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Student Demonstration Time

November 12, 2010

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of students descended on London to show their disagreement with the planned increase in University fees. I had considered going myself, as a dropout. I’m glad I didn’t, and not just because I don’t work well in crowds.

The protest was planned to go past Millbank, the headquarters of the Conservative party. The police assumed that the protest would be as peaceful as advertised. They only sent 225 officers.

Many people will claim that direct action doesn’t work. The actions of the invaders of Millbank (broken windows, fires) certainly don’t help the cause of reducing fees for students. But does no direct action work? Reports were coming in Wednesday night of a “free university” that had taken over parliament square. They were showing that education could be free and avaliable to all, not causing random vandalism. That’s still direct action.

Your average, walking through the streets waving placards protest? That’s what doesn’t work. They are necessary when standing in front of people is the only way to communicate, or when all our lines of communication are censored, but this is the internet age. We do not have to rely on news organisations to spot an incident for them to report about it – we can send our own press releases out. A good blogpost can reach hundreds of people, and the readers will be more likely to know what the issue is than by trying to decipher chants and read placards. The internet is, admittedly, better for national and international campaigns, and there will always be a place for a person with a stack of leaflets, but I doubt that more than a quarter of the demonstrators in London yesterday knew the issue well enough to explain it to someone else.

I haven’t really researched this. However, I have been hanging around facebook whilst people have been debating this. I believe that I have noticed a major flaw in the system. But please note, I am not an economist.

Students will still be able to get student loans for the new amount they have to pay, and ex-students will only have to pay this back once they have reached a certain income level. Therefore, you will only have to pay back your student loan when you can afford it. This argument is used by the people who wish everyone else to shut up about fees. However, I think this argument is the most solid reason not to increase fees.

Imagine the scene. It’s 50 years time. The people who have these massive student debts are just coming up for retirement. Whatever bank owns these debts realises that it will never get them paid off. This leads to a sudden realisation through the banking sector that there is a lot less money knocking around than they thought there was.

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the American subprime mortgage incident. We all know where that led – this recession. And though I expect less money will be lent in student loans than in subprime mortgages, I believe that this government’s actions is setting up for another recession. And they’ll no longer be around for us to blame.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2010 09:35

    I think that the education loan situation is a little bit different than the subprime mortgage debacle. I think that, firstly, if you’re going to a public school your student debts are going to be a fraction of what you would pay to buy a house, at least where I live. Secondly, university education directly correlates with increased earning potential so, in a sense, when the bank is loaning you money they are assuming that you’ll be able to use your education to make enough money to pay it back even though before your degree you are not capable of doing so: They are recognizing that even though you would not be able to pay them back in your current situation they are financing the acquisition of the tools with which you will use to repay them.

    … That is, of course, assuming that your degree is in something economically applicable like engineering or a hard science (or something like clinical psychology) and that you’re able to get a job in your field. My field, for example, it is difficult to obtain a job in the field unless you get one soon after graduation, which sucks. So… caveats.

    ~~

    On the other hand, rioting over something like this is certainly not helpful, especially when it is a generally privileged group doing it who already have a measure of public support. On the other hand, I can see situations, like Stonewall, where a riot can really galvanize a fragmented and disorganized movement. It’s just not going to score you any points with outsiders.

    • November 15, 2010 16:09

      I know that this is the wrong time to judge how likely a person in general is to get a well-paid job after a degree, but I’m not aware of any of my friends who have graduated in the last couple of years to have gone onto a degree-specific job. A couple have gone onto further study, some are working in admin, and one is working in Marks and Spencers on the shop floor.

      ~~~

      The riots at Stonewall had a direct causal link with the subject they were rioting about. Stonewall was about police officers taking people into the bar toilets to check what sex they were, and the trans people, drag artists and other gender non-conformists were no longer standing for it. The student body has been told by the NUS (National Union of Students) that it has to dislike the measures being brought in. The student riot was at an event showing just how coordinated the movement is (I can’t call it organised) and there can be no large, self-organised student activism while the NUS claims monopoly on it.

      • November 18, 2010 00:50

        I’m confused, how can anybody claim that they have the sole right to organize for anybody?!

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