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Friday, June 21, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

"British Student Protests are Legitimate Causes, Not Cheap Complaints"

Education is a more sensitive issue in the UK

University students clashed with riot police Wednesday when Conservative Party offices in the British Parliament announced that Her Majesty's government would cut state spending on education and consequently raise college tuition, in some cases, by threefold.

Until the 1990s, a college education in Britain was essentially free of charge. Still, last year, each student paid a laughable amount per semester for higher education by U.S. standards. Students would pay, at most, $23,000 per year in Britain with the new increase, which is nothing when compared to many American private colleges.

But higher education in Britain is far more competitive than that of the United States, and students over the pond participate in a more rigorous primary school curriculum. We pay more for a 300-person lecture hall than they do for a three-person seminar because British students work harder for their college degrees.

The reason, it seems, is that Americans wait up for their less-educated populace, while Britain cuts off the slack. To be painfully honest, the SAT would be much more difficult if the United States did not have to make it easier for less-educated students.

It seems that the students' anger is justified; after having worked so hard to get into college, they are suddenly charged an unprecedented sum for education. One protester put it aptly, saying that current British students should not have to foot the bill if policymakers got the same education for free.

To put it into perspective, we get bent out of shape when SUNY decides to raise tuition 2 percent; imagine if Albany chose to increase it by 300 percent. Less belligerent protests broke out in California when the University of California decided to raise its tuition by 30 percent.

We admire that European students are taking a stand and making noise for their cause. Though violence is never the answer, making a statement, instead of passively accepting the status quo, is a natural right and a heroic stride toward fairness and a balance of power.

With the protests in France and now in England, it feels more like change is becoming a product of the people's actions, and the people are less a product of uncontrollable change. It seems that we are beginning to remember the power of numbers and how to garner a collective voice against unfavorable government decisions.

In the United States, it seems unlikely that any similar action against government spending cuts would ever come to fruition. Over here, the loudest voices are against government spending.

But if education spending is on deck for the cutting board, as it seems to be with the newly red Congress, perhaps we will experience a similar revival in active disobedience and public protest.


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