March 9, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Spark Fm’s first live broadcast ‘Cutting Our Future’ was broadcast on Tursday, December 9 with guests Dr. Steven Cannon of the University and College Union (UCU), David Allen is representing Labour, Anthony Morrissey, the Conservative representative for Barnes and Sunderland University’s Student Union Representative Andrew Leadbitter who replaced the absent Liberal Democrat Paul Dixon.
The topic was the proposed rise to tuition fees, and the debate was at times a very heated affair. Dr. Cannon said ‘it is in the interest off the state’ to make sure the younger generation are well educated and able to use the skills they learn.
David Allen admitted that while Labour’s proposal under the last government of 50% of people going to university was unsustainable, he wanted it to be funded fairly, the government funding most but he did say, “students should make a contribution.”
Conservative Anthony Morrissey was under fire for much of the debate, and had to defend himself and his party’s proposals. When the point was raised that arts and humanities would receive no funding he claimed, “We are not slashing creativity.”
It was at this point a member of the audience, who said he was an anarchist, started shouting at Mr. Morrissey, and called him a “Tory Bastard.” He repeatedly interrupted the panel and even managed to start an argument with members of the audience.
When the topic turned to the recent protests Dr. Cannon said that it had the support of the many businesses that will also be affect by the other planned cuts but are less able to protest. Mr. Allen saw the protests in London and said, “The were focused and very determined, it’s made the gutless Liberal Democrats think again.”
In response Mr. Morrissey tried to justify the huge debt that students would leave university with by saying that most students (pointing specifically towards the anarchist who had heckled him) would never have to pay it off and only the higher earners would have to worry. He did not explain how lending out more than he implied they would get back was beneficial to the country, despite being asked by the audience.
Mr. Morrissey said that these cuts will mean only a few universities may have to close but Dr. Cannon countered, saying he report the UCU published the day before put the figure at closer to 50 under serious danger under these proposals. He called these rises “an ideological attack on the principle of education” and the answer was fair taxation.
When asked how he felt about the threat of some universities closing Mr. Morrissey said that he “has no problem with them folding” and asked “what is the right number of universities?”
While on air the news came through that the bill had been passed and tuition fees will go up, much to the audience’s disappointment. Andrew Leadbitter, who had been the most quiet of the panel, called this a “backwards step.”
Mr. Allen said he had just received a text from [Labour rep] saying that she had voted against the rise and “Tell the students not to stop the battle.”
After the broadcast the anarchist again tried to start trouble by going up to Mr. Morrisey and shouting abuse it him, calling him “Tory Scum.” He was removed shortly after.