The Student – ‘Students from five Edinburgh Colleges unanimously condemned discriminatory fees and immigration controls as racist measures’

J. Macdonald, ‘Government Racist’, The Student, November 1976

‘All of us here are victims of the culture of silence.’

Last week-end there was a conference at Herriot Watt of Singapore and Malaysian students from throughout the UK. Tan Wah Piow extradited leader of the Singapore Student Union, spoke of the trials of the student movement in his country saying all students here were intimately linked with their battle against a regime that applied ‘the gadgets of control’ to a student movement which revealed the truths about it’s nature: ‘the Government could not tolerate this because the culture of silence is the lifeline of their regime’ […] He spoke about the fear that leads to silence, the same fear that is preventing many students overseas in Britain from taking action against the discrimination which they face, and the fear which the movement in Singapore had begun to smash, ‘this fear we must smash within ourselves.’

At the same conference delegates from Malaysian Student Societies all over the country and students from five Edinburgh Colleges unanimously condemned discriminatory fees and immigration controls as racist measures. A resolution was formed demanding that Edinburgh and Heriot Watt Universities and all colleges, universities and Local Authorities in the UK must refuse to implements further fee rises for overseas and self-financing students, this to be seen by these bodies as an interim measure towards the abolition of all fees […] It has already been taken up by the newly formed Edinburgh Area Overseas Students Action Committee who plan to send it with NUS area backing to be ratified by public sector unions in Edinburgh, Local Labour parties and SLP branches. The Action Committee have a sustained campaign to mount in order to stop the Lothian Region Council from implementing the fee rise for the colleges in the area. In line with this the OSAC is organising to have a group of overseas students on the demonstration against cuts next Wednesday behind the Overseas Students banner.

The conference included a speech of support for Robin Cook, MP for Edinburgh Central who accused his government of ‘Introducing ration by price into Education’. He underlined the lunacy of fee rises, citing the case of two post-graduates in his constituency who were being forced to give up PhDs uncompleted after two years study. In terms of constructive insight, the most telling speech was made from the floor by a student from Bradford University which has the longest record of successful struggle against discrimination. His main point was how vital it was to prioritise the overseas student and fees campaign, that any campaign against cuts in Education will be ineffective if it does not take as a central point the fact that increases in fees will reduce the number of students in colleges and departments until it becomes impossible to defend the facilities and thus the jobs in those places.