Outrageously Lancaster University is trying to increase both tuition fees for international and postgraduate students as well as on-campus rents for student accommodation - a move which would have a hugely detrimental impact on student welfare.
By using a combination of tactics – from a student occupation, mass campus protest and entering into negotiations with the University senior management – the campaign is starting to make waves and putting the University under serious pressure.
“We are winning the debate on fees and the wider academic community is sympathetic towards students,” said Ronnie Rowlands, Vice President Campaign and Communications of Lancaster University Students’ Union.
Earlier this month Students' Union Vice-President for Education Joe O'Neill put forward a motion to the University Court calling for the rent and fee increases to be reconsidered which passed by a sizeable majority. The University Court is a significant body which Lancaster’s new Chancellor and former Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn attends and includes representatives from the University management, staff, students and the wider local community. The motion passed despite Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Atherton speaking against it.
In a statement which you can read in full here, the Students’ Union declared, “the outcome of the vote makes one things resolutely clear: there is a great deal of support for the student voice outside of our immediate circle, and a great deal of people in solidarity with the fight for a fairer deal. As such, as well as the students who attended Court to make their voices heard, we would like to offer our gratitude to all of the non-student members of the Court who voted with us.”
This breakthrough follows on from the success of the campaign last term, where a group of student held a campus occupation which resulted in the University agreeing to enter into negotiations with the Students’ Union – discussions which are on-going.
The campaign at Lancaster to stop fee and rent hikes shows that building a broad and active coalition to defend students can have a big impact and that if the student movement fights back we at least give ourselves a chance of winning.