Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Support your local students

They haven't gone away you know, as a great man once said. While the newspapers have been distracted, the students have been planning another big demonstration today (though there's no sign of it here at The Hegemon).

It's the same issues: fees, the effective privatisation of universities, and the government's decision to penalise future generations for the failings of the economic models they and their predecessors promoted. It baffles me: every government (rightly) talks about the need for a high-tech, knowledge economy - but no government will ever admit that this a) costs money and b) is a public good.

So what do they do? The Metropolitan Police have decided to put down the brown envelopes for a day, and have spent the last week loudly talking about using plastic bullets - like it's Ireland in the 1980s - and harassing those they arrested last time, whether they were charged with anything or not. Clearly they've missed the days of the Miners' Strike and the Poll Tax riots, and fancy a spot of teen-bashing.

Except, of course, that it's not just spoilt teenagers. My university's intake is 40% mature students trying to retrain themselves just as governments always tell them to. A large proportion have children or other dependents. The vast majority of our intake - of any age - is from the lowest economic centime: just the kind of people to whom the EMA, or a decent level of support, will make the difference. These people aren't scroungers, demanding something for nothing: they're the nurses, classroom assistants, teachers and social workers of the future, who quite rightly don't fancy taking on £50,000 of debt to qualify for a low-to-moderate salary and a slashed pension. Would you? They ARE the big society… and they're being cut off at the knees.

Follow the protests live here.

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