Students’ union capitulates

Last Tuesday the National Union of Students ditched its long-standing commitment to free education for all. This must have been a triumph for the Blairite leadership of the NUS, which narrowly failed at a special conference in Derby last year to change the union’s policy. Inspired by the sea air at Blackpool though, the rightwing leadership won the key debate by 200,000 votes, with 55% support.

The new system of funding will rely on a mixture of support from general taxation, businesses and a ‘fairer system’ of student loans. The retiring NUS president, Jim Murphy, described the vote as a “victory for common sense”.

This “victory” will be another blow for students, who are rapidly becoming the most impoverished section of society. Grants have been reduced by 20% over the last two years, while the loan facility has increased by the same amount. More than two-thirds of students are now in severe debt. The average debt of students aged 22-26 is £4,301; mature students, £7,817.

The rationale offered by Jim Murphy for abandoning the grants-based system was typically Blairite: it was ‘obviously’ too expensive, therefore unrealistic. How could the economy afford to dish out the £10 billion required to fund it?

Not the view of Militant, it has to be said. Apparently, “money is available to provide a living grant for all students” (March 22), but the imperialist ruling class insists on spending the money “on other things” - such as “wasting” over £25 billion on Trident nuclear missiles.

Communists do not advise the ruling class on how to run their system. Nor do we, unlike Militant, dream of an NUS leadership which demands “that a Labour government reverse the Tories’ cuts”. We fight for what students need - in the here and now.

Eddie Ford