Students on more than 20 campuses across the country are preparing to take part in a national day of action against the government’s plans to privatise the student loan book. The wave of action will take place tomorrow and is being co-ordinated by the Student Assembly Against Austerity, which held its launch rally earlier this month.
The government’s announcement in late June of this year that they intend to sell off student debt to private companies before the next general election has caused widespread concern that this will lead to an increase in the financial burdens placed on students and graduates.
This concern is well placed. As a secret report for the government has revealed, in order to make sure the student loan book is profitable for private companies the cap on interest for repayments would need to be increased or removed all together. To put it bluntly, this proposal would cause student debt to soar and represents a retrospective hike in tuition fees, in violation of the agreements students entered into on getting the loans.
James Elliott, a student activist from Oxford University, who is taking part in the national day of action next week, has explained why he is determined to build a movement to stop student loans being privatised: "imagine a policy that would retrospectively increase tuition fees, move a huge sum of public debt into private hands, cost the government money in the long-run, and plunge students into even higher debt."
In response to this threat, students are beginning the task of building a mass movement on every campus. Next Wednesday’s national day of action will see hundreds of students attend open air rallies at universities in Liverpool and Oxford whilst at MidKent College students will be taking on “an obstacle course of student debt” in a symbolic protest that will highlight the financial barriers in the way of young people in further education accessing higher education. Students in Norwich, Manchester and York will be demanding their local MPs join the growing opposition in Parliament to the student debt sell-off, whilst a wave of banner drops, ‘debt ins’ and other creative protest and direct action will sweep across many other campuses.
The national day of action on Wednesday 20 November will mark the start of a serious, national mass movement to stop the Tory-Liberal government from succeeding in their plan to privatise student loans. As awareness amongst students grows that this proposal represents just as much an attack as the trebling of tuition fees in 2010, the Government should prepare for a massive wave of opposition if they try to push this through.