Socialist Appeal - the Marxist voice of Labour and youth.
bol.jpgCoupled to the Bologna Process, though not explicitly included in it, has been the privatisation of education and all that this entails. So now not only are students faced with the fact that they will have to work harder and longer hours for a shorter period of time, that the costs of their education will also increase (so working on top of the hours required for studying becomes more of a strain) but also that their courses may end up being influenced by some company who’s only real interest in to create profit out of the process…
Across Europe, notably in Spain, Greece, France, Germany but also in many other countries, there have recently been mass protests at the attempts of governments to implement the European Union’s so-called ‘Bologna Process’. This Process is an agreement which was signed in 1999 by Ministers of Education from 29 European countries. It aims to set a single recognisable standard of educational attainment across Europe so as to ensure that all students leave their education with comparable qualifications. This in itself does not seem like a reason for protest, although it will affect significant numbers of students already studying on courses that will entirely change their structure, increasing their workload and shortening the time it takes to do it, but inevitably there a far bigger attachments to such a programme of reform. No dose of mass reforms is complete without aspects of neo-liberal privatisation these days. 

Coupled to the Bologna Process, though not explicitly included in it, has been the privatisation of education and all that this entails. So now not only are students faced with the fact that they will have to work harder and longer hours for a shorter period of time, that the costs of their education will also increase (so working on top of the hours required for studying becomes more of a strain) but also that their courses may end up being influenced by some company who’s only real interest in to create profit out of the process…

The keen eyes among you may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the UK. In truth for those of us studying here this all seems a little too familiar. The government here long since opened the floodgates allowing waves of privatisation to wash through our education system. Not so many years ago, while I was in college, my duties as part of the Student Union meant I had the unenviable duty to inform many students that if they failed their A-level exams the first time around they would not be afforded re-sits that are usually given because the courses they were doing were uneconomical and being cut from the college programme. This came just after a new head had been appointed to oversee the financial reconstruction of the college, this newcomer was apparently not from an educational background but a business background instead - a process I expect is no longer a surprise.Another part of this process I have personally experience was far more recent as my university sold off a number of its halls of residence to a private company. It was reported in the independent university paper that the fees for these halls are likely to go up in the coming future. Being in central London meant they were already eating up the loan money students got. Of course we have also seen considerable change to our loans as well. In 2007 the interest rates on tuition fees were doubled and now, with the government desperate to cut any expenditure it can to pay back the money it will owe for it unparalleled borrowing in wake of the global crisis, it seems many grants will be severely scaled back.

As for the influence of companies on educational programmes the US has long been providing many examples of the abuse of education by private enterprise. Closer to home in Scotland in 2002 the government sent out biotechnology magazines to institutes that it latter turned out were funded by a number of major biotechnology corporations. This includes the saintly Monsanto, yes they who have illegally dumped toxic waste in Britain and caused a massive U.S. health scare with their milk production technique. These magazines promoted an outright lie as to the safety of its best selling herbicide.

In short the programmes put forward by the Bologna Process have been naturally coupled to privatisations that we have already seen a great deal of in this country. “Our schools are being privatised not for the benefit of our children, but for the benefit of our corporations.” This is how the Guardian put it in 2002. The results are less than satisfactory and now faced with these same processes all at once students, academics and workers alike have expressed their unwillingness to see the same thing happen across mainland Europe. It is time that we in Britain followed the lead of our European brothers and sisters and started to fight back against what has already been done. So far it would seem as though the education system and the students of this country have been the experiment that the rest of Europe now attempts to follow. Unfortunate the experiment has fundamentally failed in one key area - education. So long as businesses are allowed to interfere and put their profits first the education system under capitalism can only spiral downwards.