This article is published in the London Student’s 22nd November – 5th December issue. The paper goes to press fortnightly and is distributed at university campuses across London. As the paper doesn’t have all its copy on the web, here is my article as it appears:
The rise in tuition fees is not just an outrage but a looming reality
The initial reports of violence at the Tories’ HQ last Wednesday depicted an extremist infiltration of peaceful protests. To me, it was clear the Millbank crowd was different to the NUS rally, but rather than being dominated by anarchists and the far left, the courtyard was brimming with A-level students.
The scenes at Millbank were so striking for me because I saw so many people I knew who had never shown an interest in politics in their lives. And the scene was a fitting testament to the anger I’ve witnessed among my peer group in the weeks since the Browne report was published. Undoubtedly, this sense has been much greater in my fellow pre-university students than in undergraduates: for many, the prospect of £9,000 fees is not just an outrage, but a looming reality.
But anger has not been the only product of this saga among teenagers: I have also witnessed an increasing disillusionment in our education system. The sheer lack of value of increased fees for several hours tuition a week is prompting others – including studious and academic types – to consider not going to university at all.
Universities attract applicants with the prospect of higher earnings in the world of work, which they say will make up for fees and living expenses in time. We were deeply worried about our fate under the current funding system, but with the inevitable increases, the gap to make up becomes more and more unrealistic. It’s no wonder my school is facing a record low in completed UCAS forms. And it’s not hard to see that those from less financially secure backgrounds will be most affected.
Options are also limiting by the day for those, like me, applying this year. Several of my friends have cancelled long-held gap year plans after the government announced the new fees would also apply to deferred applications. And while every previous generation has had the luxury of a second chance if they fail in the applications process, many will aim lower in their choices to avoid the horror of tripled fees.
With the trust of so many young people abused so blatantly by the Lib Dems not only going back on their word, but signing pledges which they had already agreed they could concede on in the event of a coalition, there seems little cause for optimism. But the fact that the movement of opposition has brought teenagers out of apathy and into direct action on a level I could never contemplate, and however much this is condemned, it proves we must not give up.
CONRAD LANDIN is a prospective university student currently completing his A Levels.