Fighting the Cuts at Manchester Met: Interview with Rob Croll and Alex Fountain

Article published: Tuesday, November 23rd 2010

On Monday students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester held a rally in All Saints Park ahead of the national day of walk-outs and protests due to take place on Wednesday 24 November. With talk of building occupations in the air and police and university security keeping a watchful eye on proceedings, Andy Bowman caught up with MMUnion president, Rob Croll, and community officer Alex Fountain.

How are the cuts to higher education going to affect Man Met?

It’s going to be really badly affected because we have a lot of students from working class communities, and with fees rising above £6,000 a lot of them are going to be dissuaded from coming. It’s going to be a disaster for students from poorer backgrounds. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) gives MMU a teaching grant of £70 million, but now a lot of that is being taken away and the costs are being shifted onto the individual students. It’s going to mean that this will really be a private institution rather than a public sector one.

What are you doing at the moment to counter the cuts?

We have a debate today with the vice chancellor, to try and get some answers in terms of what exactly is being cut. We’ve heard that the humanities and arts courses are under threat – and our arts facilities comprise around 7,000 students. Contact hours are going to be affected and there is also likely to be increased standardisation and streamlining of education, with reduced numbers of course options for students to take. We want to try and raise questions about these things.

How do the student protests fit into the broader anti-cuts movement?

A lot of these cuts aren’t necessary, and that includes the cuts being made to universities. This crisis was created by bankers, not students. There are alternative ways to raise the money, such as not replacing Trident, clamping down on corporate tax avoidance – companies like Vodafone – and then of course the Tories went and lowered corporation tax rates. The cuts are purely ideological.

Those arguing for the cuts to university subsidies say that students have to pay their own way. How do you respond to that?

Education was never set up just to make money; it is about learning and thinking, helping people to develop. Education is not just about pushing people into jobs, it is inherently good in itself, and it is good for society as a whole. Students should not be making choices in the study based simply on how much money they can earn as a result.

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