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Year 2010 No. 54, November 18, 2010 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Mass Actions by Students to Declare that Education Is a Right!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Mass Actions by Students to Declare that Education Is a Right!

Statement from the Sussex Occupation

Scotland Also Marches!

Degree Costs Hiked Up 312% since 1988 and Set to Rise Another 101% by 2012

For Your Information:
Who Are the Real Vandals?

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Mass Actions by Students to Declare that Education Is a Right!

The demonstration on November 10 called by the NUS (National Union of Students) and UCU (University and College Union) reflected the outrage and anger against the Coalition government’s programme to increase student fees as part of its anti-social offensive and attacks on fundamental rights.

The demonstration also reflected that there is an overwhelming sense that the direction that the Coalition and previous New Labour governments have been taking society must be changed. The reactionary programme of the Coalition is accelerating the assault on the social economy. Almost every day a new measure is announced. It is not that these legislative diktats are too much too quickly. Rather, this comprehensive anti-social offensive is designed to eliminate the conception that society has a responsibility to meet the claims and needs of its members.

It was in this context that 50,000 students and lecturers demonstrated against the government’s proposals for outrageous increases in tuition fees, and to declare that education is a right, not a privilege! It was a signal of the flowering of both the youth and student movement and the movement of working people as a whole which is voicing the sentiment and demand that there is an alternative! This demand has come to the fore out of a deep sense of frustration about the marginalisation of the working class and people from decision-making. It has come to the fore out of a determination that the wrecking of society and its social programmes must not succeed, and that a halt must be called to the juggernaut of neo-liberalism.

The November 10 demonstration, in its size and militancy, took a stand against the obscenity of the government’s doubling tuition fees, cutting social programmes and social benefits, while attempting to consolidate its role as a military power, arrogantly parading as “Great” Britain.

The events at Millbank were a reflection of a genuine hatred of Westminster’s neo-liberal consensus. Many progressive people have since underlined this stand, and the sentiment of those fighting against being made to pay for the crisis is with the students. The storming of Millbank and its occupation cannot be said to be the actions of rogue “anarchist and extremist elements”, or however it is put. It was an outpouring of resistance to the anti-social offensive by large numbers of students, directed against what has become a symbol of the contempt for the people’s wellbeing, first under New Labour when Tony Blair staged his electoral coup, and now under the Con-Dem government, and its cartel-party coalition.

Perhaps the state was genuinely unprepared for such an action. Or maybe the Metropolitan Police had been making a point to the government to beware of cut-backs on the number of police, or the state had been looking for a pretext to act with increased brutality and impunity in the future against the workers’ and people’s movements, and the growing upsurge amongst the youth and students.

Following the actions at Millbank, the ruling circles and their media have attempted to sow divisions within the student movement. They have done so by, for example, claiming that those that occupied Millbank were not genuine students, or that those who did so were rich students who could afford tuition fees, or that the demonstration was hijacked by those intent on causing damage to property. Already a witch-hunt has begun against those the police want to arrest, and the state has stepped in to close down a website giving guidance on avoiding arrest. It may be mentioned in passing that the rich are perfectly happy to fund endless advisors on tax avoidance to perpetrate “legal” violence against the state treasury.

The aim of this propaganda against the youth is on the one hand to hold back the opposition of the working class and people, including the youth and students, to the pay-the-rich social system which cares nothing for the public good and the people’s wellbeing; on the other, it is to give the green light for further repression of the people’s resistance to this system. The promotion of violence to property covers over the violence to society, and particularly to the youth, that the Coalition is perpetrating; and the damage to Millbank Tower is nothing compared to the wrecking of society that its occupiers are presiding over, particularly to the future of the youth. Furthermore, the ruling elite would like to block the movement of the youth to take control of their own future, and instead lead them into a morass of anarchy and violence, and crush their movement with the anarchy and violence of the state itself.

