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Reflections on the UCU Strike: Where Do We Go From Here?

Xov, 19/04/2018 - 12:39


By Dan Davison, NCAFC Postgrad & Education Workers Co-Rep and Cambridge UCU activist. Photo by Andrew Perry.

On 14 April 2018, 64% of members of the University and College Union (UCU) voted ‘Yes’ to the offer made by the employers’ consortium, Universities UK (UUK). Industrial action, including action short of a strike (ASOS), is now suspended. UUK’s offer aims to end the ongoing dispute over intended reforms to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension scheme for ‘pre-92’ universities. As explained in a previous article, these changes would make final pensions depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions, spelling the effective end to guaranteed pension benefits. In their offer, UUK proposed to establish a ‘Joint Expert Panel, comprised of actuarial and academic experts nominated in equal numbers from both sides’, to ‘deliver a report’ and ‘to agree key principles to underpin the future joint approach of UUK and UCU to the valuation of the USS fund’.

NCAFC advocated a ‘No’ vote in the ballot, finding that the proposal offered little in the way of concrete guarantees and noting how it could see UUK continuing to use the contested November valuation for the USS, despite the pension scheme’s ‘deficit’ being fabricated. On 13 March, UCU rejected a previous proposal drawn up by the union and UUK’s representatives during negotiations, after UCU members demonstrated outside the union’s national headquarters and local UCU branches called on the national leadership to turn down the deal: an outcry that trended online with the hashtag #NoCapitulation. Moreover, between the announcement of the new proposal on 23 March and the closing of the ballot on 14 April, many branches came out in opposition to the offer as it stood, preferring a deal with clearer and more reliable assurances. On social media, this position was often identified with the hashtag #ReviseAndResubmit, in humorous allusion to the peer review process for academic journals.

Whilst the 63.5% turnout for the ballot on the new proposal is not something to dismiss out of hand, the result comes as a disappointment for many strikers, as well as those who have stood in solidarity with them. I will lay out some major criticisms of the UCU leadership’s handling of the ballot and offer a few explanations for the ballot result. I will then make some critical observations about how the National Union of Students (NUS) conducted itself throughout the strike. I will end on what I hope will be a constructive and optimistic note on how we can build upon the gains of the strike, particularly the unprecedented energisation of UCU’s rank-and-file.

1. The UCU Leadership

One of the most significant problems with the ballot is the manner in which Sally Hunt, the UCU General Secretary, presented the available options in her emails to the membership. More specifically, Hunt conflated the more hard-line ‘no detriment’ position with the less hard-line ‘revise and resubmit’ position, and then framed the ‘No’ option on the ballot as a mandate for ‘no detriment’. A significant number of UCU members favoured ‘revise and resubmit’, considered ‘no detriment’ unrealistic, and would have been willing to pursue further industrial action in pursuit of demands shaped by a ‘revise and resubmit’ position. As Hunt presented the ‘No’ option as a commitment to bargaining for ‘no detriment’, we can safely assume that many members who ordinarily would have rejected the offer instead accepted it. Moreover, whilst it is established practice for a union’s executive committee to make recommendations in such matters, it appears that the recommendations Hunt gave to members were hers alone.

Unfortunately, UCU’s national leadership has a long history of failing to pursue effective industrial action when needed. As we recognised when UCU called off its marking boycott during the 2014 pay dispute, when the national leadership clearly does not support further industrial action, members become demoralised and are left to believe that, if they do vote for further action, the action will be tokenistic and ineffective. With staff members losing significant pay on strike days, one can understand why the leadership’s visible lack of commitment to seeing the strike through to the end would have had a dissuading effect on UCU members. Indeed, one would be forgiven for a certain cynical suspicion that the ballot was called during the Easter break precisely because it would be a time of year when student support for the strike would be less visible on campus and when there would be no picket lines to generate feelings of solidarity.

In many respects, the contrast between the ballot on the one hand, and the wave of demonstrations, open letters, and branch resolutions for #NoCapitulation on the other hand, is instructive for the problems with an atomistic approach to democracy in a national organisation. When members are in a room with others who have shared their struggle, the fostered feeling of solidarity boosts confidence, and one can actively participate in a structured discussion that lays out and debates the available positions. When members have to vote as geographically separated individuals, that atmosphere of solidarity and accompanying confidence are lost. Moreover, in the context of the present dispute, those members who were not active during (and, presumably, less supportive of) the strike ended up receiving disproportionate guidance from the leadership’s communications.

Nevertheless, I urge student and trade union activists not to assume the worst of those UCU members who voted to accept the deal. Apart from the leadership’s handling of the ballot and general lack of effective leadership, there are numerous understandable reasons why members would choose not to continue striking. With classes finishing for the year, the most disruptive part of the industrial action would have been the marking boycott. Since this would affect students’ reception of marks much more directly than cancelled lectures, one can sympathise with staff members’ fear of ‘hurting’ their students or losing student support by continuing the action, even if a victory for the strike would actually have helped students in the long run by resisting a systematic attack on learning conditions. Likewise, one can understand why the prospect of standing on a picket line when the campus is less busy would be quite bleak for many strikers. Once we have more data on the number of UCU branches that came out against both the rejected and the accepted deals, along with a breakdown of the ballots cast, we can better account for why members voted as they did.

2. The NUS

In a previous opinion piece, I criticised the NUS leadership for demonstrating no support for the strike beyond than a lacklustre joint statement (itself released more than a week after UCU’s industrial action ballot result), despite it being the clear policy of NUS’ National Executive Council to provide much more concrete assistance. That was at the start of February. Individual NUS officers might have made supportive gestures and commentary during the strike period, but as an institution, the NUS remained conspicuously absent. This means that the 26 campus occupations and other surges of campus activism in solidarity with UCU materialised in spite of the NUS rather than because of it.

NCAFC assisted many of these occupations by helping coordinate them online, and – in some instances – by sending members to boost numbers and expertise. This resulted in approximately 40 activists from 13 different campuses across the UK meeting in London to share their experience and draft a joint solidarity statement, with further cross-campus connections being drawn now. Similarly, NCAFC administered both the popular ‘Students Support the UCU Pensions Strike’ Facebook group, which allowed activists to share materials, and the @Occupation_hub twitter account, which kept abreast of direct action in support of the strike. Still, all this is no substitute for the material support of a national union tasked with fighting for our interests as students. In other words, if there was any moment at which the NUS should have lived up to its name, it was at the height of campus activism in solidarity with UCU. The NUS could have officially sent representatives to the occupations and committed itself to defending student protesters from victimisation, especially those on visas who take an especially high risk when participating in direct action, but they did nothing.

