Christian students with some of their chaplains and teachers, were among the thousands of demonstrators in London yesterday to protest against government plans to allow universities in England to charge fees of up to £9000 per year.
Hilary Topp, National Coordinator of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) said: “The demonstrations show that students are rightly angry about these proposals, and they are willing to stand up against unfair fees that will not affect them, but will impact on the opportunities open to future generations.”
She added: “For us this is an issue of justice - access to Higher Education should be based on ability, not the ability to pay. We are very concerned that a substantial increase in tuition fees will deter applicants from poorer backgrounds, and will enslave students to a lifetime of debt.”
Reflecting on the demonstrations, Andy Treharne, SCM member and a student at the University of Southampton, said: “The majority of protestors expressed their anger in a peaceful and constructive way. The handful of violent demonstrators should not distract us from the real issue, which is that access to higher education would become unfair under the proposed system”
SCM are calling on the government to give a higher priority to education funding, including Higher Education. The proposed increases in tuition fees could leave graduates with more than £40,000 of debts whilst at the same time the government is planning to spend billions on renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.
A number of student chaplains took part in the demonstration, among them, Fr Vladimir Nikiforov, Roman Catholic Chaplain to Royal Holloway College. Fr Vlad told ICN: "This country doesn't have gold or oil. It has banks and brains. Its quite clear to me that the bankers want to limit education to the subjects that are useful to them - engineering and science. Philosophy, arts and liberal studies are not and so they are cutting funds to them. I believe education is a right not a privilege. If a government can't provide education it should resign. Pope Benedict in his Mission Sunday message urged us all to work for the improvement and development of society. So we have been commissioned to fight to keep education."
The Student Christian Movement is an ecumenical student-led movement passionate about faith and justice. SCM brings students together to explore how to live out the Christian faith in today’s world, www.movement.org.uk
See also: Royal Holloway University Chaplaincy www.rhul.ac.uk/chaplaincy/chaplains_new.html
London University Chaplaincies http://www.universitycatholic.net/
and Newman House http://111gowerstreet.blogspot.com/