The youth are not accepting that their movement will be stopped, either by the disinformation and violence of the state, nor, as it happens, by the promotion of a future parasitic heir to the throne as an example for the youth. The youth and students are actually giving the lie stemming from the Thatcher years that they are politically apathetic, and are prepared to buy into the pay-the-rich society for the sake of their careers. The November 10 demonstrations and also subsequent student occupations, as well as previous student and lecturers’ actions, are a declaration that they will not accept the dictate of the Con-Dem Coalition or the Westminster cartel, and are refusing to be marginalised from decision-making.

Through their actions, the students are coming to the conclusion that new arrangements are required in society so that the people can actually address the issues facing them, such as that education is a right and not a privilege, and that such a right must be provided with a guarantee, and that the economy must serve the needs of the people and not the enrichment of the owners of capital. In this regard, what is at stake is not a matter of forms of “protest” as the ruling circles would like to promote. It is how the youth and students can take control of their own future, and build a society in which class privilege is ended, and the public good is paramount.

No to Tuition Fees!
Education Is a Right, Not a Privilege!

Article Index

Statement from the Sussex Occupation

On November 15, over 170 students occupied the lecture theatre in the Fulton building at the University of Sussex in protest of the trebling of tuition fees and the attack on the education system. Following is the statement released by the occupying students.

In light of Wednesday’s demonstration, which saw 52,000 people come out in opposition to the government’s proposed cuts to education and raising of fees, we feel it is necessary for further action to consolidate the efforts made so far and push on in the opposition to these ideologically motivated cuts to both education specifically and public services as a whole.

We reject the notion that these cuts are necessary or for the benefit of society. There are viable alternatives which are not being explored. While the government has suggested that “we are all in this together”, we completely reject this and are insulted that these cuts are being pushed through alongside reductions in corporate tax. We feel these cuts are targeting those who are most vulnerable in our society.

Furthermore, not only are these cuts damaging our current education, but are changing the face of the education system as we know it. The hole in finances left by government cuts will inevitably be filled by private interest. This marketization of education will destroy the prospect of free and critical academic enquiry, on which universities should be based. The trebling of tuition fees will further exclude another swathe of society and make university accessible only to the rich.

We reject the media manipulation of the occupation of Millbank. The cost of the damage to 30 Millbank is less than insignificant when set against the damage of lost livelihoods and destruction of public services for future generations. This occupation recognises that Aaron Porter’s statements condemning the demonstration are counter-productive and serve only to divide and segregate the movement. We are disappointed that, as a national representative of students, Aaron Porter’s statements have detracted from the real issue at hand by focusing on the events at Millbank Tower.

We believe that this Tory led coalition government has no mandate for lifting the cap on tuition fees. Nick Clegg has openly manipulated student voters in his campaign for election, and following the recent exposure of plans to drop his pledge to reject any rise in tuition fees, this occupation condemns his dishonesty and undemocratic methods.

Education is a right, not a privilege!

Article Index

Scotland Also Marches!

Over 2,000 Scottish students, lecturers and their communities joined tens of thousands more from across Britain on the streets of London at the joint NUS/UCU Fund our Future: Fight Education Cuts demonstration.

Why Scotland marched?
Students from Scotland took part in the march past Westminster to show their opposition to the funding changes announced by the UK Government, which will have a huge impact in Scotland.

Public spending cuts of up to 80% in university teaching funds will be passed onto to the Scottish Government and tuition fees of up to £9,000 will plunge thousands of Scottish students studying in the rest of the UK into debt of up to £40,000, take tens of millions of pounds out of the pocket of students in Scotland, and only fuel calls for English students studying in Scotland to pay higher fees than they already do.

Who took part?
Thousands of college and university students and lecturers from as far north as Inverness boarded buses leaving from Elgin, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Glasgow, Paisley, Hamilton, Edinburgh and Stirling to make the trip to London. This is the largest number of students in Scotland to attend a national education demonstration in decades.

Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said: “We know that the levels of cuts the UK Government are eager to implement would not only be devastating in England, but will have a huge impact north of the border as well.

