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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK


Education

Students to publish 'Rough Guide to Occupations'

Goldsmiths College has been at the centre of student protests

University students protesting against tuition fees are to publish a 'Rough Guide to Occupations'.

Students at Goldsmiths College, London, who staged their own occupation against the threat of expulsion to non-payers of tuition fees earlier this year, are to produce a handbook on how to organise an occupation.

The guide, which will be ready for an escalation in the students' anti-fees campaign next term, will offer advice on getting in and staying in buildings, security, safety, publicity and legal responsibilities.


[ image: Sarah Kavanagh says the campaign against tuition fees will get stronger]
Sarah Kavanagh says the campaign against tuition fees will get stronger
"There are going to be more occupations this year than in 1968," said Sarah Kavanagh, campaigns and communications officer at the university's student union, promising more co-ordinated actions in universities across the country against the £1,000 per year tuition fees.

If the government has been hoping that the thorny subject of tuition fees would quietly fade away, the protestors are confident that the fees are sparking a new wave of student radicalism.

"Many students taking part in occupations this year have never had any political experiences before, let alone that kind of action. Now we're ready for more co-ordinated protests involving more students," says Sophie Kahn, who acted as a press officer to the occupation.


[ image: Denis Fernando believes Labour should have given more to education]
Denis Fernando believes Labour should have given more to education
The Goldsmiths' protest was part of a wave of occupations which affected universities including Oxford, Sussex and University College London.

Looking for ways to promote further protests in the autumn, a national conference of students involved in protests against the fees was held last month and a "think-tank" - the Education Funding Society - has been set up to develop arguments against the principle of charging fees.

The anti-fees campaign also gained fresh momentum from Labour's difficulties in forming a coalition in the Scottish Parliament. The Liberal Democrats' opposition to tuition fees blocked an agreement, until an independent review of student funding was agreed.


[ image: There are long-term social consequences of tuition fees, says Moya Malekin]
There are long-term social consequences of tuition fees, says Moya Malekin
These protestors come from the generation of young people who were first-time voters in the Labour landslide election victory of 1997, who now question the government's commitment to well-funded education system.

"I voted Labour to get out the Tories, but they haven't made enough use of their majority. They had the entire country behind them, but they didn't push up spending in education as much as they could," said the union's finance officer, Denis Fernando.

The students argue not only that the current levying of fees will deter the less-advantaged from entering higher education, but there is a long-term move towards a two-tier university system.

They claim that in future fees will rise, particularly in the most successful universities, so that access to the most sought-after places will depend as much on money as ability.

"There is a serious long-term impact from tuition fees. It will mean a society in which students are only drawn from a narrow social class," says Moya Malekin, a union publicity officer.

They also fear that the downgrading of the principle of free tuition will see a move towards greater involvement of private finance in higher education, with a business-sponsored private university sector emerging.

The government has so far refused to show any signs of backing down over tuition fees, arguing that students from deprived families do not have to pay fees. The statistics for university applications also show no sign of a decline in numbers from school leavers.

But if after the independent review, any compromise over tuition fees is allowed for students in Scotland, it will become difficult for the government to refuse to make similar concessions for students elsewhere in the United Kingdom.



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