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The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement by Abduttayyeb Abs Hassanali


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More Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS pledge than all the MPs of the other main political parties combined.

A ‘free’ education policy seemed deeply rooted within Liberalism. Or so we thought.

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement by Abduttayyeb Abs Hassanali

  1. 1. The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement A focus on Liberal policies with regards to the Tuition Fees by ABDUTTAYYEB HASSANALI 563917 Thesis submitted for the degree of BA in Philosophy 2012 Declaration for thesis I have read and understood regulation 17.9 of the Regulations for students of the School of Oriental and African Studies concerning plagiarism. I undertake that all the material presented for examination is my own work and has not been written for me, in whole or in part, by any other person(s). I also undertake that any quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been duly acknowledged in the work which I present. Signed: _____________________ Faculty of Law and Social Sciences School of Oriental and African Studies University of London
  2. 2. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, along with my supervisor, for allowing me to submit this piece of work. I would also like to grant acknowledgement to those who contributed towards the research and publication of this essay. But most importantly, thank you to my closest friends and family, for not letting me quit. In this essay, I have attempted to dedicate recognition to prominent leaders of the student movement during 2010-2011 (my prime focus is within London), however, I do apologise if there are people I have missed out. More Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS pledge than all the MPs of the other main political parties combined. A ‘free’ education policy seemed deeply rooted within Liberalism. Or so we thought.
  3. 3. 1 Introduction 2010 saw the emergence of the largest student movement the UK had witnessed for decades. In its simplest form, this essay will deal with, (or attempt to at least), with a number of issues regarding to the student movement and beyond: namely, Liberalism and the right to a free education, the significance of a ‘campaigning union’ and a shift towards the left of the political spectrum within student democracy, liberal justifications for the NUS pledge, and the rise and fall of the student movement. I must note, as my readers must acknowledge, two things: firstly, this essay targets the student movement from a liberalism perspective and therefore not necessarily my personal political fidelities, and following on, secondly, though the views within this essay are of my own in their entirety, they have somewhat been adjusted to fit the framework of this essay. Liberalism and the right to a free education Enterprising the individual Terry McLaughlin espoused the view that liberalism within education need not be confined within ‘state schooling’ or ‘private schooling’, i.e. within free or charged education.1 In its place, McLaughlin argued that liberalism within education should be assessed upon two conditions: firstly, ‘the pursuit of autonomy for each individual’, whereby each individual within their respective institution is permitted to maintain and promote their personal freedom; and secondly, the institution’s facilitation to direct students upon the ‘conception of the good life’ – in the interests of some generally accepted common good.2 So under his doctrine, a successful liberal education is one that harnesses and promotes a harmony between the individual good in conception of autonomy (freedom) and the ‘common good’ in conception of the ‘good life’ (equality).3 In light of this utilitarian approach, McLaughlin would probably disparage the neo-liberalism of Western democracy from shifting its emphasis away from the content of university (what you can get out of it), and towards the inception of university (how much it costs), as liberals should be concerned with the accomplishment of these values, not their expenditure. McLaughlin goes as far as to eliminate any notion of education as a universal right – he contends that this is a ‘philosophical issue’ and should be confiscated from all liberal questioning: ‘the truth that educational policy cannot be based on philosophical considerations alone is too obvious to require emphasis.’4 My belief, in contrast to McLaughlin, is that although a liberal education need not be free, liberalism enjoys an opulent tradition of universal education – most liberal theorists, since there ever were some, have preserved the view that education is the best procedure to enlighten a society of the conception of the good, whereby an education entitled to all citizens allowed them to fulfil such ‘civic values.’ Similarly, Michael Apple is derogatory of any neo-liberal policies that make an attempt in ‘enterprising [the] individual.’5 He argues that policies can only retain value if they are judged within economical and historical criteria, and not ‘simply read off the effects of policies in the abstract.’6 His conclusion is that if considering the entire ‘balance of forces’, one will realise that neo-liberal policies that attempt to privatise any aspect of the education sector will inevitably result in a ‘dis-progressive state’, due to the effects it will have upon class inequality, race, gender and social mobility. He argues that history has attested that education is the only institution within an economic crisis that ‘has to be at the centre of the crisis and of struggles to overcome.’7 He goes further to criticise neo-conservative policies that aim to pioneer a ‘competitive market’ within the education system or return back to ‘real knowledge.’ Apple makes a distinction between what he calls ‘real knowledge’ and ‘popular knowledge’.8 He argues that popular knowledge, unlike real knowledge, impacts upon the lives of the most disadvantaged of the communities, therefore enhancing McLaughlin’s second condition of equality. His conclusion therefore is that any sort of privatisation within education will lead to ‘real knowledge’ where the poorest communities will be isolated and left unequal from the entire regime.