"Increased fees will force Scottish students studying in England into crippling levels of debt and will fuel calls for English students studying in Scotland to pay much higher fees.

"Worse still, the staggering 80% reduction in funding for universities will be passed on to the Scottish Parliament’s own budget.

"Over 2000 students from Scotland travelled to the march as these proposals would have a huge impact north of the border.

"Cuts will be passed on to the Scottish Parliament, and £9000 fees per year could saddle many Scottish students with staggering amounts of debt.

"We need the Scottish parliament to protect education, improve student support and protect places."

Article Index

Degree Costs Hiked Up 312% since 1988 and Set to Rise Another 101% by 2012

Article - Degree Costs Hiked Up 312% since 1988 and Set to Rise Another 101% by 2012

Article Index

For Your Information

Who Are the Real Vandals?

Below we give extracts from some of the articles written on the resistance to the raising of student tuition fees.

Student fees protests. The real vandals

Priyamvada Gopal, The Guardian, Saturday 13 November 2010

This week, tens of thousands of students and teachers demonstrated their commitment to the vanishing idea that the interests of the ordinary majority should prevail over the will of the powerful few. Most adhered to the prescribed rituals of peaceful and legitimate protest. But, as we should expect in times of great injustice, some departed from the script. They lit bonfires, smashed windows, occupied the roof of an unlovely building and ill-advisedly hurled the odd inanimate object.

As the same few pictures of broken windows and bonfires were flashed across television screens, out scuttled the politicians to deplore "bloody" mob violence and those who "ruined it for everyone else". Union officials vied with them to see who could use the strongest language ("despicable", "disgraceful", "contemptible"). In most of the media the protesters became "thugs", "rioters" and "criminals".

Meanwhile, a coalition government with no mandate for what they are doing demonstrated that their declared commitment to legitimate protest is no more than symbolic, with politicians such as Nick Gibb, the education minister, insisting that a largely peaceful protest by tens of thousands of students will not change the government's planned course of action in the slightest.

Focusing on damage to buildings usefully distracts attention from the much more far-reaching and systematic violence now being visited upon our education system and society more widely. It is as if we are being asked to believe that reparable damage to windows matters more than the lasting decimation of the nation's public property – schools, universities, public transport and hospitals; or that young people in search of social justice will undermine the fabric of Britain more viciously than those who would systematically degrade this country's welfare system, employment prospects, wages and pensions.


Those who inflict such violence through laws, budgets and the hypocritical language of shared pain feel entitled to demand non-violence. As the basis of protest, non-violence has been perverted from its once effective use as a weapon of the people – with actions such as sit-ins, boycotts, bonfires of goods and picketing – into a subterfuge for rulers, a pious excuse to protect them from the consequences of their actions. When that fails, out come the arrests and intimidation, as with the police hunt for those who occupied the Millbank building. We must not tolerate this demonisation of those who attempted to symbolically reclaim their country.

As resistance to the destruction of our social and economic landscape gathers momentum, we need effective strategies of protest. Civil disobedience – a principled breaking of the law – can be a powerful tool. Genteel rallies do not put sufficient pressure on the political class. Tarnishing justifiably angry young people as thugs will not make the real problem – the violence of the entitled few against the disenfranchised many – magically disappear.

Reflections on the invasion of Millbank Tower

Last Hours 11.11.2010

Amongst the 1,000s that played some role in the invasion of Millbank Tower, were workers and students from all areas of society. We condemn both the media claim that a small group of anarchist antagonists where responsible (juxtaposed by their own images showing thousands rallying around the building) as well as the notion that the students involved are part of a privileged class. The idea that working class youth are some how exempt from the desire for education is both naive and patronising. […]

The young people are angry. Do you blame them?

By Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

[…] It's obvious that a sustainable solution is needed for higher education funding in this country – but the one proposed by the coalition isn't it. Ministers could do worse than consider Jeevun Sandher's suggestions on LabourList this morning – he's right, education benefits society as a whole, and that's fertile ground for Labour to exploit in the coming days and weeks. It's also clear that Nick Clegg is as loathed by the students of Britain as he is by Labour activists. To do as he did, and campaign on one platform and then once in government attempt the opposite is precisely the kind of behaviour that turns young people off politics.

