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