Reino Unido: National Campaign against Fees & Cuts

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A coalition of students and workers fighting against tuition fees and education cuts
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“Universities under Labour”: a NCAFC workshop report from The World Transformed

Mar, 10/10/2017 - 23:46

 

NCAFC workshop participants engaging in group discussion

On Sunday 24th September, activists from NCAFC ran a session at The World Transformed entitled “Universities Under a Labour Government”. The session brought together around 60 participants with a range of experiences and perspectives on Higher Education (HE).

The aim of the workshop was to collectively explore what an alternative HE system could look like under a Labour government. During the general election, Labour’s pledges to scrap tuition fees and reinstate maintenance grants gained mass support not just from students but also wider society – this is a great foundation on which the movement can build. However, these were the only policies in the HE section of the manifesto. NCAFC has always been clear that scrapping fees is not enough if we truly want to create an alternative to a marketised HE system, and thus there is a great opportunity for the left to push within Labour for a set of radical and comprehensive policies around universities.

The session began with a brief overview of the current state of higher education under the Tories, which covered the following themes:

  • Marketisation; system driven by “value for money” rhetoric
  • Enormous fees and debt
  • Casualisation of staff
  • Widening gap between workers and senior management
  • Mental health crisis
  • Soaring rents and cost of living crisis
  • The employability “conveyor belt”
  • Strengthening links between universities and corporations

Following on from this, the workshop participants were split into 3 different “perspective” groups – ‘students’, ‘workers’ (both academic and non-academic), and ‘wider society’. The following question was then posed:

  • What is the purpose and value of HE, and what key principles should underpin it?

The 3 groups then endeavoured to collectively respond to these questions from the specific perspective assigned to each of them. A summary of the key discussion points from each group are as follows:

“STUDENTS” PERSPECTIVE

  • Encouraging and fostering critical & political thinking
  • Advancing knowledge and skills; thus equipping students for jobs (though this should not be the main focus!)
  • Pursuing interests and passions
  • Accessible to people of all identities and backgrounds
  • Having a diversity of knowledge
  • Having fun!
  • Having parity with other forms of education
  • Democratic and collective
  • Collaboration and partnership between students and workers
  • Flexibility within studying
  • Being an integrated part of a community
  • Being progressive and socially responsible; equipping students with knowledge and tools to strive for a better world

“WORKERS” PERSPECTIVE

  • Critical thinking and creation of new visions
  • Democratic governance; an end to managerialism and hierarchical structures
  • In-housing/an end to outsourcing
  • Building alliances between students and workers
  • Unionisation and solidarity; improved working terms and conditions are a precondition but not an end goal
  • Challenging consumer mentality
  • Co-production of knowledge
  • Transformative pedagogy

“WIDER SOCIETY” PERSPECTIVE

  • Universities and local communities should be integrated into each other
  • Controlled rents so as not to negatively impact housing in local communities
  • Role in training NHS workers needs to be factored into workforce planning
  • Recognition that many students are workers in the local community
  • Centres of knowledge shouldn’t be exclusive; an end to profit motives
  • Stop corporations on campuses
  • Unis should be public organisations
  • In-house employment; strengthening accountability
  • Local communities should have open access to HE; e.g libraries, room bookings, public lecture series
  • Academic content should be freely shared with local communities, and those communities should be seen as collaborators in education too; e.g jointly organising courses with community organisations
  • Teaching and research based on what is socially useful for local communities

Following on from these break-out discussions, we formed new smaller discussion groups comprising of 2 or 3 participants from each of the 3 prior groups. These new groups were tasked with utilising the high-level principles explored in the first group discussion to collectively generate ideas for HE policy that the left should advocate for within Labour.

The policy ideas created by the groups covered a wide range of different areas and angles. For the purposes of this report we have consolidated all the ideas submitted to us and separated them out into the following broad themes/categories:

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Free childcare on campus
  • Universal living grants for all
  • Cap private school numbers in unis/expand uni places to ensure state school students are not shut out? (Ideally, abolish private schools! Though it’s not technically HE policy…)
  • An offering of flexible, non-traditional courses e.g evening classes, short courses
  • Language support for international students

PUBLIC EDUCATION

  • Ban private providers
  • Public access to certain university spaces as well as academic content e.g journals and lectures
  • University investment into local communities e.g social housing programmes

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

  • Proper employment contracts; abolish outsourcing and casualisation
  • Pay ratios between highest and lowest paid workers; 5:1? 3:1..?

DEMOCRACY

  • Research and resources being publicly owned and decided; based on what is socially useful
  • Replace “Vice Chancellor model” with democratic interdepartmental model; key positions elected
  • Fair student, worker and community representation on governing boards
  • Robust accountability mechanisms

FUNDING

  • Equalised funding for all institutions; fair and comprehensive public funding formula
  • Scrap all fees; including for international and PG students!
  • Parity of funding for faculties/disciplines as well as full-time and part-time

MEASURING SUCCESS…?

  • Abolish league tables
  • Scrap the NSS (National Student Survey)!
  • Abolish Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

 

At the end of the session, discussion groups fed back one or two key policy ideas they had generated and explained what the underpinning principles were behind the policy. In this feedback discussion it was noted that a lot of the policy ideas explored centred around areas which, under the current system, fall under the autonomous decision-making remit of individual universities. In order to overcome this a Labour government would – assuming that under Labour universities would be centrally funded if fees are to be scrapped – likely have to set out a framework that universities who receive state funding would be obliged to adhere to. Thus it is clear that Labour must be willing to radically overhaul the current system and be bold in implementing an alternative.