This afternoon many people have asked why the Tory HQ was targeted whilst so much of the real anger on fees has been directed towards the Lib Dems. Why didn't they target Cowley Street? The answer to that is a simple one – these days, with politicians like Nick Clegg, it's hard to tell the difference.

Medical students join angry protest march over university fees

Tom Ireland, GP Online, 11 November 2010

Hundreds of medical students from across the UK have joined protests against university fees in central London.

[…] Karin Purshouse, chairman of the BMA medical students committee, said there was a large turnout of students from medical schools all around the country, some dressed in scrubs. “Medicine already has a low intake of people from low-income families and this will only get worse. Medicine should be about peoples' ability not their ability to pay,” she said.

[…] The BMA fears the proposals could leave future doctors with debts of up to £70,000 after medical training.

Manchester Uni Occupation

11.11.2010 – Occupation of Manchester Uni's Finance office to expose planned cuts within the institution

Statement from students in occupation at Manchester University:

“Students at Manchester University have peacefully occupied the John Owens Building and are lobbying the finance board over the Coalition’s attacks on higher education.

“We are demanding that the University opens its books so that we know where the cuts will fall, how many voluntary redundancies have already been made and to highlight the fact that the vice Chancellor is paid 20 times the average salary. The financial director has denied any cuts are planned, despite the fact that voluntary redundancies have been announced and the combined studies department has already been cut.

“We are here to support lecturers and administrative staff who will be losing their jobs. To oppose the rise in tuition fees that will price out most working class students. And to oppose the privatisation of our Universities.”

Student protest. We are all in this together

Nina Power guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 November 2010

Today's protest against the education cuts was uplifting: students, staff and others from all over the country gathered in their thousands to walk the route between Embankment and Tate Britain, pausing to boo at Downing Street. The weather was bright and clear, and the mood decidedly upbeat. Staff, students and others marched together under banners from colleges all over the country, while drums and chants protesting at the fees rang out for miles. There were a sizable number of Lib Dems protesting against their own party's U-turn on fees, and a sit-in outside parliament – the peace protesters who reside there were happy to give the students a quick lesson in the true meaning of anarchy.

Numbers were massive too, with around 52,000 turning out – more than double the NUS's original estimate. Police helicopters circled above the crowds, as protesters carried giant vultures, carrots, coffins and effigies of Tory politicians. But media reports will inevitably focus on one thing, namely the spontaneous occupation of and protest in Tory HQ at 30 Millbank Tower. Aaron Porter, the NUS president, was quick to condemn the breakaway protesters, describing their actions as "despicable".


Direct action this most certainly was, the kind writers such as John Pilger have recently been calling for. It is hard to see the violence as simply the wilfulness of a small minority – it is a genuine expression of frustration against the few who seem determined to make the future a miserable, small-minded and debt-filled place for the many.

The protest as a whole was extremely important, not just because of the large numbers it attracted, and shouldn't be understood simply in economic terms as a complaint against fees. It also represented the serious anger many feel about cuts to universities as they currently stand, and the ideological devastation of the education system if the coalition gets its way. It was a protest against the narrowing of horizons; a protest against Lib Dem hypocrisy; a protest against the increasingly utilitarian approach to human life that sees degrees as nothing but "investments" by individuals, and denies any link between education and the broader social good.

The protesters – students and others – who occupied Tory HQ will no doubt continue to be condemned in the days to come. But their anger is justified: the coalition government is ruining Britain for reasons of ideological perversity. The protests in France and Greece and the student occupations here, such as the recent takeover of Deptford Town Hall by Goldsmiths students on the day cuts were announced, are indicators of a new militancy. At this point, what have we got to lose?