The NUS thus finds itself in a curious state of double removal. It is removed from the mass political drive for free education that has seen expression in the Corbyn surge and in Labour’s significant gains in the 2017 General Election. Likewise, it is removed from the fertile layer of grassroots campus activism that made the recent wave of occupations possible. As of the 2018 NUS National Conference elections, the NUS leadership is split evenly between the left and the right, but the right still holds the presidency. However, if the experience of the UCU strike has taught us anything, it is that any attempt to rebuild the student movement must amount to something far wider and bolder than putting left-wingers in office.

3. What Next for UCU?

Even though our current position is intensely dissatisfying, we have made genuine gains through our activism. UCU membership has increased by the thousands and seen unprecedented energisation at the grassroots level. Now we must ask how we rank-and-file activists can prepare for the (almost inevitable) next round in the dispute should the talks with UUK fail and, more pointedly, how we can transform the union itself. I wholly understand the temptation for left-wing members simply to jump ship from UCU. As it stands, UCU has all the trappings of a bureaucratised union disconnected from its more militant base and the UCU Left faction, dominated by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), serves as little more than an electoral machine. For these same reasons, I understand suggestions to ‘dual card’ with smaller, more dynamic unions, such as the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

While all available options should considered carefully, I do wish to stress that there are significant advantages to a large, national union, not least in respect of collective bargaining. Since university employers in the sector have to deal with industry-wide unions such as UCU, it is harder to drive down wages on individual campuses and make the sector even more closely resemble a market than it does already. Moreover, one should bear in mind that the character of unions can change dramatically. Many of the large national unions now infamous for bureaucracy, such as the GMB, grew out of the ‘new unionism’ of the 1880s, which replaced the older ‘craft union’ models. This shift from craft unionism to new unionism meant an upsurge in militancy and the bringing together of different workers in the same industry to fight for collective gains rather than to defend the special interests of a uniquely skilled ‘labour aristocracy’. Conversely and more recently, rank-and-file activists transformed the traditionally conservative and bureaucratic Chicago Teachers Union into an energised, combative body. As such, we should not be overly dismissive of what we could achieve within UCU, building upon the kind of grassroots revolt we saw with the #NoCapitulation surge.
In short, whether one chooses to start a new union or to reform an existing union, there are no shortcuts to effective workplace organising. For now, we must keep engaging with UCU’s activist base and ensure that its newly tapped potential does not dissipate. With new rank-and-file networks emerging in the wake of the ballot result, a glimmer of hope appears in the darkness. It is a hope that springs from a single, potent realisation: we are the union.

Categorías: Universidade

Students Stand in Solidarity with No Vote

Ven, 13/04/2018 - 10:28

This letter was written and circulated by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), a coalition of students and workers dedicated to fighting fees, cuts, and privatisation in education.

Dear UCU members,

We are students who over the past month have witnessed the most extraordinary strike action the Higher Education sector has seen in years. We have stood with you on the picket lines because we understand that an attack on our staff is an attack on us: we see the struggle for fair pensions as part of the struggle against the marketisation of our universities, which is increasingly driving universities to behave like corporations, rather than the centres of knowledge and learning that they should be.

From the beginning of this dispute you consistently argued that ‘this is about more than pensions’; if this strike is won, students and staff will be in a much better position to roll back the marketisation of education, from an end to tuition fees, casualisation, the gender pay gap, and outsourcing, to the democratisation of our institutions. Together we have shown that #WeAreTheUniversity, that together workers and students run the show, and together if necessary we can shut it down: we have shaken higher education to the bone.

The recent four weeks of strike action have demonstrated the strength of student-staff solidarity, and the power of industrial action. Thousands have joined picket lines and demonstrations, many have organised teach-outs putting up talks and events challenging the boundaries of our current curriculums, and we have witnessed the biggest wave of student occupations (with a total of 24 across the country) since the 2010 student movement. On the 13th of March, the rank and file stood up to the UCU leadership and declared “#NoCapitulation” when UUK attempted to end the strike through a compromising, bogus proposal which simply pledged to delay the removal of defined benefits.

Today, you have received a ballot to vote on UUK’s most recent proposal. As it stands, this proposal is vague, offering few concrete guarantees. The USS pension scheme is in surplus, the deficit is fabricated, but this proposal could see UUK continuing to use the November valuation. We are disappointed that despite the majority of branches voting #ReviseAndResubmit, UCU leadership balloted this proposal. As #NoCapitulation demonstrated, a union is its grassroots members. While the proposal is a significant step forward from January, it is not the outcome you spent morning after morning shivering in the snow for.

We understand you have already lost 14 days of pay due to strike action, and we thank you for your sacrifice. Nevertheless we want to let you know that we continue to stand in full solidarity with you, and will continue lending our support if you reject this deal and go back to the picket lines after the holidays. We recognise that striking close to the exam period will put you under additional pressure, but students are conscious that UUK and university management is to blame for disruption. This strike action has already made significant gains, and we fear accepting UUK’s proposal would undermine the reason why the strikes started in the first place.

It’s not just students on your side. Your strength has given inspiration to the entire labour movement. You were the first to defeat the Tories’ ballot threshold with resounding, national action. Together you have clocked almost half a million total strike days, more than the rest of the UK combined over the last two years. You’ve received international solidarity from West Virginia, Germany, Delhi, and beyond. Furthermore, sister unions UNISON and EIS have announced a national ballot on the USS issue, while at the University of London, the IWGB is coordinating the biggest ever strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education history to coincide with USS strikes.

With the momentum growing and growing, now is not the time to accept an ambiguous proposal. This strike has changed everything. A different university is within our reach.  Now is the time to stretch our collective raised fist further and demand more. We express our full solidarity with the rank-and-file agitating for a ‘No’ vote and pledge to stand firmly beside you should industrial action continue.