This workshop only scratched the surface of what a truly free, accessible, democratic and liberated HE system could look like in practice. It is the job of student movement and the wider left to continue to develop and build on these ideas in order to push towards a political programme in HE which is both winnable and transformative.

If you’re interested in these discussions, and you’d like to contribute to them by writing a piece for our website, get in touch with us via againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com. We want to hear from you!

Big thanks to The World Transformed for inviting us to give this workshop and to all those who came along and participated in what was an incredibly lively and exciting session. See you next year; if not sooner!

Categorías: Universidade

The NUS leadership is selling out on free education

Mér, 27/09/2017 - 20:28

By Andy Warren, NCAFC member in a personal capacity 

It takes a special kind of bureaucrat to abuse your power to undermine a political aim you avowedly support but apparently wouldn’t piss on if it was on fire. Luckily, that’s exactly what we have in our esteemed leader Shakira Martin and the cowardly and pathetic model of politics she represents.

A motion put forward to NUS’s National Executive Council, which argues for NUS support for NCAFC’s free education now demo, has been ruled out of order by Martin on the grounds that an entirely different motion was not heard or remitted to the NEC by NUS conference. Unwilling to actually argue against supporting a free education demo, Martin has decided that it’s much simpler to not give a toss about democracy, debate, or free education. Scared of losing an argument, or having to take an actual position on it, which risks exposing the contradictions of being an apolitical leader of a political organisation? Just don’t let the debate happen.

Apparently, the solution to a motion you don’t like isn’t arguing against it. It isn’t a raising tactical question about whether we should undertake x or y action. Heaven forbid it be taking a political stance against its demands, especially if it’s a demand like free education, which commands such support in the NUS that right (including Martin) made no attempt whatsoever to oppose at conference. You don’t even allow it to pass but do nothing about it, a path well trodden by NUS throughout the ages. Nope, you should just illegitimately and undemocratically declare it out of order. It’s impressive the Martin feels able to do this against the weight of precedent, where the identical motions not heard at conference – unlike this one, which is wholly different – are frequently resubmitted to the NEC. This isn’t even the blatant misuse of a convoluted rule; literally nothing in the playbook of being an NUS hack, a demobiliser of activism or a sucker for bureaucratic solutions to your political irritations underwrites Martin’s decision – just the cowardice that leads someone to think that if you think you’re going to lose a political argument, better not risk it. I was at the conference which elected Martin – somehow I missed the bumper stickers saying “fuck politics, rule it out of order”.

Let’s be clear about this. When the leadership of a union undermines a struggle that their membership is waging within their sector against the government, they are scabbing. If the leaders of a trade union purposefully undermined their workers’ fight for better pay and conditions, we would call that leadership scabs. Although I regularly wish it wasn’t the case, the NUS is our union. Education is our sector and the fight for free education – at its sharpest since 2010 – is our fight. NUS conference reaffirmed its commitment to campaign for free education at our latest conference. Martin’s disingenuous manoeuvrings are undermining that campaign. The only possible conclusion is that Shakira Martin is a scab.  

If this reads like an attack on Martin herself – her politics, her principles, her leadership – you’re only half right. A coward who pays lip service to free education but nothing more, an individual who undermines the opportunities students win for themselves through years of campaigning, an apolitical bureaucrat who tries to suck the radicalism and militancy out of the student movement – this description could apply to any number of NUS presidents our movement has endured over the years. It is far from unique to want to sell out your membership. A union which scabs by undermining the struggle of its members at the precise moment where a huge advance is possible is as old as unionism itself. The politics Martin represents is much bigger than her – the cowardice and complacency of that politics, and its spectacular willingness to buckle under pressure, is the real problem.

But this does not absolve Martin of responsibility. She chairs the NEC; she ruled the demo motion out of order. She must own it or retract it.

This kind of behaviour is always disgusting, but at a time when a huge opening for a radical, democratic free education system has been created through years of struggle by grassroots activists, leading to the wildly successful adoption of free education policy by Labour, it’s a cut above your average right-wing union bureaucrat. It’s about squandering the biggest opportunity that we’ve had for free education since fees were introduced nearly 20 years ago.

It’s time for Martin and every other NEC member who proclaims their desire for free education on NUS conference floor to get elected but actively stands in the way of the fight for it to make up their minds. Shit or get off the pot.

Categorías: Universidade

NUS President Shuts Down Debate About Fighting For Free Education

Mar, 26/09/2017 - 20:12

NCAFC submitted a motion to the National Union of Students National Executive Council (NEC) in support of our free education demo in November so that NUS could help us resource and build it.

The President of NUS has unfairly ruled out the motion from being heard on the basis that conference voted not to discuss a completely different motion including a part about a demo, with different demands.

For explanation: at the conference it’s common to run out of time in motions debates, and when that happens, the conference votes on whether or not to defer all these motions to the next NEC. However, it is commonplace for NEC members to re-submit individual motions if they’re deemed significant enough and don’t contradict existing NUS policy – this happened, for example, at the last NEC meeting where a few motions not discussed at conference were debated and voted on.

 

However, this time the President Shakira Martin has claimed that because a previous motion regarding a demo was among the motions not heard at conference, and conference voted for them not to be deferred to NEC, this motion cannot be debated – even though this is not how the rules work, and despite the motion being a completely new one.