  4. 4. 2 Therefore, whilst McLaughlin defends the view that a liberal education is one that should include the notions of freedom and equality, his failure is his inability to realise that a liberal education itself should be free and equal, hence, accessible to all. Democracy and ‘Campaigning Unions’ within Student Politics The greatest happiness of the greatest number In this next section, I will discuss ‘Democracy’ and confederate this notion with the significance of ‘campaigns’, or more applicably, ‘campaigning unions’ within student politics. Mark Warren reduces democracy into ‘empowerment’ by which he purports that ‘if individuals were more broadly empowered,’ then they ‘would become more public spirited, more tolerant, more knowledgeable, more attentive to the interest of others, and more probing of their own interests’, all positive countenances of a ‘good’ democratic system.9 10 Concomitant with this notion of empowerment, the student movement highlighted an issue prominent amongst intellectuals: ‘Whether the democratisation of democracy in Western neo-liberalism requires a variation within democracy, or a variation of democracy itself?’ Warren adopts a worryingly cynical view on this matter: ‘radical democrats should give up once and for all the Rousseauian ideal of the state as the political expression of a democratic community’ because such a predilection of a ‘fuzzy utopianism’ fails to confront the more mundane but indispensable issues regarding structures of the economy and the state. ‘They should dispense with this romantic dogma’… because it ‘places exceptional demands on the self’ (individual or citizen).11 12 As Mary Midgley coincides with Warren, ‘people have a natural wish and capacity to integrate themselves, a natural horror of being totally fragmented, which makes possible a constant series of bargains and sacrifices to shape their lives.’13 By ‘sacrifices’, I assume that Midgley may be referring to instances of political change, where it is often that a reform of practices approach is preferred over a reform of ideological approach, as the latter may lead to a class struggle. The idea of ‘integration’ is a fairly new notion within political philosophy, but is emerging due to the political tensions derived from a fragmentation of ideologies, and a general verge assembling into the centrist and moderate standpoint within politics and political parties. I believe that within any neo-liberal state, including student politics, democracy is the single most quixotic ideal; and it should be: it remains one of the few notions that is probably universally embraced, as it recognises sovereignty and empowerment of the people. In making such a remark, Warren seems to be contradicting himself that ‘empowerment’ is a positive feature of society, yet ‘democracy’ is not. Clare Solomon, President of the University of London Union (ULU) during the student movement, firmly placed herself and other students like her disciple Sean Rillo Raczka in the latter camp against Warren, arguing that what made the student movement so absorbing was that ‘The students who marched on the streets to protect their rights are fighting for something larger’ - against Republicanism and Capitalism, and for a democratic process itself.14 But is this really possible? Is there really another sustainable alternative to a neo-liberal market that does not consist of some sort of capitalism?15 John Dryzek envisages a bleak future: ‘His argument is that we cannot (in the foreseeable future) escape from the framework of globalized capitalism and that therefore democracy can only be ‘capitalist democracy.’ In this he echoes the claim made several years ago by Richard Miller - that the free market for consumers and producers of economic goods is the only kind of market compatible with a morally plural world.’16 They both claim that within a liberal democratic society, which comprises of equality, freedom and one’s pursuit of one’s goals, the only economic system that is feasible is one which incorporates means of privatisation. This is because liberals are left with the predicament that any other economic system would be paradoxical: for instance, a non-free market trade would violate the liberal principles of universal equality and one’s freedom to pursue one’s goals with minimal state intervention.
