Today I attended a demonstration and march in support of free education. It was organised by students from both of the universities in Bath and supported by a number of other groups, including the Green Party.
We were very lucky with the weather - it was cold but sunny. Bath city centre was packed because of the Christmas Market, but we managed to get a decent crowd at the protest despite the traffic and travel chaos. After meeting at the Abbey we marched through town, ending-up at Southgate where we had a short rally.
I was asked to do a short speech - you can watch it here (from about 4:20 onwards). All of the speeches are worth a watch, of course!
The shoppers crowding the streets were generally supportive and there was a good atmosphere. It was great to see so many young people getting involved in campaigning for their right to an education without a lifetime of debt. I enjoyed hearing the other speeches and chatting to other marchers about their concerns and Green Party policy.
The Green Party is the only party advocating free education with no fees or additional taxes. There would be no need for loans because, as well as the removal of fees, living costs would eventually be met by the Citizens Income. In the short term, maintenance grants will be reintroduced. We will also widen the range of people who are able to study by offering real support to mature students and students with families. There will be a minimum requirement for Universities and Higher Education Institutions to offer a free crèche to students and staff, nappy changing and breast-feeding facilities.
Education and learning are an essential part of a fulfilling life, not just a mechanism for training people for a job. This education should be life-long. We are not just cogs in the machine of work - education is an important part of personal fulfilment.