 

However, this time the President Shakira Martin has claimed that because a previous motion regarding a demo was among the motions conference voted to not be deferred to NEC, this motion cannot be debated. Not only is this is not in line with NUS rules, the motion in question is a completely new one.

There is absolutely no justification for this. This is clearly nothing but a shameless political manoeuvre which demonstrates no regard for democratic process and the principle of honest discussion and debate. Instead of openly arguing against a motion she presumably opposes, the President is hiding behind a bureaucratic measure – one which is likely to be unconstitutional and which we will be challenging in every possible way.

 

It is also frustrating to see that, at a time when free education is literally within our reach – as a result of years and years of relentless organising by students across the country – the President of our national union has taken such a hostile stance towards those actively pushing to make free education a reality.

 

We’ve just come out of a general election where Labour has won the support of millions of young people and students with scrapping tuition fees as a headline policy. In the months that have followed, senior figures across the political spectrum have come out against the fees regime. Support for free education is widespread and growing. Now is exactly the time to keep up the pressure to win an education system that is truly free and accessible to all.

 

NUS has policy to campaign for free education, and yet our National President – who claims to support the policy – is in a blatantly undemocratic way undermining students trying to do so. The demo will of course go ahead regardless. We will still fight for the motion to be heard, and work hard to build the demo no matter what happens. We are extremely disappointed by the actions of NUS leadership, and are hoping that the decision will be reversed. Either way, we cannot be discouraged. Now is our time. See you on the streets on November 15th!

For reference:

Motion submitted to NEC “Support the Free Education NOW – Tax The Rich National Demo” LINK

Motion submitted to NUS Conference “Motion HE216 | A national demo as part of a strategy to stop the HE reforms” LINK

 

Categorías: Universidade

Join the Free Education NOW speaker tour

Mar, 26/09/2017 - 19:49

This Autumn NCAFC will be running a speaker tour to spread our vision for education nationally and build for the Free Education NOW- Tax the Rich National Demo on November 15. Have the speaker tour visit you!

NCAFC activists will be traveling all over the UK to different schools and unis to talk about our demands for the demo- scrap all fees, living grants for all, and stop campus cuts. We are asking local anti-cuts groups, SUs, etc. to fill out the form below to secure a speaker before the time of the demo.

However, we are an organisation of volunteer activists, resourced by donations from activists and the occasional trade union – we don’t have much money! Producing enough publicity to spread the word around the country costs thousands of pounds. If you have any spare cash you can donate to the cost of building the demo, please do so using the button below.

If you are a student union or other well-resourced organisation that can pay to cover travel costs for the speaker coming to visit you, please indict that on the form- it would be greatly appreciated! Every donation we get allows us to help fund speaker’s travel for activists who don’t have access to much money.

If you’d like to host a speaker tour event or have a NCAFC activist come to your campus to speak just email againstfeesandcuts[at]gmail.com

We can also support you by helping put you in touch with other speakers such as someone from a local UCU branch and with promotion such as by creating you an event photo from our template graphic, example below –

Categorías: Universidade

****PRESS RELEASE**** TUITION FEE VOTE: STUDENTS CALL NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION BACKED BY MOMENTUM

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 13:10

TUITION FEE VOTE: STUDENTS CALL NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION BACKED BY MOMENTUM

  • Government defeated over raising of tuition fee cap in Westminster vote
  • Mass student coalition calls national demonstration demanding scrapping of tuition fees
  • Momentum backs demonstration, and will “mobilise up and down the country”

In the wake of the government defeat on tuition fees, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), a grassroots student organisation which was founded during the 2010 student protests and organised student demonstrations in recent years, has called a major demonstration to demand the abolition of tuition fees.

Momentum is actively mobilising for the demonstration, which will take place on November 15th in central London. Organisers expect tens of thousands of students to take to the streets.

Students are seeking to capitalise on the division between the Tories and the DUP to advance a radical agenda of free education. The demonstration will also call for an end to the cuts and job losses in the sector.

Momentum will be organising up and down the country to ensure thousands of students and young people turn out on November 15th”, said Sahaya James, a member of Momentum’s National Coordinating Group. “A generation of people are being sold out by a minority government with vanishing credibility. Momentum has changed the electoral map; we will help change the consensus that maintains university as a luxury for the rich.

We refuse to lie down in the face of the relentless attacks on education”, said Hansika Jethnani, a NCAFC organiser and member of the National Union of Students’ National Executive Committee. “Tuition fees are fundamentally illegitimate – education is a public good not a product, and it should be funded publicly, paid for by taxing the rich. The orthodoxy that students should be charged more and more has been shattered.

ENDS

NOTES

  1. For more information please ring ANDY WARREN on 07752 640847 and ANABEL BENNETT on 07807 465498
  2. The National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts is a network of student and education worker activists, founded in 2010. Since then, the NCAFC has helped activists on campuses up and down the country organise direct action against tuition fees, education cuts and wider cuts to public services. The NCAFC has played an integral role in the movement that developed from November 10th 2010 following the occupation of Millbank Tower, calling several national days of action that mobilised hundreds of thousands of students. We have organised several of the largest national demonstrations in recent years. In November 2011, we organised a national demonstration against the government’s higher education white paper, bringing 10,000 students to the streets of London. In November 2014 and the subsequent year, we led the mobilisation of another demonstration of 10,000 students, marching for free education. We were the driving force behind the NUS’ boycott of the National Student Survey this spring.