Helena Navarrete Plana, Warwick For Free Education

Arthur Taylor, King’s College London

Ava Matheis, SOAS

Ky Andrea, Warwick For Free Education/ University of Warwick

Monty Shield, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty

Charlea Murphy, The University of Sheffield

Stan Laight, Sheffield Marxist Society

Jake Roberts, University of Surrey

Elliott O’Rourke, University of Sheffield

Jacob D Allen, University of Surrey

Alison Worden, Surrey University

Chris Townsend, The Free University of Sheffield

Jack Kershaw, UCL

Dominique Hua, UCL

Josh Chown, University of Surrey/Surrey Labour Students

Malcolm Lowe, University of Warwick

Dora Dimitrova, UCL Marxist Society

Alicia Shearsby, The University of Warwick/Warwick for Free Education

Stuart McMillan, Sheffield SU Education Officer, NCAFC NC

Rowan Davis, Oxford

Charlie Porter, Free University of Sheffield

Richard Somervail, UCL

Anika Heckwolf, University of Warwick

Thalia Cox, Warwick For Free Education

Malgosia Haman, The Free University of Sheffield

Jerome Cox-Strong, University of Reading

Ceri Bailey, Cardiff University

Cate Schofield, Cardiff University

Tassaneeya Robinson, Cardiff University

Siobhan Owen, University of Exeter

Alexander Lloyd, University of Sheffield

Felicity Adams, Keele University

Amin Lmoh, University of Warwick student staff solidarity

Hemal Gangani, University of Bath

Ana Oppenheim, NUS NEC

Patricia McManus, University of Brighton

Sam Burgum, University of Sheffield

David B, Warwick

Lauren Kennedy, De Montfort University

Andrea Aakre, #OccupyTheOctagon (QMUL)

Lughaidh Scully, Aberdeen Students Support the Strike / Aberdeen Student Left

Martin Leonard, University of York

Edward Williamson, Free University of Sheffield

Julie Saumagne, University of Warwick

Vijay Jackson, USS Occupation Edinburgh

Harry Vinall-Smeeth, Oxford

Aristidis Shukuroglou, University of Reading Marxist Society

George Briley, University of London, Goldsmiths

Emil-Dorian McHale, University of Reading Marxist Society

Jacob Elliman, University of Reading Marxist Society

Catherine Joanne McClane, University of Reading Marxist Society

Matthew Lee, UCL / UCL Cut The Rent / UCL Fund Our Mental Health Services / UoL Justice for Workers / UCL Free Education

Georgina Ryan, The Free University of Sheffield

Nick McAlpin, Exeter Students 4 UCU Strikes

Tyrone Falls, University of Bristol

Cam Galloway, The Free University of Sheffield

Hanin Abou Salem, Cardiff University

Mohammed Bux, University of Sheffield

Samar, Bristol University

Sam Walker, Manchester Plan C

Richard Somervail, UCL

Alice Wright, KCL

Dina Rider, Queen Mary University of London

Martin Young, QMUL

Robin Boardman, University of Bristol

Nathan Wiliams, University of Manchester/Save our Staff Manchester campaign

Ramona Kuh, Queen Mary University

Jasmin Bath, QMUL

Laura Barroso, SOAS

Prarthana Krishnan, Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group

Lily Baker, Queen Mary University London

Clementine, Bath Uni / Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts

Anna Klieber, University of Bristol/ Bristol Student Staff Solidarity Group

Marlowe MacDonald, University of Sheffield

Abby King, Royal Holloway

Luke Tyers, University of Bristol/Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group

Kerry Lambeth, QMUL

Filippo Iorillo, Queen Mary University of London

Molly Wilson, University of Warwick

Conor Shail, University of Bristol

Jack Shaw, Warwick Marxists

Lewis Williams, QMUL/Occupy the Octagon

Diego Millán Berdasco, Queen Mary University of London

Ursula Shaw, Cambridge

Pascal Salzbrenner, Marxist Society, King’s College London

Ian Cameron, The Open University

Alexander Simpson, Occupy Surrey 2018

Alexander Wilkinson, QMUL

Kendra Howard, Queen Mary University of London

Lois Davies, Bristol University/ BSSSG

Aiysha N Soddie, Queen Mary, University of London

Juvan Gowreeswaran, Marxist Student Federation (Warwick branch)

Paulina, Cardiff University

James Roberts, Free University of Sheffield

Tom Keene, Goldsmiths University of London

Ted Lavis Coward, Durham University

David Bullock, Durham University/NCAFC

Ellen Adamson, Queen Mary University of London

Eva Marcela Ponce de León Marquina, Institute of Education (UCL)

