This week the Green Party announced its manifesto pledges for higher education, promising to abolish tuition fees and reinstate student grants. Announcing the pledges, co-leader Jonathan Bartley said, “The Green Party is the only party standing up for students and putting young people at the heart of its campaign. Education is a right not a commodity to be bought and sold”.
We should not forget that it was a Labour government that introduced tuition fees, and a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that tripled fees from £3,000 to £9,000 per year. In 1997, I attended NUS Conference and watched the spectacle of Labour Student activists arguing that free education was no longer affordable – many of them went on to be elected as Labour MPs.
Thankfully these days the National Union of Students represents the best interests of its students. They held their annual conference this week and promised the biggest ever voter registration drive over the coming weeks. West Berkshire Green Party supports this and will be encouraging young people to register to vote on 8 June. The deadline to register is 22 May! The Green Party is also campaigning for votes for 16 and 17 year olds.
This week the Prime Minister Theresa May rejected the argument, supported by many of her Cabinet colleagues, to remove international students from the UK immigration statistics. Her target is to reduce net migration to below 100,000, but there are hundreds of thousands of international students studying in the UK, the overwhelming majority of whom return home when their courses are over. They represent around one in five of all students. I am currently studying for an MA in Global Political Economy in London, and most of my fellow students are from overseas. It’s essential to study such a subject alongside people from all over the world. According to Universities UK, international students are worth £25 billion to the UK economy so from a purely cynical view one wonders why May does not welcome such a boost to the economy. Her stubbornness will also make it harder for her to reach her target.