OVER 200 students protested against fees at the University of Ulster on 2 December 2008. Protests supposed to be organised on the same day by Queen’s Students’ Union and NUS-USI (Student Union organisation) were called off for an Assembly “review” on fees.
In Coleraine, the protest initially was called against the annual inflationary increase in fees. Students then marched to the main entrance of the University and staged a sit down protest. The students demands of “UUC – No more fees” and “Fees, fees, fees – No, No, No” went far beyond just the £80 increase in December. For a video of the protest you can visit www.socialistsociety.wordpress.com.
The Socialist spoke to Susan Lagton a Socialist Society member at Coleraine University about the protest: “I was really glad to see so many students out against fees on the day. It is ridiculous that other campuses did not go ahead with the protest when not enough is being done. We should have all protested in sync to oppose fees.”
QUBSU and the NUS-USI called off protests when they were offered a place on the Assembly’s recently announced Independent Review Panel on fees. This would be the first review of fees since top-up fees were introduced in 2004. But how independent is this new panel on fees?
The Minster announced that Joanne Stuart would chair the panel. Ms Stuart is presently the chairperson for the Institute of Directors, a support and lobby group for business. The Institute of Directors states it “has always championed the entrepreneur and seeks to provide an environment conducive to business success.” Will the new independent chair of the review panel seek to champion the entrepreneur over ordinary students by opening up higher education even further to big business?
Many university, school and tech students are angry at the cost of education and huge financial burden it puts on people. What is making students even angrier is that their students’ unions are doing nothing about it.
The question on the minds of many students is what can we do now to defeat fees? The recent struggle in the south against the introduction of fees can point a way forward. Over 15,000 students took to the streets of Dublin in one day against the doubling of their registration fee and the possibility of fees. Dozens of large protests have taken place in all the major university towns in the South. It is important students here do the same and join the campaign to defeat fees.