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Democrat July 2000 (Number 45)

Wolverhampton Students
demonstrate against cuts

by Ken Knapman

Wolverhampton students

Wolverhampton University students staged a demonstration on the University campus 0n Tuesday, May 23rd because of a decision to axe 22 courses from the 500 it normally offers. The cuts are to be in languages, humanities and the social sciences departments. It is feared that the cuts are the thin end of the wedge in an overall rationalisation programme. The Dean of the University had said that the rationalisation had been carried out, "with a great deal of care" but the areas the cuts fall in show that this is the overall direction universities are taking education.

Increasingly degrees are catering for the requirements of big business rather than providing the higher education students would prefer and should be theirs by right.

On the demonstration there were placards outlining the students demands that there should be no funding cuts. An ex-university student supporting the protest said:" You have to see this in the context of cuts in social programmes. Students are being attacked with having to pay fees and doing away with grants and putting them into debt with loans. Everyone feels that the situation has to be reversed with fees paid and grants restored. The cutting of courses is another attack on peoples' rights to free and fully funded education."

Students only learned of the cuts last week when they came to choose the courses they would be doing in September. They are angry because the cuts mean that they are now not able to study for the degree originally offered by the university to them.

Language and communication first-year student Laura Mellersh, aged 19, of Gloucester, said: "They have sold us a course they are not going to give us now. It is false advertising." Another student studying the same course commented: "At the moment this means that we haven't got a course to go to next year."

Even where alternative course have been offered students will have to do extra work over the summer vacation in order to catch up with everyone else. Geography student Rachel Parnell, 20, of Canterbury, Kent, said that she had learned of cases where tourism students who had been studying business now had to study leisure instead.

Another first year student, Daniel Hipgrave, aged 19, of Wolverhampton, who is studying French and Spanish, said that he was now being forced to change his degree. He said: "There have been drastic cuts in French. Now I am having to re-think because I originally wanted to do languages."

Latin American studies student Samantha Thoms, 27, said: "Wolverhampton offered a fantastic programme in the Latin American department but now it is being threatened."

The general feeling among the students is that protest over education has to be stepped up by students to win support so that the demand for an increase in this area of social funding can be realised. It has to be recognised that the student struggle is seen as part and parcel of the general demand for increased investment in social programmes. In turn this flies in the face of permanent cuts in the public sector required by the convergence criteria to join the single currency which have been carried on by this government.