New realist disease hits NUS

Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students, has declared that he is interested in “realism not revolution”, which indicates that Murphy is a keen student of Blairism. He believes the NUS should place the emphasis on “pragmatic professionalism” and the use of statistical evidence in its fight against government policy, rather than resorting to “rotten eggs” - ie, any sort of direct, militant, political action.

Naturally, this involves endless cosy meetings with Gillian Shephard, vice-chancellors, college principals, bankers, bureaucrats, the Student Loan Company, etc. According to Murphy this will mean that the government “cannot accuse us of unsubstantiated rhetoric”.

Not a whiff of burning barricades or petrol bombs here, not even the blast of a megaphone. Indeed, as The Independent could not but help pointing out, this is “as far removed from traditional student radicalism as possible” (March 27).

All this when student hardship has reached record levels with increasing numbers in debt and one in three forced to go without food. In a recent survey, 68% of students said they faced financial crisis - a 15% increase on last year. Hardly surprising really, given the fact that students suffered a 10% grant cut last year and face 20% further reductions over the next two years.

Even more alarming was last week’s NUS annual conference at Blackpool, which voted to review its commitment to student grants and consider supporting a graduate tax instead.

A graduate tax would signal the end of the principle of free higher and further education, and automatically exclude the bulk of working class students. Kevin Sexton, NUS London area convenor, denounced the ‘new turn’ and retorted, “A graduate tax is a poll tax on education”.

We suspect that the NUS is going to cave in and embrace conservatism, albeit with a Blairite face. A spokesperson informed the Weekly Worker that there is a “policy void” in the union and that to return to the old student grant system would cost £6 billion. It was therefore completely unfeasible.

Unlike the NUS bureaucrats - who clearly believe we should only get the education the capitalist system can afford - communists say there must be comprehensive and free education from nursery to degree level. We deserve nothing less.

Eddie Ford