

This is largely because wages are lower in Northern Ireland than in Britain on average and there is a high level of poverty. Students from working class backgrounds are wary about taking on the huge amount of debt studying for a degree now entails. According to the University of Ulster, applications from those in the ‘two lowest social groups’ fell 5.2% and 10.3% respectively.

For those already in university, struggling to pay the bills is getting more difficult as well. The boom in house prices in the recent period, driven by profit-hungry speculators, means that students are being forced to pay extortionate levels of rent.

The cost of basic necessities is also considerably higher than the UK average. Belfast ranked 19th out of 27 university towns in a survey of cost-effectiveness. Thus, more students, particularly those from less well off families, are being forced to work part-time jobs where they are exploited as cheap labour.

These trends reflect the over-all assault on public, accessible education by New Labour, backed by their neo-liberal cronies in university management. If unchallenged, their agenda will mean higher education becoming again a luxury for the well-off, under the control of big business, run for profit, not for students.

Queen’s University has recently been admitted to the elite Russell Group, which includes Oxford and Cambridge. Plans have been announced to increase the average UCAS points required to gain entry to a course in Queen’s to 400. This is the equivalent of 2 A grades, a B and a D at A-Level. Peter Gregson, the university vice-chancellor says this is an attempt to attract ‘high quality students’. In reality it will be a system that greatly favours the well-off, who can afford extra tuition and can spend more time on their studies.

Gregson has also echoed calls by others in the Russell Group for universities to charge even greater tuition fees and for higher education to become more ‘business friendly’, in other words run to meet the needs of bosses who wish to exploit our skills.

Socialists believe education is a right not a privilege. We call for free, properly funded, public education with a living grant for students, not the burden of loans and tuition fees. As part of this struggle, Socialist Societies across the North this year will continue to build the Campaign to Defeat Fees along with our sister organisations in Britain. Get active on your campus!

North: Socialist students say “Scrap tuition fees now!”

By Daniel Waldron

The Socialist Society in Queen’s University held a protest demanding free education on 22 February, as part of a national day of action by the Campaign to Defeat Fees. Protests led by Socialist Students, our sister organisation, were held across England and Wales, with thousands taking part.

At the protest in Belfast, speakers from the Socialist Society pointed to the huge burden that fees have created for students from working class backgrounds. The average student today will leave university with over £22,000 in crippling debt. This is already putting young people off entering higher education, with a 17% drop in applications to universities in Northern Ireland for this academic year.

Contrary to New Labour’s spin, fees have not led to better services for students. Across the country, cuts, privatisation and job losses are the reality.

Blair’s government want more “partnership” between the private sector and universities. The CBI (federation representing big business) has said it wants to see private interests being given direct control over how money is invested in education, allowing them to slash funding from courses which they don’t deem to be useful! This would mean education only for the rich, run in the interests of the fat cats.

Meanwhile, some university Vice Chancellors, many receiving salaries of almost £150,000, are pushing for top-up fees to be raised to £10,000 a year! This proposal would completely push working-class people out of higher education. The Vice Chancellors themselves got their degrees for free, with a grant rather than a loan.

The Queen’s University management has fully supported the introduction of tuition and top-up fees, and has been complicit in New Labour’s privatisation agenda. In protest, the QUB Socialist Society plans to present Vice Chancellor, Peter Gregson, with a bill for what he would have paid for his education if he were a student today. However, we doubt he will dig into his pockets and pay up the way he expects us to!