Two of the Bartlett School of Architecture’s most senior professors have hit out against the ‘hypocrisy’ of tuition fee hikes as they joined a central London protest today
University College London professors Murray Fraser, Jane Rendell and year two course coordinator Tania Sengupta set out their opposition to the ‘privatisation’ of education in a podcast interview explaining their support for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts-organised demonstration.
Rendell said: ‘We don’t want to see our students saddled with large debts - architecture students are likely to come out with £150,000 of debt.
‘We had a free education and we believe students of the future should have that too.
‘As staff members we’re really opposed to the privatisation of education.’
She added: ‘With an economy that is unstable due to the amount of debt that is produced we think it is a hypocrisy that students should be allowed in the future to have huge amounts of debt.’
University tuition fee hikes to up to £9,000 a year are planned to come into force next year with students expected to pay back borrowed money once they are earning more than £21,000 per annum.
Fraser criticised the scale of consultation over the government’s decision to introduce a ‘free market model’ in university education.
He said: ‘Nobody has really looked at whether this is beneficial for the country or whether it is actually affordable for the people involved.
‘This has been pushed through too fast without proper consideration and should be stopped.’
He added: ‘The opening up of the market for American private universities who want to see university education as a commodity - we’re not sure that is in the best interest of the country or our students.’
Up to 5,000 people marched through London following a planned route which started in Bloomsbury close to the Bartlett school. Protestors were cleared from Trafalgar square in the mid-afternoon after attempting to pitch tents.
Fraser added: ‘There were certainly quite a few Bartlett architecture students that we could see on the march, although we weren’t counting. There will also hopefully have been students from other schools — but of course we don’t know those students and so it is hard to say exactly.
‘But there were a few hundred altogether from all architectural schools I would guesstimate. Architectural students are going to be among those with the highest debts under the new fee system.
‘We didn’t see any arrests in Trafalgar Square, but there was an incident on the Strand when the police grabbed a small group of protesters and pulled them out of the march.’
The march took place exactly one year after a student demonstration saw the Conservative Party’s Millbank Tower headquarters swamped by protestors.
At the time, a Bartlett student who was one of the first people to storm the building claimed the action was justified because tuition fee hikes risked making architecture even more ‘the preserve of the rich’.
Postscript, RIBA comment
The RIBA is concerned about the impact of increased tuition fees, and the serious potential consequences that this will have for the future of the architects’ profession. With a five-year academic programme to qualification, architecture students stand to enter employment with an inordinate financial burden. Faced with an even larger financial barrier, many more talented students, including those from less privileged backgrounds, may be discouraged from considering studying architecture.
The RIBA will continue to urge the Government to consider the full impact of the rise in tuition fees before the architecture profession suffers irrecoverable damage.