After the government announced it will slash the National Scholarship Program, Universities have come under fire to replace the money with funds from their burgeoning cash reserves. Today, the University of York made its decision public: it will fund 50% of the shortfall in funding for its scholarships, or £700k, from its own reserves. The announcement comes after hundreds of students bombarded the senior management group with emails, and is a significant concession if somewhat short of a win.
Student Union President Kallum Taylor wrote on Facebook about the announcement: “The University are covering 50% of the remaining gap and directing all of that funding (just over £700k) directly to bursaries which 2014/15 students will feel the benefit of in the here and now. So there’s no messing about and figure fiddling with the likes of tuition fee waivers. The cash that is there to help middle-to-low income background students get through will be seen and felt as cash in their pockets, or off their rent bills.”
Whilst this is true, its not good enough. The University is currently also under-fire for spiralling accommodation fees that are outstripping maintenance loans – the cash students are loaned by the government to live off rather than cover fees. And other Universities have come out with better deals – including Manchester and Birmingham institutions who are covering significantly more of the shortfall. With so much money in the bank, its time the University met the basic demands of fully ‘plugging the gap’, increasing pay to staff and ending zero-hour contracts, and freezing accommodation costs.
The student campaign is expected to step up a gear next year with a campus meeting to discuss the defence of education, followed by a national student meeting and demonstration in Birmingham during the first 4 weeks of term. Students will then have a key opportunity to take the struggles out on to their own campuses with a week of action from 3rd to 7th February coordinated by the Student Assembly Against Austerity. We’ll release more details of the forthcoming campaign once we have them.