Josh Berlyne, Free University of Sheffield

Jessica, Bath students Against Fees and Cuts

Archie Mellor, BSAFC

Bonnie Carter, Bristol university

Piers Eaton, Durham Student-Staff Solidarity

Ada Wordsworth, UCL

Bradley Allsop, University of Lincoln student/UCU member

Jazmine Bourke, Durham University

Jonathan Murden, Durham University/Durham Left Activists

Zeid Truscott, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts

Beth Douglas, NUS LGBT+

Lewis Jarrad, UCL

Rafaelle Benichou, Warwick University

Lewis Macleod, Aberdeen Students Support the Strike / Aberdeen SA

Aysha Khatun, University of Warwick

Chris Knutsen, Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts

Beckie Rutherford, University of Warwick

Jemima Hindmarch, QMUL

Kierin Offlands, Lewisham Young Labour

Niamh Ashton, University of Leicester

Rebecca Harrington, Oxford Brookes Student Union

Hansika Jethnani, Arts SU

Del Pickup, University of Sheffield

Nadia Sayed, Queen Mary Student + QM Socialist Worker Student Society

Mie Astrup Jensen, Aberdeen Students Support the Strike

Dan Davison, University of Cambridge

XingJian Li, SOAS

Ash Edwards, Queen Mary University of London

Siôn Davies, QMUL / #OccupyTheOctagon

Lisa Taylor, King’s College London

Simona Alexandra, King’s College London

Cecy Marden, University of Sheffield

Mark Crawford, Students’ Union UCL

Rebecca Larney, KCL

Harper Stephens, The Free University of Sheffield

Nicolás Navarro Padrón, SOAS // SOAS Marxist Society

Thomas Evans, King’s College London

Konstantina Melina Lourou Terzaki, King’s College London

Savannah Whaley, KCL

Sam Walton, University of Reading

Joe Attard, King’s College London

Sainab Nuh, King’s College London

Harvi Chera, University College London

Yasmin Huleileh, Warwick University

Ramona Sharples, King’s College London Occupation

Jacob Shackleton, Warwick University

Thushan Rajendram, King’s College London

Adam S. Jarvis, Warwick University

Tom Bolitho, King’s College London

Sean Benstead, Leeds Independent Socialists

Amy Norris, King’s College London

Megan Beech, University of Cambridge

George Craddock, Queen Mary Labour Society

Declan Burns, University of Nottingham

Nick Oung, UCL/Socialist Appeal

Sarah Combes, King’s College London

Khaled Eissa, Kings College

Jennifer Jackson, King’s College London

Elizabeth Collins, University of Southampton

Aaron Kwadwo Kyereh-Mireku, University of Warwick/Warwick Marxists

Polly Creed, University College London/ Power Play Activists

Mike Shaw, Edinburgh

Sofia Doyle, Bristol Staff Student Solidarity

Eve Bent, Salford University

Thea Smith, University of Bath

Eleanor Webb, University of Warwick

Harriet Carroll, University of Bath

Jordan Smith, QM Young Greens

Sam Bough, University of Kent – Canterbury

Thahmina Begum, Queen Mary University

Chelsea Thompson, University of Aberdeen

Jill L Crawford, UEA

Kelli Conley, University of Edinburgh

Ellinore Folkesson, Glasgow University Student Solidarity

Matthias Bryson, University of Edinburgh

Joanna Smith, University of Edinburgh

Grace, University of Edinburgh

Katherine Butterfield, Queen Mary university

Lorenzo Feltrin, University of Warwick

Amethyst Di Tieri, University of Edinburgh

Viktor Kardell, Glasgow University

Savannah Wood, University of Edinburgh

Alice Galatola, Newcastle University

Rory Kent, Cambridge Defend Education

Sean Currie, University of Strathclyde

Carlus Hudson, University of Portsmouth

Euan Ferguson, University of Edinburgh

Emily Donnelly, University of Edinburgh

Molly, University of Keele

Oresta Muckute, University of Reading

Matthew Gibson, Durham University

Neve Ovenden, Durham Student-Staff Solidarity

Elaena Elizabeth Shipp, Bangor University and Gwyrddion Ifanc Bangor Young Greens

James Crosse, Queen Mary University of London

Bohdan Starosta, Strathclyde Students Support the Strike

Chelsea Lowdon, Durham University/ Durham Student-Staff Solidarity

Carolin Zieringer, Goldsmiths

Artur Wilk, Leicester Student Action

Perry MEsney, Cardiff University

Anne Løddesøl, University of Edinburgh

Jamie, Newcastle Student-Staff Solidarity

Dylan Woodward, Bristol Uni

Niamh Sherlock, Leicester Student Action

Jess Taylor Weisser, Newcastle University

Ben Margolis, Cambridge/CDE

José Figueira, Newcastle University

Kayleigh Colbourn, Royal Holloway University of London

Anthony Sanderson, UEA

Matthew Sears, Durham University

Alexander Pool, Durham

Gwilym Evans, University of Sheffield

Eleanor Cawte, Cambridge University

Eleri Fowler, University of Edinburgh

Jennie Layden, Newcastle University

Holly Carter-Rich, University of Manchester

Isabel del Pilar Arce Zelada, Students Support the Strike Aberdeen

Emily Moore, University of Sussex

Doha Abdelgawad, Department of Political Science and International Relations.

Jack Mansell, Sydney University Education Action Group

Rory McKinley, Durham University

Amelia Talbot, Uni of Leicester

Abi Cooper, Durham University

Annie Jones, University of Manchester/UCU/PhD Student

Woody Phillips-Smith, University of Warwick

Howard Chae, University of Cambridge

Niamh MacPhail, University of Glasgow

William Campbell, University of aberdeen

Joseph Jorgensen, University of Manchester

Talia Reed, Bangor University

Pablo Charro de la Fuente, Business School

Herbie Hyndley, University of Birmingham

Mark Lawrence, Durham

Nomar Syking, Falmouth University

Tihana Vlaisavljevic, Queens University Belfast

Matthew Vaughan, University of Liverpool

Declan McLean, University of Strathclyde/Strathclyde University Labour Club

Lucy, University of Hull

Sara Pernille Jensen, University of Bristol

Scott Seton, University of Essex

Alex Kumar, Oxford SU

Scott lumsden, University of Glasgow

Conor Muller, University of York / University of York Labour

Aleph Ross, University of Cambridge

Ayse, Cardiff University

Declan Downey, The Free University of Sheffield

Nickolas Tang, King’s College London

Finn Weldin, University of Kent

Joseph Evans, University of Cambridge

Sophie Neibig, SOS Manchester / Uni of Manchester

Priyanka Moorjani, KCL

Warren Gratton, University of Surrey

Alexandra Briggs, University of Edinburgh

Rachel, Save Our Staff MCR

Eleonora Colli, King’s College London

Adam Jones, UCL

Heather McKnight, University of Sussex

Guy Forsyth, Durham Student-Staff Solidarity Group

Mr J H Lees, Leicester university

Amelia, Newcastle

Susie Gray, Cardiff University

Yvonni Gkergkes, University of Edinburgh

Kathryn Blagg, University of Sheffield

Charmaine Mandivenga, Queen Mary

Danielle Wright, University of Sheffield

Zack Murrell-Dowson, Bristol University/ Bristol Student Staff Solidarity Group

Max Riley, University of Reading Students Union

George Bunn, University of Sheffield

Categorías: Universidade

Our Demands: Statement from the Occupations Summit

Dom, 25/03/2018 - 16:32

Activists from 13 campuses who had been in occupation have come together on Sunday 18th March to share our experiences, learn from each other and plan how we can unite together in support of UCU for the struggle ahead.

