Manchester activists branded the government’s decision to scrap the NHS bursaries ‘the most disgusting attack’ on students ever at yesterday’s protest.
The plan to scrap the bursaries is intended to be introduced in 2017, with a loan scheme to replace it.
The government has claimed that using a loan scheme will put more money in nurse’s pockets and increase course uptake.
But that sentiment is not one shared by the activists who took to the city centre streets chanting ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’ and carrying banners that said ‘health not wealth’.
One of the focuses of the demonstration was the work that NHS students do during their course, with activists calling it ‘a form of unpaid labour’.
UNPAID LABOUR: Fred says getting rid of the bursary equivalent to medical students paying £50,000 to work 2,000 hours
Fred Craig, student representative at The University of Manchester, told MM: “The thing about nursing courses which is different from every other course, is that nurses actually end up working during the week, working in hospitals as well as placements.
“So essentially, nurses are going to get into £50,000 worth of debt, and work roughly 2,300 hours over their course. Basically, you’re paying £50,000 to work for 2,000 hours.
“This isn’t an issue of student funding, to bursaries for students, or the student debt crisis or anything like that. This is an issue of right or wrong, and you should get paid for it.
“Frankly, I think this is probably the most disgusting attack the government has ever made against the student population.”
Fred is studying archaeology but still believes that he needs to campaign as the fight belongs to all students not just medical students.
He said: “Nurses are students as well, often overlooked, because they are normally a lot older than others.
“They have caring responsibilities, so they’re not typically part of the student population – but they are students none the less.
“So when a horrible attack like this comes from the government, I feel like I should be fighting it.”
Due to the cuts to NHS students, there have been reports of a number of nurses having to use food banks because of a lack of funding.
Campaigns Officer Hannah McCarthy, 23, spoke to MM about the rising number of these cases and how the decision to introduce this legislation is an attack on the NHS.
She said: “I think the government don’t believe in the idea of the state providing healthcare for all.
“They don’t believe in a public NHS, which is a social good in which everybody benefits from, and which is paid for by the progressive taxation of the rich.
“I think that is fundamentally against their interests, and they see it as an inconvenience that they have to provide it.
“I feel that they don’t think that healthcare should be free, publicly provided, and accessible to all.”
SOLIDARITY: Manchester students want UoM to respond to government cuts by upping the university bursaries they offer
The people involved in the march have demanded that in response to the government’s cuts, the university should up its bursary money after making a profit of £46million last year.
Many students who took part in the demonstration will be heavily affected if these plans are to go through.
Medical student Aidan Matthews, 32, from Newcastle, has parents who both work in the NHS. This decision would substantially affect his life as he to wants to pursue a life in medicine.
He told MM: “Some things are worth spending money on, and nurses are one of those things.”
This was one of the first of the demonstrations to help raise awareness of the effects that the cuts may have on the NHS, and it is hoped people will be getting involved in the future.