The best moments on any protests are when there is a real feeling of common purpose and a recognition that we are all on the same side. This is the true meaning of "big society" – the very thing that the coalition seems set on destroying, despite its rhetoric. This protest – in both its peaceful and more violent dimensions – is a sign of a country unafraid to fight back, for the first time in a long time.

Christians declare solidarity with students who occupied Millbank

ChristianMillbankSolidarity, 15.11.2010

A group of Christians has written a statement to show support for the people at Millbank currently being victimised. Here's the statement:
We are writing this as a group of Christians because we want to challenge some of the assumptions being promoted by the media concerning the outpouring of anger during the recent NUS and UCU-led demonstration. Through our own experiences, past and recent, we wish to challenge reporting of the situation that has sought to divide protesters into good and bad.

The coverage has consistently presented the violence of a very small minority as worse than that of the Coalition Government, and also tried to tar all who entered the courtyards and buildings of Millbank Tower on Wednesday with the same brush.

Jesus’ actions in the temple (John 2:13-16) were similarly shocking to the establishment – and though we cannot and should not claim God’s carte blanche blessing on these actions, we feel it more Christ-like to stand up for those being singled out and vilified for taking a stand than to passively accept the state’s condemnation of them.

We condemn violence against human beings, but the pacifism we support is not the idealistic liberalism that stands passive against injustice or the peace brought by the truncheon and surveillance, but a pacifism that upholds justice. The Pax Britannica that the Metropolitan Police supposedly failed to maintain is built on domination and injustice, and no more represents our vision of the Kingdom than the actions of the acute minority like the person who threw the fire extinguisher from the roof.

However, those who called for such actions to stop whilst continuing to hold their ground in the building are to be commended for their re-envisioning of the space. This is the real unreported story – how hundreds managed to differentiate between forcing their way into a building highly symbolic of the holding of power by an unjust elite, and the need to remain mindful of the potential for useless human suffering.


We also wish to point out that 20 injuries is still relatively low given the situation, and that similar numbers have been reported during peaceful protests where far fewer protesters have been involved, such as the Kingsnorth Climate Camp where some of us ran a cafe in August 2007. And we condemn reporting that equates window breaking and the injuring of humans as being equal – life is more important than wealth.

Many who took part in the march did so not because of, but despite the views of the NUS, who are currently pushing for a graduate tax that would have little effect on defending the moral fibre of our educational institutions. Some want free education, some want fees to be frozen and some agree with the NUS’ support for graduate tax. Many came because, without the Education Maintenance Allowance between 16 and 18, there is no way they could even make it to University. These are just a few of the disparate views represented in the marchers. To say that the march was hijacked ignores the fact that student’s voices are often hijacked by those with an eye on a seat in a future Labour cabinet.

We wish to condemn the violence of the few. Not of the few protesters who were ultimately restrained by a crowd eager to show active confrontation without needless violence, but of the few in our society who are seeking to re-arrange life along the lines of neo-liberalism, focusing wealth into fewer and fewer hands and destroying the future of an entire generation of ordinary people.

Signatories so far include:
Ceri Owen
Graham Martin
Rev Jeremy Clines (Anglican Chaplain to University of Sheffield)
Soo Tian Lee
Rev Ray Gaston
Tim Saunders
Tom O'Brien
Simon Barrow (Co-director of Ekklesia)
Tom Skinner

At such a price degrees will have no value

Richard Godwin, 10.11.10, Evening Standard, London

[…] I had to contend with David Blunkett's upfront £1,000 tuition fees and loans replacing grants – and I still curse that policy with every pay packet.

However, the nontupling of that figure does not simply represent an increased burden on students and their parents – and one that can only widen present inequalities. It is just part of a set of reforms that will change the very nature of higher education.

The most radical of the Government's proposals – inspired by Lord Browne's review of last month – is the removal of the £3.9 billion teaching grant to universities. This will transform them from worthwhile parts of the state to “service providers” subject to the market.

