YOUNG VOICES

#GrantsNotDebts: 7 Reasons Why Thousands Of Students Are Marching On Parliament Today

04/11/2015 11:28 GMT | Updated 08/12/2015 09:59 GMT

On Wednesday, thousands of students will take to London streets and march to Westminster in protest.

Unlike previous demonstrations, however, this year's is not just focused around one sticking point; protesters are marching against a myriad of issues, namely around the government's treatment of young people and the working class.

"The Conservative government is not only targeting students in their lives as students; they are waging a war on the young and the working classes across society," Hannah Sketchley, a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts group, wrote in a Huffington Post UK blog.

She added: "The destruction of youth housing benefit, the NHS, social housing and working tax credits, and the spreading of anti-migrant narratives and the Prevent 'counter-terrorism' agenda, with its wide-reaching surveillance especially on Muslim students, will all affect 'the average student' in one way or another."

So, what exactly are students and young people marching for?

1. Free education

Something that's been on the agenda for a long time - and still remains a top priority.

2. Living grants

In her blog, Sketchley says students believe the current system of means testing parents to determine how much money a student can borrow is "wrong".

"The student finance system is broken. What of the LGBT student estranged by their parents and cut off?

"We specifically demand living grants, because student poverty and eating beans for every meal isn't a joke - it is poverty! Everyone should have the ability to fully live whilst they study, not be burdened by the worry of debt; a debt incurred by a loan that for many doesn't even cover rent, let alone living costs."

3. A fairer student loan system

George Osborne announced in July maintenance grants for students from low income families would be cut, and replaced by loans.

There was a huge outcry, with students - and graduates - saying they "owed their lives" to the state grants.

Shortly after the announcement, it was revealed axing the grants saddles the country's poorest students with £10,000 more debt - and the savings for the government will barely register.

As student Harrison Jones, who is joining the march, puts it: "Arguably, that one cruel tweak will be more damaging than the tripling of fees in 2010."

Robiu Salisu, a recent Swansea University graduate who is also marching, added in his HuffPost UK blog: "It's about the freezing of the loan repayment threshold, which will affect women at disproportional rate."

4. A stop to the future correlation between the new Teaching Excellence Framework and higher tuition fees

Students are fearing more tuition fees are on the horizon.

Universities minister Jo Johnson recently unveiled a Teaching Excellence Framework - which the NUS voted to oppose - which students say will "very likely" connected to a fee rise.

"This will be allowed for those institutions which rank as excellent, and give them the ability to raise fees in line with inflation," Sketchley adds. "So not only will the poorest students graduate mired in debt, they will have to pay more in the first place to enter our most prestigious institutions."

5. Global freedom of movement and abolition of borders

Students are marching under a "No barriers / no borders" banner, calling for an end to deportations which they say are "an act of violence that cannot be justified".

"The government frequently deports people to situations which are life-threatening," the NCAFC's blog reads. "This government has deported students such as Yashika Bageerathi and Majid Ali, the latter of whom is now feared dead. We demand an immediate end to all deportations."

Students also demand an end to detention centres, which they say are "prisons [which] destroy people’s physical and mental health and are places where women experience sexual violence".

6. More rights for international students

According to Salisu: "It's about making a stand against the continued exploitation of international students as cash cows and the Islamophobic Prevent agenda, which racially-profiles and treats students like suspects."

"When we say free education, we mean for everyone," the NCAFC says. "International student fees should be abolished, rather than these students being treated as cash cows by management. We want an immediate end to immigration policy which punishes international students for seeking education in the UK, including humiliating sign-ins and checks."

7. The end to treating education as a business

Universities were recently criticised for focusing on research over teaching, and students are understandable unhappy.

The NCAFC "utterly rejects the exploitation inherent in education as a business," and opposes universities spending thousands on rebranding - while student services are removed. The group is also calling for all university staff to be paid a fair wage.

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