#Demo2012: What’s the point and why are we going?

In just one week, on Wednesday 21st November, there is going to be a National Demonstration in London and the Union is providing free coaches to UEA students who wish to attend. You can book your place here: ow.ly/f2ewp or you can go to the box office in person.

Unlike the national demo that was held in 2010, which was called in response to the proposed increase in tuition fees, this demonstration is not just one particular policy, but instead intends to reunite the student movement. By bringing students together from all over the nation, we will celebrate and exhibit our collectivism. We will show that as the next generation of voters there are issues that we deeply care about and we will act to change them.

So what are some of these issues?

Youth Unemployment
Youth unemployment has risen to over 20% in the UK. Currently, young people are faced with two major hurdles to gettting a job:

1. Big firms are reducing recruitment in order to reduce staff numbers. This collapse in new vacancies hits young people the hardest.

2. Greater unemployment means that there is more choice in applicants for jobs. Employers tend to favour people with previous experience, and this places young people in a catch-22 situation; they are unable to get a job because they don’t have experience and unable to get experience because they don’t have a job.

Women Students

Cuts to education funding has disproportionately affected women. Recent budget cuts have reduced funding to higher education institutions by up to 80%. These cuts have been incredibly harsh on arts, humanities and social sciences, which are subjects mainly populated by women. However, more male dominated disciplines, such as engineering and sciences, have been treated much more leniently.

The gender gap in pay is currently at 22%, meaning that women earn 78p on each pound that a man makes. This makes student debt even harder for women; it takes an estimated 5 years longer to repay women’s student loans than men.

B.M.E. Students

Students from an ethnic minority backgrouns have been much more heavily affected by a persistent underinvestment in education. Education maintenance allowance has been cut by the current government; EMA take-up in England in 2008 being 88% for students of Bangladeshi heritage, 77% for Pakistani heritage, 67% of Black African heritage,  64% for Black Caribbean heritage, compared with 39% of their white student counterparts. This is all compounded by the fact that around three quarters of all Black communities live in the 88 poorest areas in Britain.

Half of all young Black men in the country are currently unemployed, and there has been a 70% increase in Black unemployment over the past three years, coinciding with the recession. Within six months of graduation Black graduates are three times more likely to be unemployed than white students.

As cuts bite communities, racism is being whipped up and Black communities are being scapegoated. We’ve seen the results of this in the past week, with the EDL bringing a demonstration to Norwich.

LGBT+ Students

The parents of between 5% and 7% of LGBT students refuse to provide financial support to their children as specified by the local authority assessment; these students rely on extra funding from the government in order to continue in education. Furthermore, 15% of LGB and 35% of trans students fear that the would lose financial support if they came out to their parents about their sexual orientation or trans status.

LGBT+ are particularly vulnerable to experiencing poor mental health whilst at university because of prejudice, bullying and isolation. In a survey of nearly 3000 LGBT students, half reported experienceing negative treatment as a result of their sexual orientation. In addition to this, findings of one survey suggest that around half of LGB and 75% of trans young people have self-harmed.

Disabled Students

Dyslexic students make up around 43% of students with disabilities in Britain. Poorly funded support services directly affect their ability to perform well and retain their place.

The coaltion government’s cuts are hitting disabled people hard. Coming changes to the Disability Living Allowance have the explicit purpose of reducing the benefits bill by more than £2bn annualy.

There are currently 1.3 million disabled people unemployed in the UK, that means around 50% of disabled people (of working age) are in work, in comparison to 20% of non-disabled people. To top this all off, the average gross hourly pay for disabled employees is £11.08 in comparison to £12.30 for non-disabled employees.

International Students

International students are having to deal with many issues since a series of Government changes starting in 2010 have completely changed the tone and message given to international students studying here. Visa restrictions, uncapped fees, and the ability to revoke an institutions highly trusted status (what an institution needs to be able to accept international students) all contribute to an environment of unwelcomeness for international students.

In some institutions International students are being treated like criminals, they have to ‘check in’ everyday, no matter how inconvenient. Some places have gone so far as to implement biometric fingerprinting. UEA so far has been extremely good at keeping a level head concerning these matters. Vice Chancellor Edward Acton has also been one of the notable voices speaking out against the changes to International students’ visas.

Employment rights for international students have been almost removed entirely. Those in private colleges are unable to work and those in further education may only work 10 hours a week. Those at a degree level did have the post-study work visa which permitted international students to work in the UK for two years after graduation, however this has been removed entirely.

Mature and Part-time Students

Early figures suggest a worrying decline in the number of part-time and mature
applicants this year. This isn’t surprising: these groups are facing increasing barriers to
entry into further and higher education. However, like other students, they have a
fundamental right to high quality and affordable education.

Many part-time and mature students have family responsibilities, such as raising children
or caring for loved ones. These students are not only attempting to improve their own
knowledge, skills and career prospects but they are also motivated by the opportunity to
improve the future prospects of their children.

Yet government and universities are not providing the necessary support. NUS’ own
research has shown that approximately 60% of students with children have considered
leaving their course as a result of difficulties to do with finances, childcare and inflexible
course arrangements. In addition, over half have taken on debts over and above their
student loans with only 11% saying they have received sufficient funding to cover the
cost of their course.

These injustices must end!

If you agree, on any of these issues, then you should join us on the march in one week’s time. This is not just about you or me, it is about everyone’s future and it is important that we come together to make out voices heard.

You can book your place on the coach here or by going to the Box Office in person.

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