Rachel Barr: Scottish students must stand together for a better deal

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There is something deeply worrying about the education system in the UK. Unlike the rest of Britain, Scottish students are lucky enough to enjoy higher education for free.

However, our universities continue to charge students from the rest of the UK and abroad increasingly high tuition. The University of Edinburgh is one of the most expensive in the UK, charging up to £9,000.

This turns education from a right into a commodity that many people cannot afford, restricting access and diversity on our campuses. It is the belief of many Scottish students that we should stand in solidarity with our peers facing mounting debt.

The National Union of Students (NUS) demo in London yesterday was not just about tuition fees, but issues that affect Scottish students as much as others. For the first time in a long time, this generation – not just students, but all young people – will be worse off than their parents. There are fewer opportunities, high levels of youth – and graduate – unemployment and cuts in education services, markedly Scottish colleges. Students are being abused as free labour in unpaid internships.

With many degrees being considered insufficient for employment, there is a move towards degrees that are only relevant for the workplace rather than allowing young people to learn and grow.

The student demonstrations in 2010 showed that young people in Britain were prepared to fight against tuition fee rises and further government cuts. As a result of these protests, the introduction of tuition fees in Scotland became a toxic policy, explicitly avoided by the three major parties in our 2011 elections. In light of further cuts from Westminster, it is imperative that Scottish students continue to show the government that not only do we value our free education, but that we will continue the fight to preserve it. It is for this reason that Scottish students travelled en masse to the London NUS demonstration.

It is important that we stand united with students paying thousands to receive the same education as we get for free, and together as young people who do not want years of hard work to result in an insufficient degree, unemployment and debt.

• Rachel Barr is a final year anthropology student at the University of Edinburgh.