  5. 5. 3 There are two possible objections to this view: firstly, although combining a liberal democracy with other economic systems may seem intuitively problematic, a capitalist system does not free itself of all these difficulties. For instance, most centre-right and right wing societies opt for minimal state intervention, especially when it comes to the economy, or at best, neutral governance on these matters, however, it is argued that in practice such an ideal is close to impossible. With the advancement of technology in general, it remains extremely difficult for any state to be disclosed from all financial proceedings. Secondly, you may notice that the argument being made here is essentially that a liberal economic system can only be confined within privatisation. However, if the ideology of the state is revolutionised, then so too can the economic system of that state be revolutionised. So whilst liberalism may only accommodate for privatisation, we could alternate the democracy, in this case, liberalism, to suit another type of economic system. Since the student movement inaugurated in the opening of the academic year of 2010/2011, there has been a significant shift towards the left of the political spectrum within student democracy. This shift has been undoubtedly prompted against the rise in tuition fees and cuts in general. In the past, non-existent Anti-Cuts group, i.e. in Royal Holloway Students’ Union and Queen Mary, University of London Students’ Union, have been amongst the most active societies within their students’ unions. I maintain that although the Tuition Fee debate has provided those of the Anti-Cuts left a platform to be vocal, the demographics of student politics has indeed made a transference to the left, therefore, this is more of a case of a political manoeuvre, rather than simply political outspokenness. This can be demonstrated by the headlines of the PI newspapers, the official newspaper of the University College London Union (UCLU): ‘Anti-cuts movement wins big in UCLU elections’17 and ‘Left dominates elections.’18 Although Warren’s comments are directed towards global societies, we can deduce from his overall thought of empowerment that a ‘campaigning union’, or, in his words, a ‘public spirited’ union, is healthy for democracy within student politics. The term ‘campaigning union’ was a dogmatic yet tactful term coined since Lord Browne’s review in 2009 and an impending threat to education, where many candidates within their respective students’ union’s elections were characterised based on their political fidelities of a ‘campaigning union’, or, to put it mildly, in its opposition, a union that seeks to maintain the status quo or ‘engage with everyone’.19 However, since its continuous depiction, the word has almost become somewhat of a cliché because once a fruitful and popular creed with the rise in unions defying their respective colleges, many align the term to represent a movement not towards democracy or empowerment, but a radical reformulation of democracy or empowerment itself, a concept that many students have made effort to eschew. The symbolism of a ‘campaigning union’ could reflect the progression of the entire student movement so far; this is parallel with the thought that whilst many students tenaciously oppose a rise in tuition fees, not all deem a student revolution as a viable alternative. (Now the buzzword seems to be an ‘active’ students’ union.) What has bureaucratically, but often viciously hampered the campaigning authority of students’ unions over the last decade or so is their change in legal statuses. Almost all students’ unions in the UK are now registered charities, which means that their activities can be accountable to the Charities Commission: …[U]nion funds cannot be used to promote or support campaigns on matters which may be of general interest or concern but which do not affect members of the union as students. Examples would be industrial disputes, general campaigning on environmental matters, eg environmental policies and road building, or the treatment of political prisoners in a foreign country. A students’ union cannot, for instance, pay for coaches to transport students to demonstrations on such issues.20 Though this seems an administrative change, it has in some cases shifted the operations of a students’ union as a representative body and into a corporate organisation. The exact implications of these laws are of great dispute, but involve mundane meetings and compulsory AGM’s, but most significantly, the creation of trustee boards and external trustees with the capacity to overrule executive decisions. Although many student officers have persisted to ‘generally campaign’ on such matters, this represents an impeding restriction on the political independence of students’ unions, allowing ready-made excuses for some unions: ‘it’s illegal.’
