When in danger education deserves to be fought for. On Saturday, thousands of students and lecturers from up and down the UK will do just that. We will march through the capital in defence of post-16 education, and put forward, collectively, our vision of a free, liberated and accessible education for all, at any point in life. Tories are imposing funding cuts and area reviews on colleges. Job losses, ever growing student numbers, and shoe-string support budgets are the reality for a growing number of FE students. Add to that the previous governments scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance and a very bleak image of colleges in the UK emerges.
Parents of students starting university in England in 2016, are facing a hidden 27% rise in university costs. We've been working on this for a few weeks, and as part of our campaign for a more transparent system of student finance, I have today sent an open letter to Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities, asking for him to urgently consider a change in the system. Here's the text...
Since last year, Jeremy Corbyn has elevated the cause of free education to the highest political level. This week, he is laying detailed policies that together will create a National Education Service - a much more ambitious plan for a comprehensive service which is free and accessible to everyone.
The keys to making university pay are to develop your passions, collaborate on projects you care about and stay committed to excellence in everything you do. When you do these things you will form habits that will serve you well as you hunt for jobs and as you seek to progress your career.
Education is not a commodity, and it should not be something reserved for the privileged few. The Tories' endless assaults on higher education are an assault on our society at large, widening the gap between poor and privileged more than ever before. 'Social mobility' isn't just dying, it's already dead - and it's about time we started fighting to resuscitate it.
MPs can make speech after speech about being one nation and working together but until they listen, understand and appear to act with integrity in a way that restores trust and above all, I believe, faith in both them and our democracy, I wonder still further about the protests we have yet to come.
With tuition fees at £9,000 a year and set to rise even further, the stakes are high, and a degree is becomingly increasingly viewed as a sales transaction, only worth obtaining if you'll do something economically 'useful' (read: science or technology-based) in the end. But, despite what Michael Gove and co might think, education is more than a commodity, and a chronic disregard for the merits of arts degrees could result in the steady erosion of our culture.
The papers are full of an angry letter from recent graduate Simon Crowther to his MP, which has been shared over 20,000 times, complaining about retrospective hikes to student loan interest... The content of the letter isn't technically correct, and shows a continued general misunderstanding of how student finance works, that could mislead some.
This problem will continue to persist with the growing threat of future fee hikes, pushing more students into further debt and undoubtedly leading more students into reconsidering attending their graduation ceremony altogether.
My generation is caught in a vicious circle. For the most part, we are disillusioned with a political system that constantly lets us down, but of course when that disillusionment unsurprisingly translates in to less engagement, it gives the system free license to neglect or even actively discriminate against us all the more.
The system is flawed because not all student put money as the KPI of what makes a good job. That is the presumption of the Tory government which will mean that student loans inevitably will remain unpaid.
Higher education reform under the Conservatives has been largely passed by sneaky secondary legislation that pre-empts debate, circumnavigating democratic deliberation to push through undemocratic and ill-thought out proposals. If these reforms are truly the best thing for universities and students alike, as we're consistently told they are, why has our government been so keen to sneak them in the back door, instead of singing them from the rooftops?
Two weeks ago I sent the Prime Minister an open letter about the disgraceful retrospective hike in student loans. Those who started university since 2012 currently repay 9% of everything earned above £21,000 - this threshold was supposed to rise annually from 2017, but the Government has now frozen it.
A maintenance grant provided me with hope and confidence that I did belong at university. Without the grant, I would never have entertained the prospective of university. This government seems hell bent on severely restricting the options of minority groups and reinforcing the stereotype that only the privilege should attend university.
Scrapping maintenance grants is a desperate attempt by Osborne to find savings wherever he can because as a Chancellor he has failed consistently to meet any target he has ever set himself. This proposed saving of £1.57billion is a drop in the ocean compared to our £1.5trillion worth of debt that has increased under Osborne's time as Chancellor. Again Osborne has pound signs in his eyes with no idea of the actual worth.
As I find myself more and more crippled with debt and having such limited contact hours at uni, I can't help but wondering, is it really worth paying 9,000 pounds a year for? Is it really cost-effective? Why should I have a degree when people my age are already working and earning more than I am?