Interview: Owen Jones

To be hopeful and a student in 2015 is a task proving to be a little harder than imagined, with Osbourne’s 2015 Budget announcing that student maintenance grants will be turned into maintenance loans, meaning those who borrow more money will end up having to pay back more. The change will hugely affect poorer students and deter working class young people from becoming higher education students.
I spoke to Owen Jones, the author of Chavs and The Establishment, on how students can remain hopeful in a time of turmoil back at 2015’s Latitude Music Festival to hear his views on the matter.

Owen Jones, one of HISKIND’s men of the year, has served inexhaustible efforts regarding the discourse of social inequality in a currently Tory government. A political commentator at The Guardian, Jones has tackled everything from HIV stigma to Corbyn shaming in national media outlets.

From September 2015, students from the lowest income families will no longer receive the full maintenance loan of £3,387 to help them with their studying costs. Instead, poorer students will automatically take out a higher loan, leaving them with a higher debt when they leave university.

Maintenance grants of up to £3,387 are attainable to anyone whose parent’s household income is £25,000 a year or less, those whose household income is £30,000 or less can get a grant of £2,441 and those of £35,000 or less can get £1,494.

“We’re one of the most expensive education systems in the world and we have this system to support poorer students and that’s being taken away. There’s a fear of debt and accumulating debt, particularly if those affected are from backgrounds of seeing debt,” Owen tells me with a tinge of understandable anger in his voice.

“The government often justifies their terrible cuts and austerity with saddling the next generation of debt but it’s ironic that they’re filling students with debt to cut future debts. It’s perverse, it’s completely perverse. We should move towards systems like in Germany where they’ve introduced free education because it’s a social good. “

I’m told that in 2010, after the Liberal Democrats won young voters over with a notion of free education and were unable to supply it, a lot of first time voters lost all trust in politicians.

“When you take away or undermine people’s faith in democracy, it’s hard to restore. I think the issues facing young people, including students, are going to be more and more of an issues because of the insecurity of debt and audacity of having an education. The housing crisis with the lack of affordable housing and the housing initiatives falling through will affect young people the most. The lack of skill secured jobs is affecting young people. Things affecting young people are often ignored. Students are affecting by a lot more of debt. They’re going to have their living standards cut for years. Students need to get their voices heard otherwise they will be ignored.”

Owen tells me that “Politicians should fear young people” and getting more young people to register to vote will make politicians see consequences of attacking students “as they often do”, and will change the future.

“If you’re gay and your parents have rejected you and you have no housing benefit because of the cuts, what are you going to do? It’s like unpaid internships, not being paid to get into industries.”

On talking on unpaid internships, Jones relates it as discriminatory of wealth not talent.

So, how should we combat this? His answer is definitive:

“Organise. Make your voice heard. Make the powerful fear you.”

Oh, and we think he speaks for everyone here:

This interview was originally conducted by the same author for The National Student.

Words – Dean Eastmond

Images – Ariana Nalda

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