  6. 6. 4 Student democracy remains one of the most politically innovative and engaging sectors of modern society. Students enrol into university anticipated to contemplate about the ‘big questions,’ and with minimal constraints of the past, their open-mindedness leads them to envisage that another world is possible. However, although political engagement within universities is better than that of other sectors of society, engagement within students’ unions has always remained desolated. It reached its peak during the student movement, with a real sense of urgency amongst students, but even this was confined to students who cared and were alacritous enough to convey their care into action. ‘Engagement’ is a manifesto pledge of almost every candidate in almost all students’ union positions, but election turn-outs across the country are despondent, and will continue to be. These faults should not lie within the culpability of students’ union’s sabbatical officers or student democracy in general; ‘apathy’ is a much wider issue that exists within the entire Western Liberal democracy, where citizens of a country feel that no reward is attained, or any that is, is ineffective and not worth the effort.21 This is single-handedly one of the biggest problems faced by liberal philosophy, most definitely the cause of most of its other problems – the idea of individualism. It is also the difference between libertarianism and liberalism, an ideology that ‘New Liberalism’ has attempted to redefine – by distributing emphasis from freedom of the individual and towards justice or equality for all. Liberalism is fundamentally founded upon the ethical principles of Utilitarianism, so just like utilitarianism, it faces harsh criticisms of individual sovereignty from communitarians. This was a problem that John Stuart Mill attempted to solve of his predecessor Jeremy Bentham, by transferring pleasure of the individual (act utilitarianism), to happiness of the many (rule utilitarianism); an attempt to detach away from ‘apathy’ by asserting that a collective freedom constituting of ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’22 is a better type of freedom and intrinsically worthwhile.23 All the while, Liberalism has not remained entirely successful in doing so. The NUS pledge Life is just too unfair The issue regarding Tuition fees and Higher Education funding began with the induction of the Lord Browne Review in November 2009, which then led up to the signing of the National Union of Students (NUS) pledges, predominantly by Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidates, during the course of the general election in May 2010. Many Liberal Democrats have defended the view that the rise in tuition fees for university applicants, in recommendation of the Browne Review, delivers upon the ‘fairer alternative’ outlined within the NUS Pledge.24 If we dissect the NUS pledge that was signed by all 57 elected Liberal Democrat MPs, there seems to be two proposals that were made: Proposal 1: To ‘pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament’… Proposal 2: … ‘and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.’ Both proposals are intended from a standpoint of opposition, or, at least, outside of government, hence ‘pressure the government’, so to be compatible without presupposing the election turn-out. Many Liberal Democrats have safe-guarded the view that in light of Proposal 2, a rise in tuition Fees could possibly favour a ‘fairer alternative.’ However, Proposal 2 cannot be judged in isolation as it proceeds from the juxtaposition (with the conjunctive statement ‘and’, as opposed to ‘or’) of Proposal 1, hence, by means of modus tollens, Proposal 2 cannot disobey Proposal 1, and so, a ‘fairer alternative’ cannot be one that includes an ‘increase in fees’. One could assume that the Coalition Programme, an agreement published as part of the Coalition formation, prematurely undermines Proposal 1 by allowing Liberal Democrat MPs to merely abstain, as oppose to ‘vote against’ the rise in tuition fees.25 However, although this may be the case, one must acknowledge that the Coalition Programme was a document formed by the Government (made up of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties), after the elections, and with a target audience of the general