 

Categorías: Universidade

Order your freshers packs today!

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:36

Get ready for the new term and start building the Free Education NOW – Tax the Rich National Demo on Nov 15 at freshers with our packs which include our Autumn bulletin, a mobilising toolkit and a pack of demo materials

NCAFC is printing as many of these as we can. We want to make sure everyone can get hold of publicity for the demo, so you can order them for free using the form below and we’ll post them as soon as possible.

However, we are an organisation of volunteer activists, resourced by donations from activists and the occasional trade union  – we don’t have much money! Producing enough publicity to spread the word around the country costs thousands of pounds. If you have any spare cash you can donate to the cost of building the demo, please do so using the button below.

If you are a student union or other well-resourced organisation that can place its own order with a printing company using the PDF files provided, please do that too! Every donation we get, and every leaflet or poster printed by a student union, ensures that more material is available to activists who don’t have access to much money.

// A4 Autumn 17 Bulletin // PDF LINK

// BULLETIN CONTENTS  //

Read the plain text bulletin online with these links

Free Education is within our reach – if we fight for it now, we can win!

Only student-worker solidarity and free education can save FE

Winning the argument for Free Education 

University marketisation sparks brutal cuts

Victories for workers at SOAS and LSE

Grants Not Debt

Why is my rent so f***ing high?

// A3 portrait poster // PDF LINK

// A3 landscape poster // PDF LINK

// A5 leaflet // PDF LINK

 

// A7 sticker //

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  • Posters
  • Leaflets
  • Stickers
  • Freshers pack
freshers packs include our autumn bulletin, a mobilising toolkit and a pack of demo materialsAre you able to host a Free Education NOW speaker tour event? *
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Categorías: Universidade

Only student-worker solidarity and free education can save FE

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:26

By Monty Shield

The Government is leaving FE a dying sector. Repeated cuts to the Department of Education are responsible for thousands and thousands of courses being scrapped, an even higher number of staff redundancies, and predominantly working class people denied the educational opportunities they want and need. On top of this, private companies and big business have an increasingly large influence.

Whichever way you look, there is no good news in FE. Websites like FE Week, designed to present regular updates on what’s happening in the sector, essentially read like a long list of increasingly terrifying symptoms. The chronic illness behind all this: marketisation and underfunding.

We need a movement that fights back. But we also need a movement with a positive vision to fight for. Further education has seen the brunt of a brutal marketisation agenda for so long that we can’t just try to make small changes here and there.

We need to overhaul and transform FE. We should remove the artificial divisions between FE courses and HE course and instead have one post-16 National Education Service, free and accessible to anyone at any stage of life.

And we need a democratic education system, run by students and staff, for students and staff, so that the devastating situation in FE never happens again.

Go down to your local FE college, leaflet about the demo and talk to students. Let’s build the movement for the education system we desperately need.

Categorías: Universidade

University marketisation sparks brutal cuts

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:24

By Ben Towse

Across the country, university bosses are announcing brutal cuts to jobs, courses and departments. Teesside has forced all of its professors to reapply for their own jobs and banned their trade union from a meeting to discuss it. Durham wants to recruit 4000 more students while cutting staff. The Open University plans to slash a quarter of its budget, meaning swathes of jobs, to pay for a “digital transformation” plan. Similar stories are coming from around the UK.

Why are these cuts happening? Many of these universities are in good financial shape, and the government has not recently cut overall funding. There are three common themes in their announced reasons.

First, gaming the new Teaching Excellence Framework, and its research counterpart: government-imposed hoop-jumping exercises, supposedly assessing “quality” in universities. Manchester’s bosses reckon they can raise their scores, and so their fees, by becoming a smaller but more “elite” university – by slashing workers’ livelihoods and students’ opportunities.

Second, 2011’s introduction of a deregulated student numbers market. Previously, universities had quotas of students they could take, creating stability. Now the Tory-Liberal drive to marketise education has meant student numbers fluctuate, and with them, income. Universities are scrambling for savings because recruitment has dropped, or cutting socially valuable courses that are less profitable, or cramming in students to take our fees without properly funding staff to support us.

Third, universities are facing financial instability as their investments, costs and so on are hit by wider economic turmoil.

We can fight these cuts locally. Even within these constraints, we can demand that universities prioritise students and staff, education and research, over managers’ six-figure salaries and marketing gimmicks. Already, University of the Arts London bosses were forced to back off job cuts by a campaign including a student occupation. More local campaigns are organising, and NCAFC is here to help – get in touch.

But we also need to join up, through NCAFC, for a national fight against the marketised system driving the cuts. Yes, we need to reverse the reforms that introduced the TEF and the student numbers market, and scrap fees. But we must go further. Education can never fulfil the needs of the many as long as it is provided through a patchwork of atomised selective institutions, each straining to stay afloat amid the buffeting forces of the market, many sharing the same turf, and all competing for students, funding, and scores in government assessments,.

Market chaos breeds inequality, restricts intellectual breadth, and is a fundamentally irrational way to organise education. We need a coherently joined-up, comprehensive, public education system, based on cooperation not competition. Provision should be planned democratically by students, staff and communities to fulfil social need, not determined by big business interests and market forces. Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal of a National Education Service offers a space to articulate and win that vision, but it’s up to us to flesh out the idea and fight for it.