Politicians seem to find it hard to conceive of education as worthwhile in its own right. According to Browne's report, it matters principally “because it drives innovation and economic transformation. Higher education helps to produce economic growth, which in turn contributes to national prosperity”. From this utilitarian philosophy, Browne extrapolates that the only reason a student would go to university is to earn more money.


Even so, the principle is that as school-leavers demand more, universities will have to adapt or die. I wonder what is the most efficient way to succeed in this environment. More one-on-one tuition? A top student bar? Or an increased marketing budget?

I fear it will be do svidaniya Dostoevsky – for only the very rich and decadent will put up with £36,000-worth of debt for degrees that society considers so negligible. I would likely have contented myself with studying call centre management at EasyUniversity. A cheap route to a useful career in UK PLC maybe – but I'm not sure it would have been much of an education.

The 30-year graduate debt trap

Research for Money Mail by the Chartered Institute of Taxation shows a graduate earning £22000 will lose a total of £6029 – 27 per cent of their total pay. 17 November 2010, James Coney and Liz Phillips

Graduates on modest incomes face an effective tax rate of 45 per cent and crippling debts for most of their working lives, an investigation has discovered.

Radical reforms to the level of tuition fees and the way loans are repaid will leave many in debt until their mid-50s – by which time they'll be wrestling with putting their own children through university.

Tuition fees are set to rise to as much as £9,000 a year while living costs can be up to £8,210 a year, according to the NatWest Student Living Survey. That's £17,210 a year or £51,630 over three years. The maximum government loan is likely to be £43,500.

Debts to the government will be reclaimed by deducting 9 per cent from any salary above a £21,000 threshold, but interest will be added to the debt. This will range from the retail prices index (RPI) to RPI plus 3 percentage points, with higher earners paying the most.

For those on modest and middle incomes, the amount of interest is likely to be greater than the amount they repay, meaning the debt will balloon through their life until, after 30 years, it is written off by the government.

James Falla personal debt expert at beatmydebt.com is concerned by the findings. "Graduates can already expect to find themselves with personal debts of up to £25,000. Adding to this burden will make it extremely difficult for graduates to ever pay off their debt and will force them to look for alternative debt management options, perhaps even personal bankruptcy" he said.

Money Mail asked data analyst Moneyfacts to look at two scenarios that could encompass millions of graduates in essential occupations such as teaching and nursing.

In the first case, we assumed someone started work owing £43,500 earning £21,000 a year and receiving a 3 per cent pay rise each year.

After 30 years, they would have paid £33,217, but, because of the interest, they would still owe £73,659, which would be written off.

If their pay rose by a more generous 5 per cent a year, they would repay £64,239, but still owe £26,406. And these calculations assume 2 per cent RPI; today it's 4.6 per cent.

To make life tougher, any graduate earning more than £21,000 a year would be losing 45p in every £1 they earned above this threshold.

This is made up of basic-rate income tax at 20 per cent, National Insurance contributions of 12 per cent, having 9 per cent stripped to pay for their student loan, and another 4 per cent taken by their employer as a pension contribution.

Research for Money Mail by the Chartered Institute of Taxation shows a graduate earning £22,000 will lose a total of £6,029 – 27 per cent of their total pay. It would reduce their take-home pay to £1,330 a month.

Someone earning £26,000 will have £7,829 deducted – equal to 30 per cent of their takehome pay. For those on £30,000, their take-home pay is reduced by £9,629 or 32 per cent.

'We risk creating a generation of students who will never be able to pay their way out of debt,' says Chris Tapp, of debt charity Credit Action. 'They are going to be lumbered with a lifetime of borrowing. The danger of student loans rising is that other more expensive credit may get put to one side.

'This is just the start of a cycle of problems. Parents may be so worried about funding their child's education that they borrow to help them out.'

James Falla believes that paying back large graduate loans may force many to borrow even more money.

"Paying off student debts after graduation is never an easy task. Most graduates experience a significant increase in living expenses when they get their first job. If their incomes are reduced due to large student debt repayments this could force them to increase their borrowing from other sources and drag them even further into debt" he warned.

