The Students’ Union and the politicians
in A history of the University of Manchester 1973–90

The student activists of the 1980s were not the revolutionaries of the decade, the bearers or prophets of a new order; instead they seemed fated to be rebels, protesting against changes imposed from on high. The initiative had passed to a neoliberal, sink-or-swim, roll-back-the-state government which nevertheless contrived to interfere with universities as none of its predecessors had ever done. It appeared to be starving students of public money, ostensibly in an effort to make them more self-reliant. Individually, students suffered from deteriorating services, grants and benefits. Collectively, they—or their elected officers—faced attacks on the autonomy of student unions, measures designed to subject them to tighter control by the administrators of their own universities.

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