Students debate ‘disgusting’ uni tuition fees hike and EMA scrapping

TENSIONS rose high as impassioned East End students debated against the university tuition fee hike and scrapping of their college allowance last night.

Dozens of teenagers from Tower Hamlets College argued their case against the controversial government plans, with one branding the cuts “like a sudden bomb dropped on us”.

The debate came as the Lords backed MPs’ proposals to increase fees to up to �9,000 a year and stood by their plan to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance, which 70 per cent of students at the college receive.

College student Suriya Begum said: “They don’t know what it’s like living in one of the poorest estates in London. What will our futures be like? We’ll be married with kids and still paying off debt. We didn’t create the debt so why must we pay it off?”

Afshana Irahman said: “We feel like all of a sudden they have dropped a bomb on us. But we are still determined. We are fighting for our younger brothers and sisters.”

Chair of the Tower Hamlets Lib Dems Richard Macmillan, on the panel, was heckled several times for sticking by the coalition’s cuts.

He said: “It’s a very difficult situation. We have to make decisions and the reality is we have a huge deficit.”

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Queen Mary university student Alex Chandran, who has been protesting in central London, said: “This is an ideological assassination on education for the poor in this country. It’s disgusting. I’ve talked to many uni students who say they would not be there if they had the burden of �40,000 worth of debt on their shoulders.”

Cllr Rania Khan, a teacher and member for education, said: “Poorer students will look for cheaper universities, rather than the best universities. That’s not good.”

On Monday, students headed to Westminster’s Department for Education headquarters to march for the �30 a week EMA, which will be scrapped in September.

Since the allowance was introduced, the number of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in Tower Hamlets has dropped by half.

Richard McEwan, lecturer and UCU secretary at the college, said: “It’s money for books and materials and it’s important if you’re a teenager with no job.”

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali recently lobbied on the issue in parliament, arguing axing EMA will hit poorer boroughs like Tower Hamlets hard.