  7. 7. 5 public. Whilst on the other hand, the NUS pledges were signed by individual MPs of their respective parties (but not comprised of their parties), prior to the elections, and with a target audience of the electorate, namely prospective students. Furthermore, for those who were dubious over the Liberal Democrat’s position on tuition fees, Nick Clegg’s address at NUS’ Annual Conference 2010 remains vivid in the mind of many students in which he promised that: ‘We will resist, vote against, campaign against any lifting of that [currently £3,290] cap… I think that the plans that, as far as I can make out, both the Conservative and the Labour parties are cooking- up in one way or another to raise the cap on tuition fees is wrong. It's because they don't want to come clean with you about what they're planning. ’ He urged to ‘join forces with you [students]’ and ‘Use your vote to block unfair tuition fees and get them scrapped once and for all.’ He ended by inciting students to ‘shout out for what you believe in’ because ‘life is just too unfair’ and young people are ‘kind of being robbed of hope.’26 On 9th December 2010, the government won a vote in the House of Commons for the rise in tuition fees. The Liberal Democrat Party were split over the issue, with 27 MPs voting for the plans including leader Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, whilst 21 voted against the plans including former leaders Sir Menzies Campbell, Charles Kennedy and party president Tim Farron, and 8 abstaining including deputy leader Simon Hughes. So did Liberal Democrat MPs Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott obey the pledge by ‘voting against’ it in parliament (Proposal 1) and resigning from their posts as a protest to ‘pressure the government’ (Proposal 2)? The rise and fall of the student movement Our struggle is your struggle November 2010 saw the emergence of the largest student movement the UK had witnessed for decades. With what started as a 12 day imperceptible occupation at Middlesex University in May 2010 over resistance of the closure of the philosophy department, culminated to the 10th of November and onto the 9th of December later on in the year with a surge of demonstrations, occupations and walkouts that then regenerated in London and Manchester from the 29th of January 2011, then transmitted across other sectors of the public workforce, predominantly in March and again in November 2011. It was a movement that surpassed the prognostication of everyone, most notably the students. It was a movement that shook the core of student democracy and the Liberal Democrats, an impairment they still grieve today. But it was also a movement that left as quickly as it had emerged. I will explore the main features that contributed towards the galvanization of the student movement and then also assess its rapid decline. I will conclude with the following question: Where next for the student movement? The Browne Review or Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, commissioned by the Labour Government in October 2009, was an independent review chaired by Lord Browne into the funding of England’s Higher Education system. The report, 'Sustaining a Future for Higher Education', was published under a Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government in October 2010, with a number of proposals including completely removing the cap on tuition fees. Based on these findings, the Coalition Government introduced a bill to increase tuition fees up to £9,000 each year. The fees would be covered in the form of loans by the government, which would then be paid back by graduates once they began earning above £21,000 per annum. The student movement, remarkably enough, reaped more support in 2010/11 with the proposal of a maximum of £9,000 fees under a Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, than it ever fantasised in its initial introduction under a Labour Government in 1998, and then a substantial top-up in 2004, because fees were uncovered at a period when the country was grieving from a deep economic recession.
  8. 8. 6 Senior economist James Meadway does not separate the issue of higher education funding with the introduction of tuition fees in 1998 and then its top-ups, but fittingly with prior to the financial crisis and following the financial crisis of 2007/08, because until then, under his view, ‘the excess of neo-liberal capitalism were widely celebrated.27 Education, under the Labour Government, had successfully become a business orientated model, where university and colleges were more about preparing students for the workforce as they were about awarding an education.28 Many people regarded the introduction and the subsequent increase in tuition fees by the Labour Government as ‘reasonable’ as they took the view that the primary beneficiary of a degree was the individual, followed by the state within which he or she would ultimately contribute. Therefore, as Meadway concludes, as long as students profited from receiving a ‘well- paid’ job and therefore allowing social mobility to occur, ‘there would be no serious challenge to its [the government’s] dominance,’ regardless of the price of education.29 This came after a long period of successive Labour governments who had espoused with Labour Students (the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS)) on the NUS. Clare Solomon outlines that ‘the arrival of a Tory-Liberal Coalition Government in May [2010] meant that there could now be a serious show of