We stand in full solidarity with UCU and are demanding that:
1. Universities UK ends its attempts to push through this pension scheme and gives in to the opposition from UCU.
2. The strike is mediated by a genuinely independent body, not one appointed by Universities UK.
3. That Universities UK publish a gender impact assessment on the USS pension reforms.
4. Universities release reports on their institutional responses to the USS consultations to September Risk valuations, clarifying their decisions and the process behind them.
5. Universities should guarantee that students will not be awarded results lower than their predicted grade, in response to disruption caused by UUK. If students achieve results better than predicted, then that result will be accepted.
6. No pay is docked for staff taking action short of a strike. That hourly paid staff whose teaching hours all fell on strike days do not have their pay docked.
7. No-one, staff or student, face disciplinary action or other victimisation for protesting in support of the strike.
8. Strike days are not classed as “mandatory attendance” for students, especially international students.
9. International student visas be extended to cover delayed graduation dates
10. Workers on Tier 2 & Tier 4 Visas do not face legal threats for participation in strike action

We believe in education that is democratic, accessible and liberated, with living grants for all and no tuition fees, funded by taxing the rich. We want a radical transformation of our education system from the bottom up.

We are calling on our universities to: pay the living wage and provide in-house and secure contracts for all campus workers; cease all blacklisting of workers; implement a 5:1 pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff on campus; divest from fossil fuels and arms companies; end all compliance with PREVENT; initiate rent caps and pass ownership and running of accomodation to students.

Read the report from the summit here.

Categorías: Universidade

Reclaim NUS!

Ven, 23/03/2018 - 18:37

13 million people voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in 2017. Amongst those aged between 18-25 62% voted Labour and 100,000 are members. Seats like Canterbury and Sheffield Hallam (bibi Clegg) were largely won by the sudden turnout of students who were enthused by radical politics. The Labour Party achieved all of this with a flagship policy of a National Education Service, providing universal free education for life.

This surge has finally hit the student movement on the ground. In the past year, the Higher Education sector has been swept with new waves of activists and activism. Student struggles up and down the country are challenging overpaid and corrupt University Management and governance structures, using direct action against the ever-rising cost of rent, fighting for fully funded mental health services and actively supporting staff in the largest wave of industrial action that Higher Education has ever seen. We are standing at a crossroads in the student movement and education sector where, if we lose, it may jade this new movement into paralysis. However, if we win, this emerging movement could change the face of our education system and UK politics for ever! But… where is the NUS?

The current NUS leadership has busied itself cosying up to parliamentarians, attempting to look and be ‘respectable’. Their failure in aims and strategy was highlighted by, Despite NUS’ best efforts, being laughably blocked from the board of the Office for Students by Downing Street SPADS leaving an unelected student at Surrey to represent us. Simply playing Select Committee doesn’t work, we can never win at their game. We must use collective power to force our wins, but NUS has consistently failed to support activists on the ground: from blocking a motion to support the national demo from even being discussed on NEC to their complete lack of effort to show mean solidarity with the UCU strikes.

There have been over 20 occupations in the last few weeks around the country, students risking their studies to support the UCU, has Shakira Martin visited any of them? Has Izzy Lenga been to a Teach-Out? NUS have put out nothing about the UCU pension dispute since February. After our members on the NEC passed a motion mandating NUS to support the strikes, the leadership didn’t even bother to produce their own material to distribute to SUs, instead they lazily uploaded UCU’s leaflets to NUS Connect and said goodbye. The Labour Students/Organised Independents slate this year is so out of touch with the membership that, at the high-point of Corbynism, they have still managed to run a candidate for NUS VP who will go on national TV and argue for a Graduate Tax.

We need national co-ordination of this emerging new grassroots movements and a leadership forged from the bottom-up more than ever. That is why NCAFC are running the following candidates for the NUS executive:

Sahaya James – President
Ana Oppenheim – VP Higher Education

NEC Block of 15:

Stuart McMillan
Justine Canady
Monty Shield

They are standing alongside other candidates from the broader left of NUS:

Eva Crossan Jory – VP Welfare
Zamzam Ibrahim – VP Society & Citizenship
Ali Milani – VP Union Development
Neal Black – VP Further Education

Conference will be full of excited Corbynista delegates, new activists from the campus grassroots and many will be buoyed from waves of activity on the ground all over the country. We are making clear that whilst the opposition at conference may wear the tokenistic badge of ‘Labour’, they are not the representatives of the movement spawned from and around Corbynism. They cannot lead students through this forthcoming era of change and radicalism, but the movement can.

Categorías: Universidade

Occupations Summit: Activists from 13 Campuses Come Together

Mar, 20/03/2018 - 19:34


National Committee member Monty Shield reports

Around 40 activists from 13 campuses who had been in occupation have come together to share our experiences, learn from each other and plan how we can unite in support of UCU for the struggle ahead.

Taking stock
After a hugely inspiring four weeks we had a collective discussion of the national situation. Leading off, Swansea UCU activist Cath Fletcher gave an overview of the recent history of the UCU and the context of the strike, and Cambridge postgraduate teaching assistant and UCU member Dan Davison spoke of the effect of the 2010 student movement on his current involvement in the occupation at Cambridge University.

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) activist and NUS Presidential candidate Sahaya James, who played a key role in the occupation at UCL, called for the National Union of Students to orientate itself towards the emerging leadership of the student movement: the grassroots activists who have made these last four weeks as significant as they have been.

Activists from as far away as Scotland and other campuses a long way outside of London contributed to the discussion. And it is clear that there is a deep resolve from all activists present and across the country to build on the great upsurge of student-worker solidarity action until we win this dispute. Detailed notes of this discussion were taken and will be released soon.

Learning from the past four weeks
The second part of the day entailed skill-sharing workshops. Activists split into groups, first listing the successes of their occupations and other campus actions, then listing obstacles they had faced and mistakes made. Groups fed back to the whole room, and invaluable lessons were learnt that activists can take back to their local groups for future direct action. Notes were taken and a best practice guide to occupations will be produced and circulated soon.

Going forward
In the next few months we want to organise together to take this wave of student solidarity to the next level of effectiveness and national coordination.

We voted to release a joint statement of demands immediately following the meeting and want to work together to develop this further together over the coming months. And already local occupation summits are being planned for London and Scottish campuses.

NUS

The meeting also voted to endorse two candidates for NUS full time office positions: Sahaya James for President and Ana Oppenheim for VP Higher Education. Both these activists are running on a platform for transforming NUS into a bottom up grassroots organisation that fights with lecturers and campus workers for a free, democratic, accessible and liberated education system. The were also endorsed to a large extent because of their key involved in recent occupations they have been a part of.

