IKEA UNIVERSITY

At our session at Progressive London, we ask you which ideas you wanted us to campaign on youth unemployment and how you wanted to campaign on this.

We also invited a cracking line up of speakers who are organising for young people right across the country - Sam Tarry, Hope not Hate Organiser and Chair of Young Labour, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Black Students’ Officer for NUS, Mercury Music Award Winner – Speech Debelle, Rowenna Davis, Journalist at Guardian, Independent & Headliners and
Nizam Uddin, President of University of London Union who pitched his message to young people taking part.

"Firstly, thank you to Progressive London for inviting me to speak at the conference; it’s an absolute honour to be here in front of you today. It’s truly comforting to see an initiative being taken in addressing key issues that otherwise might go unheard, especially in an election year where common sense seems to be replaced by political malleability on the part of some of our leaders.

I am here both as the President of the University of London Union and as a Young Londoner, and I come to tell you about the bleak story of our Higher Education Sector, and how making the wrong choice at the ballot box this May will take us down a very narrow, winding road with very little room for a U-turn, potentially causing further misery on many young Londoners.

It was recently announced that Higher Education faces the prospect of £915m worth of cuts, part of cost-cutting measures to help mitigate the public deficit. The impact this will have is the possible closure of up to 30 Universities, where some of our most vulnerable students study, and job losses potentially totalling 14,000 people, with some even estimating that further cuts could total £2.5bn over the course of the next three years. Some of these planned cuts have already been announced in some of London’s biggest universities, including Kings College and UCL, which aptly demonstrates the severity of the situation.

Now I want to say ‘I’m no economist’ but having studied half an Economics Degree, I feel I can use my half vocation to conclude this to be a pretty bad idea, and one that would bring ‘one of the world’s greatest education systems to its knees’.

Surely coming out of the trough of a recession we should be investing in our most powerful capital, the very people that will be the drivers of our future growth. This model of investment in essential public services is not new, and one we need to be following, for society as a whole benefits from an educated and skilled workforce.

An example of this might be that targeting people from the most deprived areas of London to attend university will enable them to experience the richness of culture, religion and diversity that London’s universities have to offer and as such make transparent the ignorant and racist ill-informed views of parties such as the BNP.

It’s for reasons such as this and more we should be targeting for even higher a figure than the 50% target placed by the Government of young people to be in Higher Education. There is a marked difference between pushing people to go to University and encouraging and creating maintained opportunities for young people to go on to higher education.

New students going into Higher Education currently face the prospect of walking into a perfect storm of sweeping cuts, which will inevitably damage their student experience, whilst at the very same time being asked for more money to fund their education.

The current ‘Independent’ review into Higher Education Funding will no doubt make sure of that increase. Headed by Lord Browne of Madingely, a former head of BP, with representation from other key business areas as well as two Vice- Chancellors, both of whom head up research- intensive institutions’, and finally topped off with a non- accountable student representative, it is widely expected that Lord Browne’s findings will recommend a raise of up to £7,000 in undergraduate tuition fees. This will, coincidentally off course, be in line with what a CBI Report recommended in September 2009.

This regressive marketised approach is counter-productive, working only to create a two- tier Higher Education system and paralysing social mobility for many, especially when considered in the context of superfluous public expenditure in projects and areas which most certainly don’t prioritise over our country’s education system.

Having painted that grim picture of Higher Education, it saddens me to think how young people will be even greatly affected than they already are, should all of those scenarios decide to play out.

Currently, we have nearly a million young people unemployed. We have graduates being churned out of University into a dismally bleak graduate market, so much so that a recent survey of small and medium enterprises showed how 89% of them have not employed a graduate in the past year, and they would continue not to do so in the recession.

We then have a situation where organisations are capitalising on this over- abundance of skilled labour, exploiting eager graduates and recruiting them as interns, not paying them a wage for longer than they probably should.

So how do we go about changing this? How do we hammer home to the next government that this minimalist Ikea approach to education funding is not on? That this disproportionate suffering of young people who played no part in causing the recession is not on?

Personally, as a staunch advocate of civic participation, I believe the most powerful tool in our arsenal is ourselves and our votes. It is not the biggest secret in the world that voter apathy reigns amongst the 18-24 age group, with only 37% voting in the last General Election in 2005, whilst in comparison there was a 75% turnout for the over 65s. Any student of politics, and I mean in the basic watching BBC News sense, knows political parties will be unwilling to make unpopular decisions against a core section of its electorate. We as young people are not in that core, and we need to be.

If there are important issues that we care about, and we don’t vote, why should our elected representatives care? It’s the unfortunate nature of our current democratic structures that the popular vote wins. In 2009, the youth of London need to mobilise their vote and truly become a stakeholder in influencing policy.

We need to stamp our vision for a Higher Education system that prioritises quality over value for money, society before the economy and students as stakeholders rather than consumers."


Want to get involved in our campaign on youth unemployment All Doled Up. What will you pledge?

1. Join the campaign
2. Come to our events
3. Tell us your idea

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