strength, safe in the knowledge that New Labour’s boat would not be rocked.’30 For instance, even in 2001, after promising not to introduce top-up fees, then Education secretary David Blunkett gave a speech at the Labour Party conference thanking the NUS for their support of his policies. In addition, just as universities were no longer communal grounds for the children of the rich, a degree no longer guaranteed prestige or social mobility in the manner that it used to; and this was mainly due to the success of higher education – ‘In 1971 there were 1.7 million students in further education and 621,000 in higher education. In 2010 this had grown to 3.5 million and 2.5 million respectively.’31 With what has become an inclusive system, the attainment of degrees have vastly increased, whilst job vacancies have found it challenging to satisfy this demand. So whilst students from poorer backgrounds have been able to attend university for the first time, they have found it difficult to socially mobilise, and therefore, have been left with more contempt than satisfaction. A further scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, (a financial scheme that was granted to further education students whose families earned below £30,000 per annum), allowed HE to join forces with FE so that the NUS could take more of an ardent stand and potentially campaign with more vigour. However, the most relevant feature in spurring students towards a rebellion was that the education policy introduced by the universities minister David Willets MP, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable MP, and the rest of their respective parties, signified, along with the Higher Education White Paper, a transfer of education funding from the state towards the individual and private organisations. An entrenched discomfort for students was the introduction of competition and privatisation within the education sector, typified with the first ever university institution-for-profit organisation – the ‘New College of Humanities.’ For many students, this beckoned an impending privatisation of higher education, a trepidation that was at best a secluded thought with the initial introduction and increase in fees by the last Labour Government. Therefore, the threat of privatisation within the education sector, championed by a Conservative-led government during an economic recession affecting students from working class backgrounds the most, and a further attack on Further Education, gave students a reason to mobilise, and mobilise they did. Following the emphatic demonstration on 10th November 2010 that led to the occupation of the Conservative Party Headquarters at Millbank, the student movement quickly galvanised as a movement that secured relentless opposition in ‘solidarity with public-sector workers’ in general, accompanied with the rhetoric: ‘a few broken windows is nothing compared to the damage of our education.’32 As Solomon explained, the movement aimed to harvest Britain’s ‘official opposition’ to ‘not simply combat the cuts, but also to enhance a democracy that at the moment is designed to do little more than further corporate interests.’33 Students soon pronounced it as a ‘collective struggle’ of ‘international solidarity’ alongside anti- war movements, with the aphorism: ‘Our struggle is your struggle, and your struggle is ours.’34 This unnerved university management, who felt compelled to post old books and computers to Gaza in Palestine.35
  9. 9. 7 This was a spirited move that gained momentous support and coverage, as students, unlike workers, were positioned in ‘an ambiguous place in capitalist society, with no direct relationship to the means of production’.36 As social activist Mark Bergfeld of the NUS reminds us, a strike of students would not have a direct impact upon the economy, yet a strike of workers would. He puts it more flamboyantly: ‘a thousand students can stop a train, but a thousand train drivers can stop a country.’37 However, it was also a move that isolated those students who were tentative to join a ‘radical’ movement that did not only oppose a rise in tuition fees, but opposed cuts altogether. Some students who protested on the days were simply unwilling to buy into Solomon’s causes: ‘What were the students protesting about? Tuition fees, certainly, but also against the trilateral consensus that dominates British politics. The thatherization of the Labour Party, followed by the Blairization of the Tories and the Cameronization of the Liberal Democrats, has created a monstrously homogenized electoral monolith.’38 This can be outlined in the most recent student protest on 9th November 2011, where a Labour councillor, Aaron Kiely, was heckled and abused by fellow protestors for taking part in the rally, in virtue of having an alliance with the Labour Party, claiming that ‘I don’t think that we should be supporting people like that on our platform at