Dit artikel verscheen eerder in Krantje Boord nr. 4 December:
door Merel de Buck & Jeremy Crowlesmith
British students have finally said enough is enough. In response to new cuts and fees in education, tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets and a wave of university occupations have broken out across the UK.
Tuition fees were introduced in 1998 and we hardly heard a squeak; they were bumped up to over £3,000 in 2006 and no student revolted. However, student’s response to the new government’s plans is crystal clear: ‘enough is enough.’ Students are angry and worried about decreasing access and deteriorating quality of higher education. This is due to government plans to charge up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees for students, trebling the current amount. This is combined with 40% cuts in funding for higher education, of which 80% will be cut out of teaching.
These cuts in education, described as the biggest since 1919, are part of a wider austerity programme which the conservative government is imposing on the population. Cuts have been targeted disproportionately at those groups in society who can least afford it and did the least to cause the financial crisis in the first place. Not just students are being hit hard, for example, due to cuts in housing benefits an estimated 200.000 people will have to leave the city of London, because they will not be able to afford their homes any longer.
Student protests reached new heights this month when on November 10th, 50.000 people responded to the call of the National Student Union (NUS) to march the streets of London. At the end of the march, a group of 200 students carried on to occupy the Conservative Party Campaign HQ. On November 25th, a nationwide wave of protest was called for by independent student groups, recently organized against the government plans; thousands walked out of classes, marched through town centers and a large group, facing heavy police’s repression, even tried to occupy the house of parliament.
“The protests in the UK are young, militant and spirited; an inspiration to all those fighting cuts.”
The radicalization of the student movement is seen by many as a prelude of things to come. The actions show that some students are disillusioned with the National Union of Students ‘protest and lobby’ model. There has been a significant segment of the student movement that has been pushing for more drastic action for a while and this segment has swelled to include a much wider section of the student community. This opens many possibilities and expectations about radical action in the foreseeable future. The protests in the UK are young, militant and spirited; an inspiration to all those fighting cuts.
“Will the ‘protest and lobby’ model be enough to actually block the cuts?“
Returning to the Dutch situation, the big question for the student community in the Netherlands is this: will the ‘protest and lobby’ model that Dutch student unions also use be enough to actually block the cuts that are being proposed by our government? And if not, how can we build an effective student movement? Clearly we can learn from our fellow students in the UK.