On 24th November, I took part in the Leeds students’ contribution to the nationwide walkout and marches against increased tuition fees and cuts to education spending by the Lib Dem/Conservative government here in the U.K. The police stated the nimber of participants was aound 2,000, while the student organisers estimated around 3,000. The march itself was wonderful, and completely peaceful and non-violent, with funny chants, great slogans on banners and a group of people with a huge soundsystem who chose an inspired playlist of dubstep, jungle, and classic student-friendly songs, like the Beastie Boys’ ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’. After a short rally outside the Art Gallery in Leeds city centre, everyone headed back up to their respective Uni’s or wandered off about their business. However, a group of students went on to the next stage of the protests and occupied two buildings on the University of Leeds campus, which are currently still ongoing with the broad support of students and lots of help from local cafes who are providing food and drinks for the occupiers.
Personally, I am hugely against the proposed changes to the way in which we pay for our education. My family and I can barely afford for me to be at university as it is, and if fees were raised to the proposed rate of between £6-9,000, then I would have had to get a job after attending sixth form, even though my personal strengths lie in academics. To decrease spending on education is a case of panic, cutting off the country’s nose to spite it’s face, as the government forces through Tory policies that have, and will always, seek to improve the position of the rich and reduce the chances of the poor. In pandering to the fear-mongers of the Daily Mail and other right-wing news outlets, one of the most important aspects of our society is going to be drastically stymied. I believe that academic pursuit is essential, and needs consistant funding. Specifically, subjects such as the Arts and Languages are in even more trouble than Maths and the Sciences, as the funding for postgraduate qualifications will be virtually nonexistant by next year.
As an Arts student, I find this to be completely deplorable. The point of higher education is not purely to provide us with scientists and mechanics to build material things and feed into the greed of the government. We need linguists more than ever, and we need historians and writers. The transferrable skills gained from Arts subjects are unattainable in other subjects and vice versa. There cannot be favouritism for the subjects that have an immediate and mappable economic value, as we risk neglecting the subjects that provide universities with their core of students, as well as subjects that feed the mind as well as the wallet.