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Faculty's view: 'Labour gave young people license to dream'

CAMPAIGN: Supporters of free education and reduced student debt

IN THIS general election Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party offered a radical alternative to what has too quickly become the norm in Higher Education.

Of course, that free education is considered radical at all is indicative of how accustomed we’ve become to an establishment that puts profit before people.

We know that free education is available to many of our European neighbours, including those in Scotland. Undoubtedly, this should be a fundamental pillar of any equitable society. As we fight to transform ours, this will be a key battle for us all; perhaps particularly for students.

We also know that increased student debt has a disproportionate impact on ‘BAME’ students, as well as students from working-class backgrounds. The data shows that students from these backgrounds attain lower grades (despite entering at equivalent levels) and are far less likely to complete their degree. It is entirely conceivable that financial strains play a key role in both of these outcomes.

Of course, we should all have the opportunity to learn. From a cynical and capitalistic perspective, this can stimulate the economy as our workforce becomes increasingly skilled. But Corbyn has reminded us that we can look beyond this narrow lens: we are not just a workforce. Instead, we are people who deserve to learn and grow, individually and collectively. The knowledge we gain ought not to be commodified.

Whilst Corbyn may not be our next PM, there is no question that free education is firmly back on the agenda. This Labour movement has given young people the licence to dream big and to refuse concessions. There is no need to become resigned to lifelong debt. Instead, they – with the support of us, the lecturers – can get behind the student-led free education movement. This grassroots movement has long since agitated for change and must now be given due credit.

Whilst a Conservative-led Coalition looks likely, this general election has vastly changed the political landscape. With a strong opposition, given our full (but always critical) support, free education become a very really possibility. We must now continue to organise inside and outside of mainstream politics.

Thanks to Labour, we can now do this with real hope.

Remi Joseph-Salisbury is a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at Leeds Beckett University and Dr. Laura Connelly is a Lecturer in Criminology at The University of Salford.

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