Adam Crawley

Why Demo? Because your education needs help

On Saturday November 19th, Northumbria Students’ Union sabbatical officers are going down to London to demonstrate outside Parliament, and we want YOU to come with us.

Some of you might be wondering why we're doing this – what has some people walking round down south got to you with my degree in Newcastle? So I’m going to try and explain why we’re getting involved in the #Nov19 and why you should come too.

1) Education is being treated as a commodity, and students are being treated as ‘customers’

Education has changed immensely over the last few years. With more demand for education, universities have to be competitive, so are acting more like businesses than learning establishments. As such, students are being treated like customers.

Although students can use the ‘I’ve paid for this!’ argument when a change needs to be made, this is putting a price tag on your education, which devalues its importance. Focusing on how much you pay for a degree doesn’t reflect its quality or content and implies that the more you pay for your degree, the better it is. Which is, in true and proper terms, ridiculous.

The government has proposed huge changes to education that are, for want of a better word, worrying. The White Paper on Higher Education outlines these but the one example I’d like to focus on is the TEF.

The TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) is the governments’ proposal to monitor and assess quality in education providers. This will introduce changes such as rating universities by the scores they get in different metrics, such as the NSS (national student survey) which all final years fill out. This could make universities more focused on getting good scores in league tables by targeting its work than providing an amazing overall experience. Also, if universities score well in this, they could charge more for their degrees. This automatically means that those big, well resourced, and well established universities will, inevitably, be able to charge more for their degrees.

This is all very technical and a little dull but the impact of these changes could be catastrophic. The fact is, the way this is going could irrevocably transform education and our relationship with it, and not for the better.    

2) Education is stupidly expensive, and it’s getting worse

The cost of getting a degree has tripled since 2011 and it’s getting higher and higher. The cap on the £9000 fees has been lifted and it means that fees are linked to inflation. So, if inflation rises, so do tuition fees. Research suggests that you could be paying up to £12,000 a year for your education by 2026.

By putting a cost to education, this immediately makes it inaccessible for far too many. People from lower income backgrounds may be put off by the thought of enormous debt and would rather get into work than take the chance at education. On top of the increase in tuition fees themselves, the government has scrapped grants for students and replaced them with loans. This means that people who need more money will have to pay back more than those who didn’t need extra financial support. Not only that, funding for NHS students has completely changed as well, which could have a massive impact on students going into that profession, and also the NHS has a whole. 

With cost of living going through the roof and support for students getting less, going to university just isn’t feasible for some, and this needs to change.

3) The Government needs to know that students have a voice

When people think about politics and government, I’d put money on the fact that they think of white, middle-class, out of touch men arguing about things that don’t matter to them and, even if it does matter, they won’t listen to what students think.

The powers that be need to know that they can’t make decisions that affect the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people without consultation and consideration. Students need to be involved in politics because we are the people who will have to deal with the consequences.

On top of all the changes directly affecting education, there’s a shedload of government policy that disproportionately affect students, such as the PREVENT duty and the cuts to mental health support. These changes don’t consider the impact, not just on students, but on marginalised groups in society as well.

And what better way to show students care about decisions that politicians make than by demonstrating and lobbying outside parliament?

It doesn’t matter if you see yourself as ‘political’ or not; what matters is that you care about students’ experience, and understand just how important it is to make it available to everyone. Students from all over the country need to speak up now to save education and universities.  

My explaining may be a little rough round the edges but this, in a nutshell, is why we are going on Demo #Nov19.  

Over to you!

If you want to support Northumbria Students’ Union on the demo, you can register at the Welcome Desk at City Campus SU. It costs £10 but that covers the cost of the travel and we’ll sort out the rest.

We will be leaving Newcastle by bus at 3am (I’m sorry) on Saturday November 19th and will be coming straight back after the demo, so will be back around 11pm-ish. 

There are limited seats on the bus so, to avoid disappointment, get your tickets ASAP! I’ll be putting on more detailed sessions about what the Demo entails in the next few weeks, and maybe some Arts & Crafts if you’re lucky.

If you have any more questions, or just want to find out a little bit more before making a decision, feel free to get in touch at a.crawley@northumbria.ac.uk and get involved.