Sunday’s summit has laid the groundwork for linking up even more occupations.

To get involved contact the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts on facebook or email us at againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com. You can also reach us by tweeting or messaging @occupation_hub.

If you want help with setting up an occupation on your campus, you can read this short guide to occupations here and look out for the best practice document that will be coming soon.

Categorías: Universidade

“The roving picket” and Sheffield’s strike solidarity campaign

Xov, 08/03/2018 - 15:13

By Małgosia Haman, Free University of Sheffield

Everyone already knows that in Sheffield we have the best activists. Our banner game is particularly strong.

Just last year The Free University of Sheffield made this gigantic banner. The biggest banner in the history of the whole world*.

Here’s a short summary of what we’ve been up to during the UCU strike.

We made some really good banners again.

We take them with us every morning on our now-famous Roving Picket™. Tens of students meet outside the SU on strike days and visit the picket lines bringing music, joy, and solidarity like the Strike Santas that we are.

(This Strike Santa btw is Charlea, the most important person in creating the huge Free Education banner)

Sometimes we also bring hot drinks.

Here’s our Education Officer, Stu for a Grassroots SU himself, distributing hot coffee to strikers.

Picketers love us and we get requests to join specific ones every day!

Here are lecturers striking outside the Jessop West building. We had a fun dance party at the picket, they are amazing dancers!

Our dearest Vice Chancellor Keith Burnett was conveniently away for the first 2 weeks of the strike. When he finally came back to Sheffield (and joined the picket line for literally 2 minutes before crossing the picket line and going to his office) we felt so happy, we organised a welcome back party for him!

But there’s more!

Just in the first 2 weeks of the strike, we had two massive demonstrations. Hundreds of students joined staff in solidarity and marched through the streets of Sheffield. We’re currently preparing another one on the International Women’s Day and we’re sure it will be even bigger and even louder!

We’ve also organised fundraisers for the strike hardship fund. And when the university threatened to deduct pay from staff working to contract on non-strike days, our alumni organised on twitter within minutes threatening to stop donating to the alumni fund and instead pledging donations to the UCU fund.

We won’t stop until the strike ends, we’ll keep supporting staff, we’ll keep dancing, and we will win!

Xoxo

PS If you want to keep up to date with our shenanigans, follow us on:

https://www.facebook.com/savestaffpensions/

https://www.facebook.com/thefreeuniversityofsheffield

and most importantly: https://www.facebook.com/TheRovingPicket/

*Or student activism in Europe or something like that.

Categorías: Universidade

PRESS RELEASE: Student leader threatened with dismissal for protesting gentrification

Mér, 28/02/2018 - 15:48

–  Student union management attempts to sack officer elected by students following political activity against university

–  Campaigners claim students’ union managers “complicit in shutting down dissent” over redevelopment plan.

–  SU officer Sahaya James sits on Momentum’s ruling National Coordinating Group, and is running to be the next NUS President.

–  Sahaya James, Campaigns Officer at the University of the Arts London (UAL) Students’ Union (Arts SU) is being threatened with dismissal after leading an occupation against UAL’s complicity in the gentrification in Elephant and Castle.  

Sahaya James, who is running to be president of the National Union of Students and sits on Momentum’s ruling National Coordinating Group, has been summoned to an extraordinary meeting of the union’s trustee board, which will take place next week, to discuss a ‘motion of no confidence’. The move comes after UAL has begun disciplinary procedures and prevented her from going into university buildings. James was instructed by the union to keep the threat of dismissal secret, but has now gone public.  

The timing of the disciplinaries are widely viewed as a response to a student-led occupation earlier this month at UAL’s London College of Communication (LCC) campus in Elephant and Castle against a redevelopment plan that would replace the shopping centre with an expanded LCC campus alongside luxury flats and shops. Originally just 3% of the 1,000 new homes would be genuinely affordable, and the plan has since been paused by the council.

A student at UAL Lizzy Deacon said: “I cannot believe this. It seems that my own elected officer is facing being sacked for supporting students protesting against the university. Is my student union complicit in shutting down dissent on a campaign that clearly has the support of students and the wider community? This is wrong and unfair on us students as well as the officer.”

Ana Oppenheim, NUS National Executive, said “Sahaya’s role in campaigning against gentrification has been passionate and crucial. It’s all too clear that the students’ union is clamping down on students’ right to protest. This is extremely concerning. Officers are accountable to students, and any attempt to remove them should be done through democratic structures.”

Shelly Asquith, former Chair of Arts SU Board of Trustees, said: “The power to remove an elected union rep from office should lie with those who put them there: the students. It should not be conducted behind closed doors by the University or a handful of Trustees. I am alarmed that this proposal, timed so closely to the NUS elections, would deem Sahaya ineligible to stand for national office.”

Sahaya James said: “The past few weeks have been difficult and upsetting, but I am proud of the success we have had in pushing back the redevelopment plans at Elephant and Castle and I am determined to continue to serve the UAL student body. I have been instructed to keep the disciplinary process secret, but I believe that the students who elected me have the right to know what is happening.”

ENDS

NOTES

  1. For press or more info contact Charlie Macnamara 07508 041168 or Andy Warren 07752 640847
  2. Arts SU is the union for students at the University of the Arts London, representing 20,000 students.
  3. Sahaya James is the Campaigns Officer at Arts SU. She was elected by a ballot of all students in February 2017 and is running for President of the National Union of Students at NUS conference in March. She also sits on Momentum’s ruling National Coordinating Group.
  4. James was formally made aware of the motion of no confidence on 22nd February. An extraordinary meeting of the Trustee Board of Arts SU will take place next week. This is in addition to the university preventing her from accessing university buildings and facing a disciplinary process from the institution.
  5. News coverage of the Elephant and Castle occupation can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4. A Guardian opinion piece by James herself can be found here, as well as an Independent article here.

 

Categorías: Universidade

A Brief Guide to University Occupations

Sáb, 24/02/2018 - 15:59

Lots of students across the UK are shortly going to be launching occupations and sit-in protests in order to maximise the impact of the UCU strike, and build support for broader demands about justice in the UK education system.

