Campaign pound coins have been circulated in Westminster to highlight the cost of undergraduate tuition fees and to raise awareness of the issue to both the public and those in government.
The stunt was coordinated by the UK Youth Parliament, and involved the defacement of the Monarch in favour of the “free for all” motto which is now emblazoned on pound coins across the capital. The incident took place earlier this month and involved the work of many dedicated campaigners who placed stickers on over 9000 pound coins.
James Greenhalgh, Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) and national campaigns coordinator, said “there seems to be no end in sight as the cost of university spirals out of control. Education should be free for all young people and we will not stop until the injustices this flawed tuition fees system have created are brought to an end”.
The UK Youth Parliament, also known as UKYP, was established in 1999 and deals with issues at the forefront of concern for young people across the United Kingdom. Parliament consists of over 500 MYPs and DMYPs (Deputy Member of Youth Parliament) aged between 11 and 18 and approximately 400,000 young people take part in UK Youth Parliament elections each year. Although UKYP has been endorsed by leaders of the eminent political parties their effectiveness has been questioned, previously being criticised by Daily Mail columnist Tom Utley as being “sublimely fatuous.” UKYP is obviously hoping to sufficiently raise awareness levels in order to combat the growing financial angst amongst students and prospective students alike.
Due to the top-up fee scheme, annual tuition fees now stand at £3,145 per student in England and Northern Ireland. The scheme, which has been effective since the 2006-2007 academic year was introduced as part of the Higher Education Act 2004, with the bill being passed in the House of Commons by a mere 5 votes. The voting was viewed as particularly controversial as 46 Scottish Labour MPs – whose constituencies were exempt from the scheme – voted with the government.
Lynne Jones, Labour MP for Selly Oak also commented: “The latest figures show that the Government’s current funding model for Higher Education is not achieving the aim of expanding the base of young people from poorer backgrounds.”
According to a recent UKYP survey of 6000 young people, one in three young people wanting to go to university say they cannot afford to go.