Categorías: Universidade

Winning the argument for Free Education

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:21

In many countries, education is free as a right. And now, thanks to the huge popularity behind Labour’s pledge to abolish fees and bring back grants in the general election, we might be on the verge of seeing free education in the UK too.

So what is the case for taxing the rich to provide free education? Not only is it a question of students’ rights, it’s key to creating a more democratic, enriched and empowered society. Imagine a society in which nobody is taught to build bridges, create films, analyse history, provide medical care, investigate the universe, or programme computers.

The idea that education is a commodity, that students should pay for their own because it’s their own business and nobody else’s, is absurd. Education benefits the whole of society, so just like any other social good it should be shared and funded by society – first of all, funded by the richest. Education helps individuals to develop to our fullest potential and engage with the world around us creatively and consciously.

Regardless of whether it gets you a job, this is liberating: granting understanding, confidence, and breadth of vision. This true not just of individuals, but classes of society collectively. Education helps equip marginalised and exploited groups to analyse and describe their own situation, and fight back – in the struggle for the working class’s emancipation and against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and disablism.

Naturally, those in power want to control both who can access what education and what they’re taught. This is part of how they maintain their position. Cuts and tuition fees are a project to create a market, forcing universities and colleges to compete rather than cooperating as parts of a democratic public service.

Universities spend on flashy marketing at the expense of welfare services for students and wages for teachers. Departments teaching less profitable subjects are downsized, while money from businesses becomes more important, giving them the power to bias what we are taught and what gets research.

The government wants to reduce education to an industrial pipeline, supplying trained employees ready to be exploited for profit. We believe that every single person in society should have to right to access education. Abolishing fees is a crucial step to achieving that. If you agree, join us and join the fight!

 

Categorías: Universidade

Victories for workers at SOAS and LSE

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:11

Last year saw two major victories for workers’ struggles at London universities. First, outsourced LSE cleaners and their union, United Voices of the World, won a ten month campaign for equal rights with other staff at the university. Their victory means they will be brought in-house in the Spring of next year.

Soon after, SOAS’s 10-year-long Justice for Workers campaign was also successful. Outsourcing of all core staff at SOAS will end by September 2018. The victories at LSE and SOAS seemed impossible just 12 months ago, but now they could and should pave the way for an end to outsourcing across the higher education sector and beyond. At the centre of both struggles were inspirational migrant workers who were willing to put their own jobs on the line to fight for equality.

LSE saw 7 days of strike action with picket lines from 5am until 6pm. It is vital to remember these victorious workplace struggles, led by the workers and their unions, were given a massive boost by acts of student solidarity. At LSE and SOAS they joined pickets, organized protests, disrupted and occupied campus spaces. This all garnered press attention and added to the pressure on management to negotiate with the workers and meet their demands. Furthermore, at LSE a key issue for many cleaners was the feeling that the rest of the university did not value them. In response, students organized regular breakfasts to tackle this and built a genuine sense of community.

This sense of community and solidarity in struggle should be extended to our lecturers and teaching staff as well. Just like the cleaners and other campus workers, it is university management that is to blame for the exploitative conditions many staff find themselves in: if faced with insecure contracts and casualisation, limits on academic freedom, and low pay.

And of course, it is university management that charge us extortionate rents, refuse to provide us with inadequate mental health services, and so much more. Management is our common enemy and as students we should stand in solidarity with all workers fighting for their rights on our campus. What happened at LSE and SOAS shows us what we can achieve when we stand together.

Categorías: Universidade

Grants Not Debt

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:07

By Shula Kombe

In 2016 the government has now replaced maintenance grants with additional loans. This has saddled the poorest students with more debt than their rich counterparts because, without parental support, they now have to take out a much larger loan at the start of their courses.

All the evidence suggests that maintenance grants improved access for working class students. Yet the Government scrap them because the Conservatives are a party that represent the interests of the ruling class and big business, including in education, as opposed to the interests of workers and working class students.

The Government was successful in 2016, but we are fighting back. Maintenance grants have been scrapped (1998) and won back (2004) in the past – and we can do it again.  To win, we need a range of tactics, from lobbying to direct action, such as the #GrantsNotDebt Westminster Bridge blockade we organised in January 2016.

We must push for more than a return to an inadequate system of maintenance grants, though. What we need is not a scaled rate, but instead one level of grant that is enough to live on for all students. This means that no matter whether a student is shut out of their family, for whatever reason, and no matter how poor or rich a student’s’ family, they will be able to access university. Like the abolition of tuition fees, we can fund this by taxing the rich – those in society who can actually afford it.

To move forward we need to redouble our efforts – building the movement by convincing more and more people of our positive alternative to the Tories’ attacks on our education system, and harnessing our collective power. Join us on the national demonstration for free education on November 15th, where we’ll be demanding living grants for all students.

 

Categorías: Universidade

Why is my rent so f***ing high?

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 12:00

By Flavius McFlavourdale

A consistent trend across universities is the skyrocketing of rent in university halls. Universities stay quiet about rent hikes and we assume they’re a weird force of nature. However, there is no reason why rent should be so high and increasing at the rate it is. So why is my rent so high? There are basically two reasons for this.

Firstly, since 2010 direct funding to universities has been been completely cut and now universities are entirely reliant on your £9,000+ fees for funding. Whereas before university funding was always guaranteed, now it is insecure – unis now need to spend copious amounts of money on PR, visit days and brochures, to attract your loans. However, it also means that unis look for other ways to make funding more stable – one way to do this is to increase rent and channel this money back into management and expansion.

