By Jennifer Nash
Next week students across the country will be taking part in a week of action to oppose the government’s latest attack on students and education: the planned privatisation of the student loan book. Activities are already planned at 50 university and college campuses nationwide.
The sell-off of student loans is just the latest major assault on education under the current government; following the tripling of tuition fees, the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) plus the austerity agenda which is hitting the living standards of students hard.
The Student Assembly Against Austerity is coordinating the national week of action. Last week, at its National Executive meeting, the National Union of Students voted to support the wave of protests, rallies, creative direct action and mass petitioning of MPs, that is expected to sweep across campuses next week.
A new generation of students are becoming active in the fight against austerity through the campaign to stop the sale of student loans, angered at the prospect of being burdened with much more debt than they bargained for if this privatisation is pushed through by the Tories.
A secret report for the government has confirmed that in order to ensure the student loan book is profitable for private companies the cap on interest for repayments would need to be increased. This means graduates would effectively face a retrospective hike in the cost of their tuition fees.
A national education strike of university staff is also taking place on 6 February (during the week of action), to demand fair pay and not yet another year of real term pay cuts. The student movement is also mobilising to support this to show unity in action in defence of the whole of education system against the Tories’ neo-liberal assault.
Next week’s national week of action will culminate in a ‘debt in’ protest outside the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills on Friday 7 February. Students will be assembling at 12 noon outside SOAS in central London.