Students graduating from 2017 will face the full brunt of the Coalition's reforms to tax, pensions and student funding.

From next April, National Insurance rises from 11 per cent to 12 per cent. Then a new national pension scheme will strip further money from their income.

From October 2012, anyone aged 21 or over who is employed for more than three months and who earns more than £7,475 will have 0.8 per cent of their income taken as a pension contribution. This will increase to 4 per cent by 2017.

Their situation will be exacerbated by cuts to student loans for better- off graduates, which will force them to borrow more from banks. […]

Student riots, the first taste of the fruits of unbridled austerity

Peter Geoghegan, 18 November 2010

Peter Geoghegan holds an honorary position in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh.

[…] The sheer number – the National Union of Students estimates more than 50,000 – that took part in demonstrations against increases in tuition fees and reductions in university budgets of up to 40 per cent shows the depth of anti-cuts feeling among students. Many travelled long distances from places such as Sheffield and Edinburgh to participate.

The vast majority were peaceful and dignified. That some protesters turned violent should not detract from the fact that many students feel so angry and powerless that they are marching en masse on British streets for the first time in a generation. Indeed, conditions are ripe for sustained student unrest in the coming months.

For a hint of what may come, look to the Republic of Ireland. It is hardly a hotbed of student radicalism, but at the start of this month, 25,000 took to the streets to protest against a proposed hike in university registration fees. Demonstrations in Dublin turned nasty, with clashes between the police and a handful of protesters. Student leaders quickly condemned the violence, but, as in Britain, this rioting needs to be viewed as a symptom of a deeper malaise.

On both sides of the Irish Sea, governments have pursued austere deficit-reduction policies. Indeed, Chancellor George Osborne, who in 2006 called Ireland "a shining example of the art of what is possible", has modelled the coalition's cuts strategy on measures introduced by Dublin after the banking crisis.

In Ireland, budgets have been squeezed so tightly that there is barely a euro's worth of savings to be wrung from the public sector. Education, alongside almost every other government department, has had its spending slashed, to the detriment of many Irish universities. Despite the republic possessing one of the most highly educated workforces in the world, unemployment stubbornly remains above 12 per cent. Last year, 40,000 people left the country, many of them graduates. More than 100,000 are expected to join them next year.

Young Irish men and women wishing to pursue third-level education now face three near certainties: debt, unemployment and emigration. Demonstrators took to the streets of London out of a justifiable fear that the coalition's policies will leave UK students in a similarly daunting position. Reductions in third-level spending proposed by the Browne Review and endorsed by Westminster cannot be viewed in isolation. They are part of a much wider, Conservative-led policy of cutting public spending and shrinking the state.

Why is the coalition carrying out such savage cuts? Osborne's answer is that if the country's vertiginous budget deficit is not brought down to earth quickly, international bond markets will lose faith in the government's ability to pay back its loans, leading interest rates on our borrowing to rocket and threatening Britain with bankruptcy.

This analysis is deeply flawed. Much of our government debt is in the form of long-term loans that do not need to be repaid quickly. Furthermore, bond markets do not reward reckless deficit-cutting, which radically erodes tax bases and leaves gaping holes in tax receipts. Indeed, at almost the exact moment that protesters entered Millbank Tower, the yield on Irish bonds hit a record high of 8.62 per cent: cuts have shrunk Ireland's economy so drastically that markets doubt the country's ability to produce sufficient tax revenue to service its debts. This could happen here.

Students are not alone in opposing Westminster's austerity drive. No less than David Blanchflower, a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee until 2009, described the Comprehensive Spending Review as "unnecessary, misguided, doctrinaire". Across the pond, Paul Krugman warned that "the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997. That is, premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump." Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics, believes the coalition must increase public spending to restore full employment and dispel fears of a double-dip recession.

The Liberal Democrats may argue that changes in education funding will leave the poorest better off, but whatever the merits of their case, unless there is radical change in the government's overall economic strategy, this will not be the last time we see students rioting on our streets. This is Britain, 2010.

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