We are pleased that Stuart Croft has published a statement raising his concerns about this undemocratic decision by the Tory Government and its effects on the most vulnerable students; he comments on the way the change will “affect students from low-income families and disproportionately affect students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and disabled students”. We also recognise that so far, Croft’s reign seems more sympathetic towards students’ concerns than Thrift’s was.
That said, this statement, buried on the ‘exec blog’ deep in the University’s website, is the bare minimum Croft could have done in support of the poorest students, as well as BME, Muslim, women, non-binary, older and disabled students, who will be affected most by this government decision. It also fails to meet the demands made by students and Warwick For Free Education over the course of the last two terms.
The statement was not well publicised and despite his assertion that the SU and Registrar are in discussion about the “current provision of hardship funds”, we have serious doubts about whether his statement will reach most of those affected by the axing of maintenance grants at Warwick, let alone the Government.
We would also like to emphasise, as is conveniently omitted in the statement, that this statement is a direct outcome of our noise demo in the finance office on February 4, and the consequent meeting between Croft and activists from WFFE. Even the former Editor-in-Chief of the Boar has publicly acknowledged the connection between recent responses from management and our activism.
During that meeting in early February, we discussed proposing a motion on maintenance grants to Senate and Croft indicated that he would be willing to “voice his concerns publicly” if Senate would approve of such a motion. To further pressure the University, we also held a demonstration on February 26 and one of our demands for this demonstration was that “University management publicly oppose the cuts to maintenance grants, and lobby the Russell Group to adopt a position of opposition and pressure the Government into reversing these cuts”.
Obviously, the statement published by Stuart Croft does neither of these things. This ill-publicised piece of writing neither lobbies the Russell Group nor puts any pressure on the Government. We will not let ourselves be satisfied with such tokenistic statements of support that do little to actually, materially, improve the situation of those affected by the abolition of maintenance grants, who are now pushed into yet more debt. Given the scale of the assault on higher education that is unfolding before our eyes – something Croft seems aware of – this meek statement is too little, too late. We call on him to answer the call of the Warwick community and step up his efforts.
Maintenance grants were abolished in 1999, but were won back by 2004. We take this statement as evidence that our pressure is beginning to show fruit – but we will not capitulate to weak attempts to buy us off. We will continue to fight for maintenance grants and we will continue to apply pressure on the University to fight for its students and staff.
Warwick For Free Education
P.S. don’t forget to join us this Friday as we combine with staff forces at the UCU strike during the Open Day to engage prospective students and march to University House to hand in an open letter to Croft reminding him to fight against the Government’s higher education reforms and Prevent agenda: Friday 24 June, 2PM, Bus Interchange to University House. Facebook event here.