OUSU vote to support #GrantsNotDebt demo

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student-protest-2OUSU council has voted to give support to the #GrantsNotDebt demonstration taking place in London next week.

The demonstration, hosted by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will take place on the 4th November with the aim of obtaining free education and living grants for all. Measures announced in the last budget included the scrapping of maintenance grants for low-income students from September 2016 and the potential for tuition fees to rise above £9000 from the 2017-18 academic year.

The vote passed OUSU council with 80 votes in favour, 4 in opposition and 7 abstaining.

The motion resolved to donate £300 from the council’s discretionary fund to help fund the cost of coaches to take students to the demonstration.

The OUSU President was also mandated to email students with information about the demonstration and coach tickets, a further £30 will come from the discretionary fund to distribute leaflets produced by NCAFC.

Xavier Cohen, a 3rd year PPE student at Balliol College, who proposed the motion said of the vote: “OUSU Council voted overwhelmingly – about 80 to 4 – to support the demonstration for #GrantsNotDebt and book and subsidise coaches to the protest. Loads of common rooms have backed the demo with financial support as well – I’m hoping that return tickets to London will be around £3. What I want to stress is that this is an access issue – if you’re the kind of person who cares about access or volunteers to help out on open days, then you should consider coming to this demonstration. Let’s go to London together, in big numbers, and fight this attack on the poorest.”

The reasons given during the council in support of the motion included the effect of the increased debt burden on students applying from households with low income and the effects this may have on access to a university education.

The mobilizing of a campaign from Oxford has already received support from numerous JCRs with the total donated so far being around £900. The colleges to have passed motions pledging financial support thus far include Keble, Hartford, Balliol and Wadham.

Luke Barratt, who proposed a motion to Somerville JCR in order to support the demonstration, told the Oxford Student: “Cutting maintenance grants is a regressive step. Under the government’s proposals, the poorer a student is, the more debt they will have to take on to attend university. In July, 35 per cent of students responding to an NUS survey said they wouldn’t have gone to university without maintenance grants. It is especially important for Oxford students to protest the marketisation of our education, as it’s likely that Oxford’s fees will rise considerably in the coming years. We must make it as easy as possible for Oxford students to protest this further entrenchment of elitism, and I’m delighted at the funding that has been contributed towards coaches so far.”

During the meeting, a representative from Queen’s College spoke in opposition to the motion stating that the language used by free education campaigners was ‘misleading’, as the cost of education will always be borne by the taxpayer and thus was not free. It was also argued that the motion would waste OUSU money and serve to scare off students applying to university.

Speaking to the Oxford Student, OUCA President Jan Nedvidek said: “The government was elected with a clear mandate to eliminate the deficit, and it is obvious that some difficult decisions have to be taken to achieve that. No demonstration or march will reduce the democratic mandate the government has from the electorate to implement its manifesto.”

“What is important here is that nothing is being cut: all students will receive exactly the same amount of money they would get without this policy. All that is changing is that once you’ve started earning above the average wage after graduating, you will be asked to contribute to the national budget so that the government can continue giving money to students in the future. It is a very sensible and responsible thing to do, as it means that there will be enough money in the pot for students in the future.”

The demonstration was originally called at the NCAFC conference in June and aims to be part of a wider campaign against the policies of the current Conservative government.

Image: The Independent

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