EAN statement on the ‘indefinite’ postponement of the HE Bill

The government has announced that it will not seek to pass the HE Bill (based on last summer’s HE White Paper) through parliament until 2015. The HE Bill, proposed by Universities Minister David Willetts, faced major opposition from academics and HE/FE students, who marched in their tens of thousands against it. However, this doesn’t mean the fight is over.

According to the Daily Telegraph: “The decision to drop the legislation is a major blow for Mr Willetts who has given his wholehearted backing to the reforms. He had pledged to introduce legislation this year.”

Cameron, Clegg and Willetts do not want to see a repeat of the mobilizations that took place in November/December 2010. One of the reasons the vote is being ‘indefinitely’ postponed is that the government faces significant resistance – UCU’s continued strike action over pensions, the Campaign for the Public University, the No Confidence Campaign as well as growing opposition to the NHS Bill. This shows two things: first, that the struggles for public services such as health, education and the welfare state are linked. Secondly, that when broad alliances are forged, our movement can be very effective.

As the government backtracks, it is time for us to seize the initiative and call for the scrapping of university tuition fees. The HE Bill was first and foremost designed to ensure that the fees regime worked – this announcement clearly shows that it will not.

Rather than showing how strong Willetts’ position is, this announcement exposes its weakness. Willetts may not have the confidence to push through the HE Bill but – regardless of what happens in parliament – changes are taking place outside of the legislative framework. Numerous individual institutions will try to implement the recommendations of the HE White Paper anyway. At London Met, for example, the outsourcing of administrative posts is happening regardless

As the Times Higher Education puts it: “[M]any of the other reforms that have already been implemented, such as the increase in the tuition fee cap to £9,000 this autumn and the ‘core and margin’ and AAB plans, which will see student places removed from general allocations and thrown open to competitive bids, will not be affected.”

The chaotic and haphazard dismantling of the existing university system continues.

We need to continue to build opposition to the trebling of tuition fees, the debt regime and 100% funding cuts to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, whilst at the same time forming the kinds of alliances that have the social and economic power to reverse these devastating neoliberal reforms.

About educationactivistnetwork
The education activist network provides national coordination for trade unionists, academics, university workers and student campaigners fighting to defend jobs and education in the UK.

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