Why We Students Are Marching on 9 November

08/11/2011 15:08 GMT | Updated 08/01/2012 10:12 GMT

Why are we marching, school and university students together, this Wednesday from University of London Union to Europe's financial heart the City of London?

We are marching in opposition to the government's proposed higher education white paper, a document whose proposals must be opposed by all who favour a system of higher education founded on the principle of need and not moneyed privilege.

The white paper, released this summer, represents as insidious a challenge to British universities, and with it the life chances of millions, as the debacle that was last year's Higher Education Act which passed in utter ignomy on 9 December through the House of Commons. It was the passing of this legislation that brought a near-breakdown within the governing coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, slashing the governing majority by some two-thirds, the Liberal Democrats displaying their now regular insipidity by merely abstaining rather than voting against what they knew to be an abhorrent and undemocratic piece of legislation.

All of this occurred while 35,000 schoolchildren and university students, not even mobilised by their union (the NUS), once more took to the streets of London. From as far afield as Belfast and Glasgow they endured the batons and horse charges of the London Metropolitan Police and articulated their anger at a government with no mandate, and a set of reforms without reason or sense of fairness. The bravest and most thoughtful among us that day were outside the gates of Westminster and not confined within them.

But in truth, to ask why British students are marching this Wednesday against an increasingly-marketised higher education system is to ask the same as why University of Athens students occupied the Faculty of Economics in 2008 and scrawled upon it 'We are an Image of the Future'.

It is to ask why plazas across Spain were occupied last May by millions who spoke of 'Real Democracy', who lived among each other and every day re-imagined their politics afresh. It is to ask why the J14 movement in Israel, a country with a population of 8 million has seen mass marches of as many as half a million.

To ask why we march is to ask why 951 cities across 80 countries worldwide saw demonstrations on 15 October. It is to ask why in New York, Oakland, Sydney, London and scores of other cities and towns across the world people are occupying and re-appropriating space for public use, redefining our relations with each other and the state. It is to ask why pitched battles between the Greek people and riot police in Syntagma Square are now nearly as regular an occurrence as AEK Athens home football matches played a few kilometres away from Greece's beating political heart.

We are marching because this is not our crisis, and it is not of our making. We are marching because a debt-centred model of higher education funding is destined to fail - already there are the first hints off America's next sub-prime crisis - student debt.

We are marching because we want power over our own lives and not be subject to lives of debt. We want an education premised on human flourishing and not one dictated by corporate interests and 'employability skills'.

We are marching because we have been inspired by others around the world, and yes, also our own surprising, beautiful and vibrant movement of the last year. We have been inspired to believe another education is possible, one built not on debt, but the dignity of learning and common purpose.