After the successful occupation of the George Square Lecture Theatre at the University of Edinburgh in protest at Scottish universities charging £9,000 in tuition fees, students occupied the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) in Glasgow on Friday 23rd September. The action came after management decided to introduce the maximum charge for non-Scottish students to study at the popular performing arts academy. Students from the rest of the UK will be expected to pay £36,000 for a four degree course as of 2012.
A group of up to thirty students, including some anarchists, took over part of the college as part of a campaign of “wildcat” occupations against the increasing ‘marketisation’ of education.
In a statement from the group they say:
- We – students from the RCS and a range of Scottish higher education institutions – are occupying the RCS because we oppose the introduction of £9000 fees.
- We believe that education should be public and free for all. To this end we demand that the RCS and other universities and higher education bodies, express their opposition to education cuts and withdraw fees for all courses. We also demand that the University pledge not to privatize or cut courses, or introduce compulsory redundancies.
- These demands are non-negotiable. We will only accept a response from the University in the form of a public statement by the Principal to the national media. We also demand a statement from the RCS Students’ Union.
- The Conservatoire should not pursue or support any legal action or other repercussions against those involved in this legitimate and peaceful form of protest.
- We call upon other individuals or institutions in Scotland to publicly support these principles and demands.
The RCS announcement on fees comes after St Andrews and Edinburgh universities both set their fees at the maximum level. Aberdeen and Heriot-Watt universities also announced £9,000 yearly fees, but have capped the cost of a degree at £27,000. Glasgow School of Art also capped fees at £27,000 for a four-year course. As it stands Scottish students studying in Scotland don’t have to pay tuition fees. The current round of occupations reflect the growing solidarity amongst university students and their willingness to act to resist the privatisation of education and the government reforms that denies access to a free education for all.
Another occupying student confirmed: “We are students from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Strathclyde University, Edinburgh University and Oxford University and elsewhere.”
“We want the university to explain why this decision was taken without consulting students. We also want the Students’ Union to explain why no consultation with students took place through them. We demand that management make future decisions in a way that respects diversity, consensus, and consultation with students.”
In a related move plans are under way to force two of Scotland’s universities to merge as part of the government’s cuts to save money. Dundee and Abertay universities have been asked by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to enter urgent dialogue about a merger that could see Abertay, the smaller of the two, being taken over by Dundee University. Both universities have expressed concern over the plans as it will adversely affect both institutions academically.