David Cameron has been urged to cut military spending and arms trade subsidies as an alternative to cuts in education. Members of the Universities Network of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) have presented a petition to Downing Street calling on the government to "cut military spending, not education".
The petition was started in December 2010 when there were mass student protests against the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the trebling of the cap on university fees.
The government argued that the cuts and the fee hike would help to reduce the national deficit. Yet while proposed spending on education looks likely to be slashed by 25 per cent, military spending is highly protected, with only a limited reduction in budget.
The petition declares that “spending £97 billion replacing Trident nuclear weapons, over £5 billion on aircraft carriers we don't need and subsidising arms exports to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds every year is wasteful”.
The CAAT Universities Network also referred specifically to “billions being squandered through Ministry of Defence procurement blunders”.
"As a student I'm really angry about the changes in the funding of higher education,” said Charles Parry, a student at Birmingham City University, “The government cuts should focus on issues like the billions being wasted on Trident, not education”.
"Spending money on subsidising private arms companies is not an acceptable use of tax money,” said Camilla Oleman, a student at Leicester University, “Especially in light of cuts to education, which should be the government's first priority”.
The Student Christian Movement has also criticised expenditure on nuclear weapons and the arms trade at a time when higher education budgets are being cut.
CAAT Universities Network Coordinator Abi Haque said there had been an increase in student concern around the arms trade.
She explained, "It's really clear just how angry students are about the changes in government support for higher education. When students were made aware of the vast amount of arms trade subsidy and massive overspends on MoD projects there was a call to campaign for education to come first.”
Haque added, “We are hoping that this petition will communicate to the government how important we feel it is to put taxpayers' money in socially productive areas like education."