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Student “debt-in” in protest at loanbook privatisation

Debt-in 1Students and staff at the University of Cambridge this week (Tuesday 5th November) staged a “debt-in” on King’s Parade, in opposition to the government’s plan to privatise student loans, which could see interest on such loans being retrospectively doubled. This comes after a number of actions taking place in London last month, including the targeting of a number of Lib Dem MPs’ offices.

To symbolise the burden of student debt, activists performed a game of “Stuck in the Debt” from 12pm, a spin on popular playground game Stuck in the Mud, this time involving students being captured by debt-wielding bankers. Cambridge Defend Education, the activist group organising the protest, handed out a briefing on the student loan privatisation to passers by, who stopped in surprise at the spectacle of scores of red boxes symbolising student debt.

This was followed by a “debt-in”, inspired by the “die-ins” of anti-war demonstrations, where students lay “crushed” by red boxes symbolising debt. The unexpected rainfall caused the red paint to run somewhat, leaving debt-throwing “bankers” with bloodied hands!

A spokesperson for Cambridge Defend Education said: “Raising the student loan interest rate means shackling 3.6 million students and 40 million university graduates with far more debt than they signed up for.

Debt-in 2“This is the latest episode of a sustained assault on higher education, replacing the principles of open education with a cynical programme which exploits students and lecturers for profit. We will be heightening our campaign against this agenda in the coming months, as students across the country stand up against the government’s ideological attack on education and wider public services.”

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has noted that while the NUS has claimed a victory in the fight against higher interest rates on loans, in reality the “promise” the union has extracted from universities minister David Willetts amounts to nothing.

Cambridge Defend Education will hold an open meeting on what students can do to take action in opposition to the sell-off next Monday, at 7pm in the OCR at the university’s St Catherine’s College.

Tuesday’s action was part of a national day of disobedience called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which has also seen a blockade of London’s iconic Westmister Bridge by protestors setting fire to their energy bills, amongst many other actions. Information on other actions that took place on Tuesday is collated here.

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