this demonstration [who has voted for cuts in jobs and services on his council]…its appalling.’39 There seemed to be a loss of faith amongst those students who on the one side felt betrayed by the NUS, which under the leadership of Aaron Porter, ‘spinelessly dithered’, and on the other side felt that the student movement had been ‘hijacked’ by a few people who were determined to ‘further their political agendas’; with what began as a protest or movement against the rise in tuition fees, had become an unprecedented mission by the ‘radical lefties’ in favour of an apparent revolution.40 NUS bureaucracy, like that of the trade unions, was intimidated of appearing too militant, and as a result, losing their seat on the negotiating table. Porter found himself in a quandary of seeming too radical by those on the right, and not radical enough by those on the left, with the middle-ground quickly evaporating. This can be summarised with 50,000 students attending the protest on 10th November 2010, whilst only a maximum of 15,000 attended exactly a year later. (But this still an impressive turnout considering that the second demonstration suffered from a lack of advertisement and official backing of the NUS).41 So what was both empowering for the student movement, also acted as a catalyst to deter many of them away. Conclusion Where next for the student movement? The debate regarding tuition fees has been rendered almost mute within parliament, in the sense that the maximum top-up fees have been ratified in the House of Commons and students will be required to pay a potential of £9,000 fees per year. According to the ‘Institute for Fiscal studies’ (IFS), the average student should expect to graduate with a total debt in the region of £30,000 for a three-year degree.42 Unfortunately, many quietly accept the fact that students will be burdened with such a debt regardless of the efforts made. Michael Chessum, UCLU’s education and campaigns officer of 2010/11 and prominent within the student movement, when questioned if the repeal of the hike in tuition fees was possible, insisted that ‘it’s not impossible.’43 The student movement has had a devastating and lasting effect on the Liberal Democrat Party. Solely because of the movement, Liberal Democrats can expect not to envisage political power for another generation at least (unless, of course, another coalition is formed). The student movement has divided the party both internally and externally.44 Whilst it is perhaps too early to demarcate any definitive conclusions, the student movement, whilst almost over, has displayed a sense of hope and revelation for many people in this country: ‘It has thrown up new ways of organizing and offered a vision of a different society.’45 To even begin to contemplate that two 17 year olds were able to take the government to court on the issue that the rise in tuition fees contradicts human rights, gives an indication of the overall success of the movement.46
  10. 10. 8 As for students, the fight goes on.
  11. 11. 9 Notes 1 McLaughlin, (2008), p.96 2 Ibid, p.97 3 We must appreciate, as does McLaughlin, that ‘Liberalism’ is difficult to define because ‘liberalism is a contested concept: not all liberals liberally accept other liberals’ understanding of liberalism.’ (Ibid, p.95) 4 McLaughlin, (2008), p.14 5 Apple, (2001), p.409 6 Ibid, p.409 7 Ibid, p.409 8 Ibid, p.409 9 Warren (1996), p.241 10 ‘Although no model of democracy can claim universal acceptability, it is useful to consider ideal democracy as a political system that might be designed for members of an association who were willing to treat one another, for political purposes, as political equals.’ (Dahl, (2000) p.37) 11 Warren, (1996), p.242-243 12 Rousseau, to an extent, believed that man was the slave of state because the state impeded man’s sovereignty (or freedom), hence, the demand of ‘Rousseauian radical democrats’ to revolutionise the state. 13 Midgley, (1980), p.190 14 Solomon, (2011), p.1 15 Although there is no tangible delineation of capitalism, it contains distinctive features of an economic system exposed to privatisation, means of profit, a competitive market, and the accumulation of capital. Critical Issues in History. Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, p. 1 16 Green, (2000), p.286 17 Issue No. 35, November 2011. [Internet]. Available from: <> 18 Issue No.41, Easter Special 2012. [Internet]. Available from: <> 19 It must also be acknowledged that ‘campaigning’ is not solely restricted to those who occupy the far-left. People with neo-liberal or conservative ideologies could campaign just as much, but their purposes and means would be radically different. Though they tend not to as the current liberal society seems to appease them more. 20 Charity Commission, (2001), 15. ‘Campaigning and political activity’. 