British Student Journalists Discuss Education Cuts, Protests
Lusi and Kieran
Lusi Manukyan, age 19
Kieran Cudlip, age 20
Recently, proposed cuts in education funding prompted students across Great Britain to take to the streets in protest.
Young journalists at Headliners, a British news website for teens, covered the event from a student perspective. Below, they reflect on the trickiness of reporting on an issue that directly affected them.
As students yourselves who will likely be affected by the tuition increases, how did you approach covering this story? Did you seek to remain objective? Why or why not? What were your priorities in covering the story?
Lusi: This story for me was quite a personal one as I am hoping to go to university next year to study International Relations (a Humanities subject, where most cuts are being made). I think that originally, I did not think it was important to remain objective as Headliners is a young people’s charity seeking to get young people’s views across. However, as the reporter and producer of the film, I later recognized the need for some objectivity. I think the priority for the film was to create a platform in the media to voice the opinions of the young people rather than to show both sides of the argument. One of the other main aims for me was to find out whether adults in general supported the campaign.
Kieran: I was quite involved in the story as I was one of a large group of students who peacefully occupied the Fine Arts building in Newcastle University on Nov. 24.
I approached the story as objectively as I could, given my personal proximity to events, and I believe that to be objective you must look at the facts about an issue and form your opinion based on these. The facts relating to higher education cuts all point to them being utterly misguided, unnecessary, and perhaps even purposefully damaging to the futures of young people of our nation; the government, on the other hand, relies almost entirely on the tired repetition of rhetoric with little basis in reality, unfortunately. This of course is an opinion, but I feel it is certainly more objective than much of the reporting that goes on in the mainstream media, since we as students and young people are actually directly involved with the workings of higher education and so have far more experience of current events in these areas than most media and politicians.
My priority in covering the story was to ensure the widest coverage possible of all the public actions and events occurring that were relevant to the subject and that we could have access to - this meant the marches and the occupation on Nov. 30 in the case of our 'march against tuition fees.' I would like to make a longer more comprehensive film to capture more of what has happened in Newcastle around the lead-up to and aftermath of the voting through of the cuts to higher education, using more of the large amounts of footage we captured and interviewing the extensive base of contacts we have developed.
What are your opinions on the proposed tuition increases and Britain's austerity measures generally? Do you think some degree of austerity is necessary? Why or why not? If so, where should the money come from?
Lusi: I don’t believe that the cuts or the increase in tuition fees will benefit the students or universities as the government proposes. These cuts will discourage a lot of the poorer young people from considering higher education as an option for the future because of the debt involved, therefore lowering aspirations. Many bright young people will lose the opportunity to become what they want to become, which will result in a worse quality of life in the future generations. I do think some degree of austerity is necessary; however it should not be aimed at the poorer population of the UK. In my opinion a ‘Robin Hood’ tax, which would generate billions of pounds, seems a better solution to the recession.
Kieran: In terms of both the Higher Education cuts and the austerity measures more generally, I don't believe that either are necessary, nor desirable. I believe that the increase in fees will be a psychological deterrent to poorer people and their families (let us not forget that most students need some financial support from their families when at university). Poorer people are generally very wary about getting into debt, and for most the £20,000 to £40,000 ($40,000 to $80,000) that university will cost is a colossal sum. Also the funding cuts to courses will mean that universities are going to be even more academically selective than they are now, which means that privately educated students will have yet another advantage over those who may have had very tough times in state schools.
What do you think are the biggest issues currently facing your generation in Britain? How do you think they relate to issues teens are facing in America and the rest of the world?
Lusi: Some of the biggest issues that young people in Britain face are negative stereotyping and lack of aspirations. Many adults don’t believe that young people are capable of achieving things themselves and doing good work. It’s frustrating to see that adults are surprised when they hear that young people have made a positive contribution to their community or received an award for something outstanding, as this shows adults’ lack of belief. In reality, many young people are very talented but are often not encouraged to be ambitious. I think this must be true for young people in most countries, including America, because of the negative portrayal in the media.
Kieran: The issues facing my generation in Britain are many and varied. My generation is worried about the current governments plans to cut further, faster and deeper than anything the Thatcher government did. (Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was known for making major government cuts in the 1980s). My generation is worried that we may never be able to retire and that there will be virtually no provision of either state or private pension by the time we reach our grandparents' age. My generation is worried that we will never be able to afford a house when we want to settle down. My generation will be one of the first to see some of the worst effects of climate change within our lifetimes. The list goes on...
I suspect that young people in America may share many of these feelings, and of course in many ways the situation for many prospective students and graduates in the U.S. can be seen to be just as bad if not worse than our situation (in Britain).
This story was produced by Lusi Manukyan, 19 and Kieran Cudlip, 20 from Headliners, a British journalism programme for young people aged eight to 19. www.headliners.org