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This month has been a time for protest around the world, with women’s marches and the reactions to them dominating the news, leading the purposefulness of protests to be called into question. On the 19th January, before it became the trend of the month, Lancaster faced its own angry crowd, with students from all over campus coming together to protest the £250 rise in tuition fees.
As was expected, many have criticised the march for varying reasons. Most predominantly the rise in inflation is the main reason that many believe the protest to be pointless. Just like any other service or commodity, the university has to raise their prices to account for the increase in running expenses. Secondly, the fact that we, meaning only the most recently accepted, not previous years, were warned at the time of our acceptance that the university held the right to increase our fees just like any other university would.
Yet what these people refuse to take into account is the lack of a quality expiation from the university, they listed their reason being that of continuing a high quality education. The question many people found them asking was where does the money go?
A large population of the students that I have discussed this issue with seem to feel that £9000 is unreasonable considering the average contact hours seem to be under 15 hours a week, many lectures leave students confused as to their relevance and the overall instability of getting a job at the end of university leaves many students feeling insecure and irritated when it comes to tuition fees. Therefore to raise the fees by £250, which may appear as an insignificant amount in the grand scheme of things feels like an insult to those paying, especially due to the fact that we are powerless to stop it.
First, students faced the replacement of maintenance grants with loans in 2015 and now tuition fees are to rise again, therefore forcing students to take out an even larger loan, enter into more debt, and all before the time they are in their 20’s. It is hard to accept that in a government that is predominantly made up of the privileged, who wouldn’t bat an eye at the £250 increase, can continue to make university harder to access from those with lower income background. It is even more frustrating that when we protest, peacefully and well within our rights, we are declared blissfully ignorant hippies, especially when you take into account that the university is gaining around £3,334,000 and there has been no detailed explanation as to where exactly this money will go, other than a vague description of hiring more staff, library subscription fees, and a word class campus. Yet this has been what we thought the university had been doing with our money up until this point. It also raised the issue of students choosing where their money goes, should we not have a more active input as to these decisions? Protests are one of the only way that students can demonstrate this dissent, without which many would feel even more voiceless than they already do.
People will say that this protest was not well attended and so had no impact, and that even protests that are attended by thousands never seem to make a massive change, therefore protests are the wrong way to go about annoyance towards governmental issues. Yet the day that people stop protesting austerity and decide that they cannot change anything is the day that we truly become ignorant. No one attending the protest would have thought that the university was going to reverse their decision but rather, more importantly, they hoped that their dissent would achieve change in terms of the continuation of monetary increases and, if not that, then an increase in visible quality of the education they receive.