21 For a further insight: Loud, Emily. (2012). Student democracy: how much should we care about voting?, ‘The Cambridge Student’, (08 March). Available from: <> 22 Bentham, (1776), p.3. 23 For a further insight into Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism, visit: Bentham, Jeremy. (1776). A Fragment on Government. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998). 24 25 Cabinet Office, (2010), The Coalition: our programme for government, p.32. 26 27 Meadway, (2011), pp. 18-19 28 See Gordon Brown’s Treasury document as chancellor of the exchequer in May 2007: [Internet] Available from < nt%20in%20the%20research%20base%20and%20innovation.pdf> 29 Meadway, (2011), p. 19 30 Solomon, (2011), p.12 31 Swain, (2011) 32 Solomon, (2011), p.13 33 Ibid, p.6 34 Yafai, (2011), p.35 35 Lipsett, Anthea, and Benjamin, Alison. (2009) Storm of student protest over Gaza gathers force. ‘The Guardian’, (23 January). Available from: <> 36 Swain, (2011) 37 Swain, (2011) 38 Solomon (2011), p. 4-5 39 ‘Protestor against Labour Councillor, 9th Nov Protest: Available from <> 40 Kingsley, Patrick. (2010). Student protests: NUS president apologises for 'spineless dithering'. ‘The Guardian,’ (28 November). Available from: < dithering>
  12. 12. 10 41 Harrison, Angela. (2010). Violence at Tory HQ overshadows student fees protest. ‘BBC’, (10 November). Available from: <> Harrison, Angela. (2011). Thousands march in student protest over university fees. ‘BBC’, (09 November). Available from: <> 42 Institute for Fiscal Studies, (2010). 43 Chessum (2011), p.10 44 A poll by Channel 4 News revealed that the percentage of students supporting the Liberal Democrats had fallen from 42% at the last general election to 11% just after the vote on fees. 83% of students said they felt let down by the Liberal Democrats to increase tuition fees. ((2010). Channel 4 News Poll: students desert Lib Dems over fees. ‘Channel 4 News’, (15 December). [Internet]. Available from: < over-fees>) 45 Meadway (2011), p.17 46 Shepherd, Jessica. (2012). Tuition fees rise does not breach human rights, high court rules. ‘The Guardian’, (17 February). Available from: <>
  13. 13. 11 References Apple, Michael W. (2001). Comparing Neo-Liberal Projects and Inequality in Education, in: ‘Comparative Education’, Vol. 37, No. 4, Special Number (24): ‘Comparative Education for the Twenty-First Century: An International Response’, pp. 409-423. (Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd). Bentham, Jeremy. (1776). A Fragment on Government. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998). Beetham, David. (2007). Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Democratization, ‘Political Studies, Volume 40, Issue Supplement s1, pages 40–53. (August 1992). Bielefeldt, Heiner. (2000). "Western" versus "Islamic" Human Rights Conceptions?: A Critique of Cultural Essentialism in the Discussion on Human Rights, ‘Political Theory’, Vol. 28, No. 1 (February), pp. 90-121. (Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.). Cabinet Office. (2010). The Coalition: our programme for government. Available from: <>. (Crown copyright). Chessum, Michael. (2011). Sit-ins, walk outs and flash-mobs: What now for student protest?. ‘Pi Newspaper,’ (November), No. 35, pp. 10-11. (Pi Media). Available from: <> Charity Commission. (2001). Students’ Unions, Students’ Unions: A Guide. Available from: <> Dahl, Robert A. (2000). A Democratic Paradox?, in: ‘Political Science Quarterly , Vol. 115, No. 1, pp. 35-40. (Published by: The Academy of Political Science). Dey, Eric. (1997). Undergraduate Political Attitudes: An Examination of Peer, Faculty, and Social Influences, ‘Research in Higher Education’, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 535-554. (Springer). Dey, Eric. (1997). Undergraduate Political Attitudes: Peer Influence in Changing Social Contexts, ‘The Journal of Higher Education’, Vol. 68, No. 4, pp. 398-413. (Ohio: Ohio State University Press). Dearden, Lorraine and Fitzsimons, Emla and Wyness, Gill. (2011). The Impact of Tuition Fees and Support on University Participation in the UK. (The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)). Freeman, Samuel. (2000). Deliberative Democracy: A Sympathetic Comment, ‘Philosophy & Public Affairs’, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 371-418. (Published by: Blackwell Publishing). Green, Phillip. (2000). Dryzek, Democracy in Capitalist Times: Ideas, Limits and Struggles by John Dryzek; Democracy's Place by Ian Shapiro, ‘Political Theory’, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 285-295. (Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.). Harrison, Angela. (2010). Violence at Tory HQ overshadows student fees protest. ‘BBC’, (10 November). Available from: <>. Harrison, Angela. (2011). Thousands march in student protest over university fees. ‘BBC’, (09 November). Available from: <>. Held, David. (1993) Prospects for Democracy. (Cambridge, Polity Press).
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