JCRs unite as ‘Free Education’ fever sweeps across Oxford

Thirteen JCRs have passed motions supporting next month’s National Union of Students demonstration on free education, ahead of an OUSU vote on the policy.

The draft motion, which was passed in various forms at several JCRs, committed the common rooms to ‘support free education as a policy and the NUS campaign against fees and debt,’ as well as ‘to support the national demonstration for free education, and pass £50 [or another amount] from the motions budget to help subsidise coaches to London for the national demonstration.’

The NUS demonstration, which will take place under the banner of ‘Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt,’ is being held in protest against the coalition government’s higher education policies, including the privatisation of the Student Loans Company and the tripling of tuition fees to £9,000. The demonstration is backed by a coalition of activist groups including the Student Assembly Against Austerity, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and the Young Greens, and will follow a trade union demonstration on the 18th.

James Elliot, a second year historian at Teddy Hall who drafted the original motion, said: “I’m delighted so many JCRs have taken the time this weekend to discuss free education, and that the majority of them have sided with me in the belief education is a right that should be accessible to all, through the abolition of fees. I hope the motion passes through Council on Wednesday, and that we get mobilising students for the 19th of November demonstration.”

Not all colleges at which motions were brought passed them, however. Keble JCR voted the motion down, while St Johns opted to vote against the policy of free education while still pledging £75 to subsidise coaches to London.

The monetary contribution from each college will vary. Wadham SU has pledged £200 for coaches to the demo, four times as much as the standard pledge of £50 and twice as much as Balliol’s pledge of £100.

Wadham’s support, the result of a unanimous vote, represents a resounding response to claims that the college no longer holds the “crown of radicalism,” in particular the claim of Balliol JCR member Xavier Cohen that “Wadham might talk the talk much better than Balliol, it appears that Balliol are the ones walking the walk.”

Aliya Yule, the Wadham student who proposed the SU motion on Sunday, told the OxStu: “The free education motion passed with unanimous support at Wadham; all five of Wadham SU’s voting cards will be supporting the motion when it goes to OUSU Council on Wednesday, and we have pledged £200 to fund coaches taking students to the demonstration on the 19th November.

“We discussed how important it is as a political message for common rooms to take a stand on the issue of free education in order to show that students will not tolerate the commodification of higher education. That there were no objections to the motion shows that Wadham is fully committed to promoting and supporting this policy.”

An OUSU Council motion on adopting free education as a policy was debated yesterday, but at time of writing the result of the vote was not available. This follows OUSU Council’s vote two weeks ago on whether to fund coaches to the demonstration, which passed despite controversy over correct procedure.

JCRs voting ‘For’ Free Education Motion:

  • Balliol
  • Hertford
  • Harris Manchester
  • Regent’s Park
  • St Hilda’s
  • Wadham
  • St Anne’s
  • Queen’s
  • Somerville
  • Univ
  • St Peter’s
  • Exeter
  •  Trinity

JCRs voting ‘Against’ Free Education Motion:

  • Keble
  • Magdalen
  • Brasenose
  • St John’s*

*Whilst St John’s voted against the policy of free education, they pledged £75 to pay for coaches.