Students Challenge David Willets to Justify his Attacks on Education

A delegation of students and trade unionists representing Youth Fight for Jobs: South have lobbied Havant MP and Minister for Universities David Willets at his constituency office to challenge the minister on the findings of the Browne Report, student debt and his government’s plans for savage education cuts.

Accompanied by a journalist from the Portsmouth News the delegation, comprised of members of UNITE, and RMT trade unions, and Portsmouth and Southampton Students’ Unions, picketed Willets’ office, and succeeded in holding an hour long meeting with the minster who  infamously declared students to be ‘a burden on the taxpayer’.

Clare Blackwell, a medical student from Southampton University , challenged Willets on his projections for student debt and his assertion that higher levels of debt wouldn’t restrain working class college students from going to University.

Clare also rejected Willets’ claim that cuts in education would be sparing, revealing that technicians and support staff had already been made redundant and that under staffing in departments meant that in many overfilled lecture theatres students have to sit on the floor or on walkways.  

Andy Waterman, RMT member and former Portsmouth Student, said: “Willets claims that his plans will allow students to pay off this burden of debt when they graduate, but the point he’s ignoring is rising youth unemployment, which is higher across this region then it has been for a generation.”

When asked if he accepted that under a free market system some Universities would ‘go to the wall’ Willets agreed, saying:  ‘You could have private companies taking over universities. It is something we have to think about. There are a range of possibilities. No government has ever been able to offer an unconditional guarantee that universities would carry on under their existing management.”

Aside from publically challenging Willets and gaining valuable press coverage the event also succeeded in building links with teachers and union reps at Havant College  ensuring that Youth Fight for Jobs continues to play a key role in uniting students and workers across the region.

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