If you’re one of them, or if you’re thinking about being one of them – hello! NCAFC have thrown together this guide as a check-list of things to think about before you occupy.

1) Making the decision
The first step is to have a discussion with people around you about having the occupation. This might seem obvious, but it is important that most people support the occupation and its aims. At this stage you want to make the decision about whether to occupy overnight, what your demands or the general political aims of the action are, and what you hope to achieve.

Work in concentric circles, rippling outward, including more people each time. Get a few people together who are up for it. That small group should get together everyone they know who might be up for it. And then that larger group should call everyone they know… and so on. Work rapidly and aim to launch within a week once this process begins. Don’t give things time to fizzle out. Be decisive; encourage those around you to be bold.

It is OK if not everyone is persuaded at once: but you need people to understand what they are doing and why. If your occupation isn’t democratic, it’ll fall apart at the first difficulty.

2) Why are you doing it?
Some occupations are serious long-term show-downs with management: you take over an important target whose occupation will call real disruption (like a management office, say) and stay there until the Vice Chancellor surrenders.

Other occupations are more about using the disruptive and spectacular power of an occupation to get everyone’s attention, get people talking about your demands, and change the atmosphere on campus, leaving while you are still fresh.

Decide what you want to do before you go in – and prepare yourselves accordingly. Might you wind up being dragged out by security? Will your studies take a back seat for several weeks? Or will you be back in lectures by Monday? Within sensible limits (don’t tell anyone who you think might tell on you!) people need to know what they are getting themselves in for.

3) Where to occupy?
Choose a location to suit your objectives. Are you going to choose a really disruptive and heavily-fortified place to occupy; or a very visible location with lots of windows and access points? Has your university splurged stupid money on a flashy conference centre that is no use to staff or students?

There are some non-negotiable things that you need in an occupation. Don’t occupy anywhere without these things:

a) It needs to be safe to sleep in. Rooftops are not a good idea for overnight stays.
b) You need a toilet. You, gallant reader, might be ready to shit into a carrier bag for the cause; but sadly most students are not. Make sure you’ve got enough loo roll and hand sanitiser gel.
c) Wi-fi and/or phone signal. If an occupation happens and you can’t tweet about it, has it really happened?
d) Windows or balconies. People need to be able to see you! Also, on day 3 you’ll be glad of the natural light.

Look at the venue beforehand. Look at the doors and ask yourself: will we need to lock them shut? How can we do that? What are the access points; how many toilets are there, where will we get tapwater from? Is it easy for people to find?

4) Springing the occupation
If you have a strong and motivated group, you will be able to simply storm the target location: all turn up in the management corridor or Presitigious Conference Centre, lock the doors shut, sit down, and issue your demands online. But that requires secretly organising a big-ish team to converge at the right time and place, or leading a rally or demonstration indoors “by surprise”. You can’t very well set up a Facebook event advertising the time and place of the sit-in, or the building will be locked down.

Another method is to call a public meeting in the room you intend to occupy (or nearby) and launch your occupation at an appropriate moment in the proceedings, by having the chair explain the plan and asking the meeting to approve it.

The start of an occupation is normally pandemonium. That’s OK – don’t stress over a little chaos – but try to get things under control. Make sure that people have jobs to do, so that people can get active right away. As soon as you are securely in the space and you’re not about to be run out of the building, hold a meeting to endorse your demands and establish a division of labour.

What kind of things need doing?
a) Security – post a watch on all the doors and make a rota through the night
b) Food, water, hygeine – sort out a clean food preparation area, a clean method of distributing tap water, and make sure that the loos are clean, accessible and well-stocked.
c) Online propaganda – let everyone know where you are! Set up a blog and social media accounts for your occupation. Post on them regularly – your demands; practical information and requests for help; political statements like messages of support from the local trade unions or other occupations; videos of people having fun in the occupation (security considerations permitting); and memes.
d) Turning the occupation inside out (see below)
e) Organised fun: show films, provide board games – you’ve got a big group of people living crammed together in an uncomfortable space. Do things to keep people happy and relaxed.

5) Security and repression
You are not likely to be expelled, disciplined, arrested or beaten up for occupying.

Since 2008, thousands of students have taken part in dozens of occupations in the UK. In that period, very small numbers of students have been taken through disciplinary cases or suspended. Small numbers have been arrested. To our knowledge, perhaps half a dozen people have been expelled, in exceptional circumstances. At some campuses the police have been called to clear buildings out (Sussex Uni in 2010; Senate House, London 2013; Birmingham University 2014; Warwick Uni in 2014) – but while serious, these are rare incidents in a decade that has seen many, many sit-ins.
All the same, it is important not to take silly risks. Don’t brawl with security guards, damage buildings, light fires, smoke, drink booze, or take drugs in an occupation. Be careful about revealing occupiers’ names to university management. Observe a sensible level of secrecy when preparing.

If any of your people are victimised: fight back! Support them through disciplinary procedures, tell the world what the university is doing, organise anti-victimisation protests and petitions. Contact alumni (universities care about their image amongst alumni, who are a source of money). Contact NCAFC for advice on how to proceed: we have been involved in fighting victimisations of student activists since 2010.

Security guards need to be treated with respect. University security staff or porters are workers like any others. In London, university security guards have been going on strike and facing up to management bullying. Do not fight them or insult them.

They will try to obstruct you, because that is a condition of their employment. They will be worried that if they just let you have your way, they will get in trouble.

The best way to overcome security is to be numerous, quick and well-organised. Try to move decisively and in overwhelming numbers. Security know that if they are deployed on their own or in a small group, they will not be sacked for failing to thwart a group of many dozens of students. Keep an eye on them, and let them know that they might be being filmed, as this will discourage any “unprofessional behaviour” from the odd Rambo type. But in general you need to reduce, not increase, confrontation and tension with university security.

Likewise, the use of police as storm troopers to flush you out with gas and batons is, while not unknown, extremely rare. If the university tells you that the cops are on their way, remain calm. They are doing it to freak you out. Take sensible precautions: but the likelihood is that two bored coppers will turn up, tell you that the occupation is none of their business, and take off again.
Bring bicycle locks and ropes.

