On 1 April student organisers from five London universities met to reflect on lessons and steps forwards for fee strike action. Over 200 students remain on fee strike across Goldsmiths and SOAS, whilst UAL (University of the Arts, London) and LSE (London School of Economics) students are building support among international and postgraduate students, who remain the only groups capable of withholding fees. The strike at RCA (Royal College of Art) is somewhat diminished due to management bullying and threats of border controls against visa-dependent students, but some students are still on strike.
Online university makes organising difficult. The same crisis that makes students not want to pay fees makes them unlikely to turn up to organising meetings. More personal engagement is needed from organising committees.
A useful precedent from last academic year’s fee strike at UAL was shared: then, an incremental fee payment plan beyond graduation was negotiated by the strike. It is figured that universities who barely have sufficient admin to enrol new students are unlikely to chase outstanding debt of alumni.
Negotiated graduation without fee payment would be a solid victory for fee strikes and a particularly crucial one for international students, who make up a large proportion of strikers. Research from Unis Resist Border controls in 2020 reported 56% of international students at risk of destitution due to the combination of extraordinarily high fees, NRPF (No Recourse to Public Funds), and of course Covid-19.
The chance of in-person action as lockdown eases is encouraging for student struggles, as different campaigns are making links with one another. The UCU (University and College Union) branches at both SOAS and Goldsmiths have passed solidarity motions with the fee strikes.
Rent strikes go on, with students at Queen Mary University of London fighting evictions with the support of London Renters' Union as well as university staff unions. The Warwick University rent strike has teamed up with Protect Warwick Women’s sit-in, which has passed 400 hours, and is calling on students to withhold term 3’s rent in solidarity with the sit-in’s demands.