The Student Christian Movement (SCM) has reacted angrily to Parliament's decision to substantially increase university tuition fees in England. MPs voted in favour of the plans this evening (9 December), by a majority of only 21 after the Liberal Democrats split over the issue.
SCM said that the prospect of thousands of pounds of debt will deter students from poorer backgrounds.
And they added that it would also lead to students choosing degree subjects that are thought to lead to well-paid jobs rather than to a better society.
SCM has long backed campaigns against tuition fees. Earlier this week, they gave their support to nonviolent direct action against the government's proposals.
“The government should be breaking down barriers to education, not putting up new ones,” said SCM's Charlotte Thomson this evening. She insisted that the cuts, combined with the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, will promote “privilege over fairness”.
Thomson, a student at the University of Birmingham, added, “Faced with the prospect of thousands of pounds of debt, graduates will be forced to look for well-paid jobs, rather than using their education and skills to help others”.
SCM are now calling on the government to impose tight restrictions on universities that want to charge the higher fees, forcing them to introduce measures to ensure that students from a wide range of backgrounds are able to go to university.
SCM members were among the students, education workers and others who protested against the fee increase on the streets of London today. Up to 30,000 people are said to have joined the protests, the vast majority of whom were not violent.
Other Christian organisations to oppose the tuition fee increase include the SPEAK network, a predominantly evangelical grouping of students and young people working for social justice - and part of the Root & Branch network of Anabaptist-related organisations, which includes Ekklesia.
In addition, group of Christian writers, theologians, activists and clergy recently launched the Common Wealth network to oppose the coalition government's public spending agenda and the notion of the cuts-based "Big Society".
SCM said earlier this week that the government's proposals were “incompatible with Jesus' radical message of inclusivity and justice”.
UCCF, the national network of evangelical student Christian Unions, told the Christian Today web magazine earlier today that it could not take a position on the tuition fees debate, since its members held different views, but that it hoped education would stay accessible.