Secondly, universities are acting ever more like businesses (a direct result of policy changes in higher education) – universities now aim ever more for profit and expansion. As such they want to gather enough money to make this possible. They do this by amongst other things: cutting paying, putting staff on worse contracts – and of course making the rent very damn high!

But it needn’t be this way. There is enough wealth in our society to make education and housing and accessible for all and get rid of financial barriers to education. We can only do this through collective and disruptive action. One way in particular has been to organise rent strikes whereby students withhold rent en masse and gain collective leverage over university management. Students from London, to Brighton to Bristol have been involved in this and in some cases have made massive wins as big as £1 million in rent cuts and freezes and bursary increases.

Let’s make housing accessible for all! Let’s cut the rent!

Categorías: Universidade

Free Education is within our reach – if we fight for it now, we can win!

Xov, 14/09/2017 - 11:48

The snap General Election earlier this year has transformed the fight for free education. Labour’s pledge to tax the rich and fund free education was so popular that the Government are now on the back foot and feeling the pressure.

As students and workers united together, now is the time to go on the offensive. If we do, we can keep up this pressure on the Conservative Government and make sure that if a Labour Government gets into power it follows through on its promises. That’s why we’re marching on November 15th.

Right now our education is being attacked from every angle. The marketisation of Further and Higher Education is driving enormous cuts in courses and staff across the country. This lets big business and private companies in to make money, and shuts out those who want and need accessible education the most.

Tuition fees are at the heart of this marketization. They lead to inequality between institutions and eroded job security and working conditions of staff and campus workers. The Teaching Excellence Framework meant to ‘drive up standards in teaching’ is directly linked to the intensifying exploitation and casualisation of university staff.

Scrapping all fees cuts the legs out from underneath this marketization agenda. We must demand that no student, home or international, should pay a penny in tuition fees. We want an end to the cash cow treatment of international students. And we want an end to the regressive maintenance loan system which sees poorest students graduating with the highest amount of debt. This is a debt which is causing a widespread mental health crisis amongst students.

But this system could be about to change. In its place we demand living grants for all: every student across further and higher education should get enough money to study and live on. No more working part time jobs, no more having to depend on family for money, and finally an end to dealing with the bureaucratic mess that is Student Finance and SAAS.

You may have heard people argue that we don’t have the money to pay for free education. That is a myth. We know there is no shortage of wealth in our society: enormous riches lie hoarded in the pockets of a few. We should tax the extortionate wealth of big business and corporations and put it to better use by investing in an education run by and for students, workers and communities, just as we should for other public services like the NHS.

Join us in organising action to win: on our campuses, in our communities, and on the streets.

Free education accessible to everyone is within our reach. By taking action in our thousands, we can seize it now. March with the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts on 15th November: for an end to tuition fees and for living grants for all students, funded by taxing the rich.

Categorías: Universidade

NSS Boycott: Open letter to NUS Leadership

Mar, 22/08/2017 - 16:13

The statement below is an open letter signed by a range of student activists and officers from across the country in relation to the NSS Boycott campaign and the role of NUS within that. If you wish to add your name to the letter then please send your name and position/affiliation to againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com, or message our Facebook page.

We, the undersigned students’ union officers and student activists, are pledging to continue to promote the boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS) until the latest round of the Higher Education reforms is withdrawn. We are also calling on the NUS leadership, in particular Vice-President Higher Education Amatey Doku, to follow its democratic mandate from NUS National Conference 2016 to lead a national boycott of the survey.

The threat posed by recent government reforms should not be underestimated. The HE Reforms will not only raise the cost of tuition, but also include the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework and making it easier for more private providers to award degrees. While the campaign against the HE Bill last year won some important concessions, such as delaying the link between TEF and fees and stricter regulations of private companies entering the market, our demands have not been met. The results of these reforms, combined with previous waves of marketisation, can already be seen with dozens of campuses announcing job cuts (some, including University of Manchester, explicitly citing government reforms as the reason). Unless radical action is taken, we will see more course closures and job losses, an even more unequal education system and staff working conditions further deteriorating.

The NSS is a key metric in the TEF, which means student feedback is directly used to raise fees, close courses and damage education. It is also the one metric students have control over. Boycotting the survey is more than a symbolic act of protest – withdrawing data gives us leverage by affecting the framework the government needs to implement its reforms. This ensures that we don’t come to the negotiating table empty-handed. Without any collective action by students, our position in fighting the TEF and marketisation will be significantly weakened. We know that the 2017 NSS boycott invalidated survey results at 12 institutions, further throwing into doubt the legitimacy of TEF metrics and putting pressure on the government.

As the largest democratic body representing students across the UK, NUS is best placed to to co-ordinate the campaign and negotiate with the government on our behalf. And while the HE BIll has passed, the fight to stop fee rises and marketization is not over. We are calling on NUS to start building now for NSS boycott 2018 and to learn from last year’s experiences to make it bigger and more effective. We are also calling on other students’ unions to join our campaign – the larger it grows, the stronger we are.

