Updated: Thursday, 13th August 2020 @ 11:08am

Manchester students' backlash against fees

Manchester students' backlash against fees

By Anna Mauremootoo

The recent debate over the government’s proposal to increase University tuition fees has left prospective students asking ‘Does Whitehall really need that many paper clips?’

Currently, tuition fees stand at £3,290 but the government’s proposals could see fees capped at £6,000 with universities having the power to charge up to £9,000.

These proposed changes, bought to light by the Browne Review,  will not only have lasting consequences for higher education funding, but will have massive repercussions for the student movement.

With such dramatic repercussions it is unsurprising that this topic has divided opinions across the nation and no city better demonstrates this than Manchester.

With a student population of approximately 50,000, this issue has become a hot topic in the city, presenting itself in all mediums, from live debates in the student unions to Facebook campaigns.

Many students are strongly against the rise and question why the government cannot cut spending in other areas.

Andrew Cotterill, an upper sixth student, said: “Does Whitehall really need so many paper clips?

“I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you think about where all the money actually goes, cutting own on waste surely has to be the priority.”

Many members of the public just see the violent scenes of the student protests on the news but this only represents a small minority of the student population.

While some may result to hooliganism, others are trying to look at the problem constructively and come up with alternative suggestions.

Dan Leng, a student at Bishop Vesey Grammar School, said:  “The real problem is the sheer number of unnecessary university places, a quick UCAS search shows there are 9 3 year full-time degrees for acupuncture.”

He explains that the government would do better to remove Labour's target to get 50% of students into university as many courses simply aren't needed.

However, not all students are in the same frame of mind with some supporting the proposed changes.

Some are of the opinion that it will create more of a market with less regulation so that universities can start charging a fee that represents the quality of that course

Ben Abram, a civil engineer student, said: “ Students will want more for their money so they will have provide a better education for students or they will not pay resulting in greater pressure to deliver quality.”

By giving universities free reign to set fees they will then be able to decide which courses to specialise in, he added.

Within a context of a 25% reduction in education funding, it will be the elite universities who will have the ability to claw back funding from the pockets of students paying increased fees.

So what is to become of those universities that offer vocational courses as well as academic ones who can’t afford to put off students with a hike in fees in arts and humanities departments?

Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, John Brooks, explained that some courses his university offers may be forced close.

He said:  "This is effectively the privatisation of university education.

“We will have to work very hard because the doubling of fees will have a disproportionate effect on students from poorer backgrounds.”

It is a widely held opinion that the working class and some minority students will be worst affected as they are not able to rely on the parental handouts.

However, it has been argued that government grants and student loans mean that anyone who wants to go to university can do so without worrying about the upfront costs.

Henry Hill, Union Councillor for the University of Manchester, explained that if you don’t think that your degree will boost your income enough to be worth paying for, you should reconsider it.

He said: “I do not believe that a degree is an entitlement.

“If you value a degree enough to foot the bill for it you will, and if you don’t that is your decision and responsibility.”

Having previously signed the NUS pledge, several Liberal Democrat MP’s stand to lose the support of their voters if they turn their back on their campaign manifesto. 

John Leech, who holds the Withington seat, an area with a large student population, believes that Vince Cable has been dealt a very poor hand, and has worked hard to come up with a more progressive system.

However, he explained: “Because Labour and the Tories conspired to set up the review with the intention of raising fees Vince has been put in an impossible position.”

He added: “Unfortunately I believe that increased fees will put off many more students from low income backgrounds from applying for university, and so I will be voting against an increase in fees.”

 This is an unsurprising plea given that many students who voted for the Liberal Democrats have expressed their disillusionment, explaining that they regret their decision in light of the recent U-turn.

But not all Liberal Democrats are willing to stay true to their word; while they might be a small back-bench rebellion on the issue it is likely to be little more than a storm in a teacup.

Alan Worrall, a fourth year Dentistry student, said: “I voted Lib Dem because they seemed to be the student friendly option.”

He added: “If they are willing to compromise something they felt so strongly about what else are they willing to go back on?” 

With the vote planned we’ll all have a clearer idea of where we stand but given the level of jibes people have produced, such as ‘David Cameron is trying to raise University fees, that’s okay, the last thing he tried to raise died at 6 years’ the results are unlikely to put this topic to bed.