State of the Youth in UK

 State of the Youth in UK
 State of the Youth in UK

In the UK, students leaving university average 60,000 euro in debt and scores of them have joined the Occupy movement launched this year in several British universities. They oppose what they consider to be the economical drift in the British university system, and demand the scrapping of prohibitive tuition fees. This is a central theme in the 2015 election campaign, Valerie Gauriat wrote for Euronews.

The Occupy movement is an international movement that protests against social and economic inequality around the world, its primary goal being to make the economic and political relations in all societies less vertically hierarchical and more flatly distributed.

Student Benjamin Tippett is among those who occupy one of Britain’s most prestigious institutions, the London School of Economics or LSE. Among the occupiers’ demands are free and open universities, the end of precarious contracts for employees and divestment from firms detrimental to the environment or involved in the war industry.

“LSE has become the epitome of the neoliberal institution,” states Benjamin. “What that really means is there’s been radically transformative structural change to the UK higher education system. Fees have tripled. Massive cuts have happened. Universities are going to the capital markets to fund, they’re using that to build nice, new buildings. Students are becoming commodities that are used for profits for the university. We’re trying to basically provide a crack within that system. So it’s about students bringing the politics back to the education and bringing students back into the political world.”

 Endless Divide

Recent years have not seen the divide between British youth and politicians decrease.

From the City to the more popular areas of London, all those we meet share the feeling of having been neglected. “As a young person, other than the help to buy houses, that’s the only thing I really follow, and the only thing I really feel they grab out to us young people. They seem to be people a lot older than me so I don’t feel they really target the younger groups,” says one twenty-something.

Another comments, “There’s no one that’s inspiring me, there’s no one speaking for artists out there or the young people really. It’s all old people fighting over money and stuff like that really. It doesn’t interest me at all.”

“For me it’s less about whether I feel that they’re catering to me and my generation and more about I just don’t really believe them! No matter what they say and who they’re saying it for,” continues an interviewee.

‘Bite the Ballot’ is on a mission to empower young voters; this non-profit organization campaigns to raise awareness in schools, universities and youth centers, to encourage youth to go to the polls.

The under 25 represent more than 10 percent of the electorate, and could swing the election’s outcome.

Grassroots coordinator at Bite the Ballot, Sara Ghaffari says, “Only a quarter of young people in the UK eligible voters actually voted in the 2010 general election. During these past five years we’ve seen a lot of policies being aimed at the older generations, and lots of policies which are beneficial to young people have been moved to the side or scrapped. We encourage young people to vote in the hope that politicians will actually realize that young people’s votes are worth winning, and that young people are active, and interested, and demanding more, really.”

Debt, job insecurity, unemployment, housing, environment and discrimination are part of debates among British students ahead of the election.

 Disconnected From Politics

If this generation feels disconnected from the political class, it might be tempted to choose “none of the above”, suggested one of the co-organizers. Protesting is also a way to exist.

While many feel alienated from the current political class, those we met refute the apathy they are often accused of and share a thirst for change. This is what drives Jonathan Mitchell, founder of Brothers We Stand. After multiple odd jobs post-graduation, and not succeeding to find work suited to his degree, he started an online menswear retail brand with a vision: that the clothes are sustainable and ethically made.

While displaying his clothing line he says, “These are made of plastic bottles, these sweatshirts. You can take a plastic bottle and you can melt it down and you get little chips. They’re just the kind of product that we want. It’s a great product and it’s made in a more sustainable way.”

Jonathan started Brothers We Stand from scratch. He lives at his parents’ home, where he stores the collections sent directly by designers and he develops his ideas and works from a co-working space. As for politics, Jonathan will vote he says, but at 25, what he believes above all is in his generation’s creativity, through which another world may be possible.