Signed by:

Beth Douglas NUS LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place) Ana Oppenheim NUS NEC Amelia Horgan NUS NEC Aliya Yule NUS NEC Sarah Gillborn NUS NEC Sarah Lasoye NUS NEC Hansika Jethnani NUS NEC, Arts SU Education Officer Deej Malik-Johnson NUS NEC, Manchester SU Campaigns Officer Nicoline Kure Aberdeen Uni Student Association Women’s Convener Lewis Macleod Aberdeen Uni Students’ Association Communities Officer Tam Wilson Abertay Students Association Leah Kahn Arts SU Activities Officer Sahaya James Arts SU Campaigns Officer Rebecca Harrington Brookes Union Women’s Officer Claudia Cannon Carmarthen East & Dinefwr Labour Youth Officer HE Taylor McGraa Education Officer Goldsmiths Students Union Josh Chown Guildford Labour Youth Officer Georgie Spearing KCLSU Disabled Students’ Officer Rahma Hussein KCLSU VP Activities & Development Douglas Carr Kent Union Ethics Officer Rory Hughes Liverpool Guild Vice President Sara Khan Manchester SU BME Officer Rob Noon Manchester SU Trans Officer Tyrone Falls NCAFC National Committee Charlie Porter NCAFC National Committee, Free Uni of Sheffield Activist Maisie Sanders NCAFC National Committee Andy Warren NCAFC National Committee Shula Kombe NCAFC National Committee Ben Towse NCAFC National Committee Nathan Rogers NCAFC National Committee Monty Shield NCAFC National Committee Zoe Salanitro NCAFC National Committee Clementine Boucher NCAFC National Committee, Rent Strike Activist Zac Muddle NCAFC National Committee, Bristol Labour LGBT+ Officer Anabel Bennett NCAFC National Committee, Rent Strike Activist Alex Booth NCAFC National Committee Alex Stuart NCAFC National Committee, Surrey Labour Students Chair Finn Northrop Non Portfolio Officer UEA SU Tanju Cakar NUS Disabled Studnets Committee (Open Place) Vijay Jackson Ordinary Members’ Representative, Scottish Labour Young Socialists Tom Zagoria Oxford Uni SU St Anne’s College Officer Krum Tashev President Canterbury Christchurch Students Union Natasha Barrett Royal Holloway SU President Chris Townsend Sheffield SU Education Committee Charlotte O’Neil Sheffield SU Education Committee Chair Josh Berlyne Sheffield SU Education Committee Vice-Chair Stuart McMillan Sheffield SU Education Officer Sarah Mcintosh Sussex SU Postgraduate Education Officer Aisling Murray Sussex SU Society & Citizenship Officer Lulah Brady Sussex SU Undergraduate Education Officer Grainne Gahan Sussex SU Welfare Officer Ayo Olatunji UCL SU BME Officer Mark Crawford UCL SU Postgrad Officer Justine Canady UCL SU Women’s Officer Dan Davidson UCU Surrey Branch Secretary 2016-2017 Gary Spedding Ulster University Students Union Student Activist Laura Tidd Undergraduate Academic Officer Durham Students Union Mason Ammar Undergraduate Education Officer Bristol Students Union Belle Linford University of Birmingham Guild of Students Disabled Student’s Officer Jamie Jordon UWE SU Education Officer Connor Woodman Warwick For Free Education Student Activist Emily Dunford Warwick SU Postgrad Officer Hope Worsdale Warwick SU President Rida Vaquas Young Labour West Mids Rep of Momentum NCG, NCAFC National Committee Danny Filer Labour Students London Regional Coordinator, UCL SU Labour President Dimitri Cautain SOAS SU Co-President Welfare & Campaigns Nisha Phillipps SOAS SU Co-President Democracy & Education Halimo Hussien SOAS SU Co-President Equality & Liberation Mehdi Baraka SOAS SU Co-President Activties & Events Flo Brookes Sheffield SU Sports Officer Santhana Gopalakrishnan Sheffield SU International Students’ Officer Celeste Jones Sheffield SU Women’s Officer Megan McGrath Sheffield SU Development Officer Tom Brindley Sheffield SU Activities Officer
Categorías: Universidade

NSS boycott first year makes a big dent: bring on round two!

Xov, 17/08/2017 - 00:30

On 9th August, the NSS results were released and it was confirmed that the NSS boycott had invalidated the data for 12 universities. This is something to celebrate and to build upon.

NCAFC have been advocating for a boycott of the survey for years; and in 2016, its proposed link to the Teaching Excellence Framework meant that the motion at NUS Conference passed overwhelmingly. NUS must stand by its mandate from National Conference and continue to push the boycott, not shy away from meaningful action – because in order to break the TEF, we will have to continue to build the NSS boycott until the higher education reforms are withdrawn.

We aren’t just campaigning against the increase of fees, but the wholesale marketisation of education which the TEF promises to usher in.

Surveys like the NSS help integrate competition into the heart of our universities. Universities have already been pushed to operate as businesses, incentivised to cut costs and spend more money on PR, advertising and big pay packets for management rather than on pay, teaching and support services for staff and students. The fight for free education lies not only in abolishing fees, but in the thorough eviction of the market from higher education; universities should be acting in the interests of students and staff, not money and big business.

The NSS boycott has been one of the most radical, far-reaching and effective campaigns have students and activists have pushed through in years. In mobilising students in the fight against the marketisation of HE, the boycott has already forced delays in fee rises – and even pushed the House of Lords to attempt to totally sever the link between the TEF and fee increases, with the boycott being quoted in the debate.

We have the power, the resources and the potential to carry this momentum even further. We should build upon our successes and push for an even stronger and bigger boycott next year. If we had 25 SUs boycotting it this year, let’s make it 100 next year – bring on NSS boycott 2018!

