An open letter to University of Bath Students’ Union

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Dear University of Bath Students’ Union,

On March 28th, student activists from all over the UK will come together to march in support of free education. The demonstration takes place in Birmingham, where the Labour Party universities spokesperson Liam Byrne holds his parliamentary seat. The march, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, is a demand for the Labour Party to listen to students and to commit to free higher education ahead of the general election.

This event follows a 10,000-strong Free Education march in London last November, as well as many demos, protests and actions across the country. Locally, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts have organised two well-attended marches through Bath city centre, as well as Vice Chancellor’s Day celebrations at both Bath and Bath Spa to highlight pay inequality at our universities.

University education in the UK is the most expensive in Europe, but it doesn’t have to be this way: tuition fees in Germany were abolished this academic year, but only after sustained pressure from student movements. Meanwhile, other countries with no HE fees include Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Finland – and Scotland!

We believe education is a right, not a privilege, and that it benefits society as a whole. It is a public good that should be provided free of charge to students, and paid for by progressive taxation on large businesses and the wealthiest in society, many of whom benefitted from free education themselves.

Labour introduced and increased tuition fees, and oversaw many of the changes that have led to extensive damaging marketisation of the education sector. Until recently, they had shown no signs of changing tack. But after the demonstration in London, and months of local actions around the country since, free education is firmly back on the agenda. In the last few months, Labour first speculated about reducing tuition fees and then about replacing fees with a graduate tax. These are small and inadequate steps in the right direction, but they show that direct action is working. Now we need to increase the pressure even more – by joining the march to tell Liam Byrne and the Labour Party that we will accept nothing less than free education.

We therefore request that the University of Bath Students’ Union supports students, and the free education campaign, by providing coach transport to Birmingham on Saturday 28th March.

A poll held last November found 86% of respondents were in favour of the SU supporting the London National Demo. That time round, the SU hid behind the excuse of health and safety risks to back out of supporting meaningful action. Whereas Bristol SU backed the demo and organised transport to it, students at Bath were left to make their own way. We hope that this time Bath SU see sense and realise that it is far more unhealthy and unsafe to load students with debt and to privatise our education system than it is for us to attend a protest march. We hope that Bath SU does the right thing and supports the campaign for free education with action, not just words.

Signed,

Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts

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