The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were met by Christian students campaigning against tuition fee increases when they spoke at the University of Manchester this week.
Members of the Manchester Student Christian Movement (SCM) sang songs and held placards reading "Blessed are the poor?" and "Be in debt to no one (Romans 13:8)". They presented a petition to Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, calling on them to use their position in the House of Lords and as church leaders to speak out against the cuts to higher education funding and the hike in fees.
Parliament voted in December to treble the cap on higher education tuition fees to £9,000 per year.
The archbishops were at the university on Tuesday (1 March) to deliver a talk on ‘Relations Between Church and State Today’. The peaceful campaign organised by Manchester SCM was supported by SCM nationally.
SCM, Britain's oldest national student organisation, have been outspoken in their opposition to the rise in tuition fees and cuts to the educational maintenance allowance.
“The archbishops sit in the House of Lords," said Manchester student William Hesson, "They have a chance to make their voices heard on a very public stage. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, is it not right that our spiritual leaders should speak out?”
After his talk, the Archbishop of Canterbury met with the students, listened to their concerns, and chatted for a few minutes. He commented that he had been involved in SCM at Oxford.
But the archbishops did not respond directly to the students’ message, and the group say they are awaiting their response to their concerns.
“I believe the cuts will discourage poorer people from going to university," insisted Aileen Few, chaplaincy assistant at the University of Manchester, "This is a social justice issue and we want to show the archbishops that young Christians care about it and want them to speak out against these cuts.”