Categorías: Universidade

Free Education. Now is the time

Mér, 19/07/2017 - 14:56

Now is the time.

The General Election and its aftermath has put free education back on the agenda. Thousands and thousands of people turned out to vote inspired by the idea of a publicly funded education system and degrees that don’t come with a burden of debt. Education funding is making front-page headlines and becoming a hot topic in Parliament, with Labour initiating a three-hour long emergency debate. More and more voices are speaking out against the disastrous debt-fuelled funding regime, and even those who once championed fee rises are now advocating scrapping them altogether. What for too long seemed like a far-fetched dream, now is looking more and more possible every day. Some say a change is inevitable – but we know that power concedes nothing without a fight, and we wouldn’t be talking about free education now if it wasn’t for those who spent the past seven years or more organising on their campuses and in their communities.

Now is the time to step up – to argue louder than ever that education can and should be free, accessible to all and run democratically in the interest of students, workers and society. To demand a National Education Service that’s free education for all, funded by taxing the rich and big business – no ifs, no buts, no compromises. This is our chance, an opportunity we simply cannot afford to miss.

How do we move forward? How do we harness the fresh excitement around free education, put serious pressure on those in power and make the idea reality? This is something NCAFC is currently discussing and we need your ideas! Join the conversation on the member’s loomio (our discussion and decision making platform) and help us plan a campaign to finally bring an end to tuition fees.

** https://www.loomio.org/d/42VLOK1i/now-is-the-time-free-education-go-go-go **

Everyone who is a member can access the forum and contribute. You should’ve received an activation link when you joined NCAFC – contact us at againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com if you cannot access your account.

If you’re not yet a member, join NCAFC now – http://anticuts.com/membership/

What do we want? Free education!

When do we want it? Now!

Categorías: Universidade

NCAFC Summer Training 2017: REGISTER NOW!

Mar, 18/07/2017 - 23:09

After the surprising Labour success in the General Election, on the most left wing platform in a generation, we are closer than ever to winning free education. Labour won seats on a manifesto that promised to scrap tuition fees, build social housing, and create a free National Education Service. The Tory leadership is increasingly becoming increasingly weak (and wobbly), and it is looking likely that we will kick out the politicians who brought in £9Kfees 7 years ago.

But even with though the left has made gains on a national level, the fight is far from over. The HE Reforms are in full swing. In June, the Teaching Excellence Framework rankings were released and already sweeping cuts are hitting our campuses. Moreover, even with the prospect of abolishing fees and restoring the Educational Maintenance Allowance in sight, is that enough? Free Education has developed beyond fees and EMA to mean public education which is free, yes, but accessible, liberated and democratic too.

The only way to stop the government’s reforms and win free, accessible, liberated and democratic education is to form a militant grassroots movement!

Join NCAFC 9-10 September for our Summer Training 2017, hosted in Sheffield! Followed by our National Committee meeting on Monday 11th which is open to all members (although only NC members can vote).

Whether you’re a student officer wondering how to challenge management or an activist wondering how to fight cuts on your campus this *FREE* training will equip you with knowledge and practical advice which will be fundamental in an undoubtedly pivotal year for UK education. Not only this, but it will be an excellent opportunity to meet other student union officers and activists from across the country and build essential networks.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT HERE!

REGISTER YOUR FREE PLACE HERE!

Categorías: Universidade

Teaching Excellence Framework Ranking Released

Xov, 22/06/2017 - 17:18

UCL students protesting TEF in December 2016

Today the rankings of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) were released. TEF is at the heart of the ruinous Higher Education and Research Act (HE Act) that was voted into legislation in April 2017. It’s important to remember why as activists we have rejected the TEF and how we can fight the HE reforms.

What is TEF?

TEF was prompted by the government’s attempt to artificially create competition between institutions of higher education. While TEF is suppose to encourage “teaching excellence”, the framework itself does no such thing.

Two major metrics informing TEF are (1) employment rates & graduate earnings and (2) the National Student Survey

(NSS) results, neither of which have any relation to “teaching excellence”. Graduate earnings have nothing to do with the quality of teaching a student received, but rather how much businesses value a certain skill. This means we could see mass closures of arts and humanities courses, subjects viewed as less “marketable”.

The NSS has long been an ineffective tool for rating student satisfaction, but TEF exacerbates these consequences. Uni management will now be more incentivized to focus on gaming the NSS for positive feedback and pointing the blame at over worked staff members, rather than materially changing the conditions of students.

The main goal of TEF is to make sure that universities are providing skills that businesses want, so that they will be driven to invest in these unis. TEF will not make students consumers, but to make students a product to be bought by businesses.

What should we do?

NCAFC and others in the student movement must continue to reject TEF and the HE Act and fight for a free and liberated education.

We will surely see a rise in cuts and redundancies over the coming year. University of Manchester management have already made sweeping job cuts, citing the HE Act as the motivator.

We need to be ready to resist the destruction of our education. Remember that the link between TEF and fee rises was cut because of student backlash and we can do more. Spend this summer and autumn forming anti-cuts and free education groups on your campuses. If there are job cuts or course closures at your uni, use direct action to stop them. Pass a motion in your student union to boycott the NSS and if the motion doesn’t pass, campaign to boycott it anyway. Only through radical grassroots action can we stop the effect’s of TEF.

Categorías: Universidade