By Matthew Proctor
Thousands of students descended on central London for the NUS/UCU education demonstration Saturday November 19. The NUS counted a 15000 turnout, with students protesting against the backdrop of cuts to education, the introduction of the so called ‘teaching excellence framework’, and free education. Approximately 20 students from Cardiff attended, the majority from Cardiff student socialists, as well as VP education Mo Hafany, and VP welfare Hollie Cooke.
The protest occurred as the Higher education bill is currently going through parliament. The bill contains the most wide-reaching reforms for the higher education sector since tuition fees were trebled.
The One of the two main concerns critics raise is the Ham-fisted approach of the Teaching excellence framework (TEF), which will allow universities to raise tuition fees based on several criteria, including the NSS, and graduate earnings.
Additionally, academics have warned against the reforms made to the research councils structure, which will amalgamate the independent royally chartered research councils into a central body, run by the government. Critics fear it will lead to ministers having undue influence over research grant allocations, and lead to a gove-esque policy of ministerial curriculum dictation.
Whilst education is devolved to the welsh assembly, the decisions made in Westminster will ultimately come to bear on welsh Universities. The Vice chancellor of Cardiff university has admitted it is unlikely that the treasury will continue to fund English students attending welsh universities not subject to similar regulatory standards as the rest of the UK. Additionally, changes to the research council make-up will affect all welsh universities owing to the UK –wide nature of the body.
The fightback against the HE bill continues, with the NUS starting a campaign for final years to boycott the National student survey, one of the metrics designed to allow institutions to raise fees. It is unclear whether CUSU will support such a measure.