6) Turn the occupation inside out!
The most successful occupations are not barricaded-off fortifications. They are present across the whole campus and local community. Lots of local activists and ordinary students, staff and residents pass through, talk to the occupiers, find out about the message, and tell their friends. During the occupation, the campus should be alive with your message. Teams should be out doorknocking, postering and leafleting every day, and attractive events should be advertised throughout the day, to keep bringing new people in and developing the political education of the people inside.

It is possible that the security situation will be such that you don’t have easy control of access: if getting in and out is hard, then you’ll need a dedicated organisation on the outside in constant communication with the people inside. Plan for this. And be creative about solving access problems.

– Have an “outside” working group – they should organise people to knock on doors, chalk slogans, leaflet and poster. That will need a lot of printing, every morning. Plan how and where to do it!
– Set up a rota of attractive talks and activities every day. Plan it several days in advance.
– Get in touch with the local trade unions and the left. Invite them to come and speak. Have them bring their banners!
– Set up visual displays inside the occupation, or plastered to the windows if access is a problem.
– Make the occupation look good from the outside; and make it clear what you are there for.
– Launch sorties: do banner drops in as many different locations as you can, as often as you can; stage little noise demos away from the occupation. Be present everywhere!
– When you need to get numbers up, have everyone drop what they are doing and hit the phones. Organise a mass call-round.

7) Learn when to let go
Some people want to call the occupation off at the first sign of trouble, or after a few nights of sleep deprivation. Others go the other way: they’ve been through a lot, carried only by a feeling of determination and political will. Isn’t it a betrayal to call off the occupation? People with that mindset will resist leaving, under any circumstances.

It is not good to keep an occupation going when your numbers are very depleted and the participants are exhausted. Small groups get victimised. Very tired people make mistakes or get ill. But at the same time, in a long show-down with management, the moment when you are most exhausted is also probably the time when their patience is at its end and they’re ready to make a concession.

Try to make a dispassionate judgement about when to call off an occupation. Remember your original objectives: is it an up-down fight, or are you there to raise awareness? Is your activist group getting stronger by the day, or weaker? How are numbers holding up?

When the time has come to get out, don’t dither, but prepare your exit. Call one last big demonstration so that when you step out blinking into the sun, you get a big cheer. Don’t scuttle off in the night. Release a statement and call a follow-up event. Write down what you have learned and contact the NCAFC: if you feel up to it, we’ll help you take your message to other campuses about how you did what you did. If you need experienced activists to talk to about rallying your group after an exhausting effort, or resisting victimisations, we will help.

Categorías: Universidade

Marketisation Must Be Abolished, Not Adjusted

Ven, 23/02/2018 - 14:07

By NCAFC National Committee member Dan Davison.

On Monday 19 February, Theresa May launched the latest funding review for higher education. Acknowledging that the UK now has ‘one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world’, May put forward that the review would ‘examine how we can give people from disadvantaged backgrounds an equal chance to succeed’. Such promises follow Education Secretary Damian Hinds’ suggestions last Sunday that students might be charged variable tuition fees according to their specific degree’s economic value. Indeed, the themes of ‘meritocracy’ and greater ‘value for money’ infused May’s speech, which floated such options as adjusting the repayment period for graduates and bringing back maintenance grants, but excluded abolishing fees altogether.

These shifts in position from Government figures almost certainly reflect pressures brought first by the student movement in the wake of the 2010 anti-cuts protests and later by the Corbyn-led Labour Party, which has committed to abolishing fees, reintroducing grants, and setting up a new National Education Service to allow people to access education throughout their lives. Nevertheless, such concessions from the Conservatives mean little without directly tackling the underlying problem of marketization. In other words, such tinkering around the edges of tuition costs and debt repayment not only comes across as a ‘too little, too late’ gambit after years of slashed funds, course closures, and fee hikes, but also explicitly reinforces the very education-as-commodity logic that gave ideological cover to this systematic gutting of the sector.

This is perhaps most obvious from the suggestion that tuition fees be varied by the subject’s economic value. Education is far more than a financial investment in one’s future: it provides a substantial benefit to society as a whole by fostering skills and knowledge, as well as individual fulfilment by allowing people to seek new personal and intellectual horizons. One cannot reduce this worth to a price tag based on whether the private sector happens to consider a given skill or field of knowledge vital for its internal operations. Whilst many students’ experience of the current system may well be a monotonous grind to gain a set of numbers on a sheet of paper that will hopefully find them a job, the only manner in which we can break people free from such a life-sapping existence is by radically altering the way we have come to conceptualise education itself. It calls for us to be able to see and treat education the way we see and treat healthcare: as a public good that everyone is entitled to access, supported by the redistribution of wealth. This is why I advocate a free education system based on taxing the very richest so that anyone can go to university, as opposed to treating those who complete their degrees as obligated to give back money through student loan repayments or a ‘graduate tax’ for the ‘privilege’ of receiving a special service.

We most clearly see the spectre of marketization lingering above the funding review when we consider it alongside the ongoing industrial action by education workers organised in the University and College Union (UCU) to defend their pensions. On 22 February, a wave of pickets hit 61 universities, with a further 13 strike dates to follow in an escalating pattern. These strikes are over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pension scheme for ‘pre-92’ universities. The proposed changes would make final pensions depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions, effectively spelling the end of guaranteed pension benefits. The significance of this dispute cannot be overstated. Academic staff are posed to lose up to 40% of their retirement income – which for the typical lecturer could amount to as much as £200,000 – and other pension schemes will almost certainly follow in USS’ wake. Put bluntly, if UCU loses the dispute, it would sound the death knell for financial security in retirement across the entire education sector.

The role of marketization in all this is simple: the reforms to USS are driven by the felt need to shift as much financial risk as possible from the universities to the individual workers, which in turn is driven by the felt need to make universities more attractive to commercial investors. In other words, senior management are cutting staff pensions in order to maximise profits. This means that student hardships, such as extortionate rents, rising fees, funding cuts, and overcrowded campuses, and staff hardships, such as the proliferation of casual employment contracts and the stripping of pension guarantees, are symptoms of the same underlying problem.

Indeed, there is a striking thematic parallel between the suggested differentiation of fees according to economic value and the infamous ‘excellence frameworks’, which outline artificial metrics for success in the education sector. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) ostensibly evaluates the impact of academic research, the newer Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) does likewise for teaching quality, and the recently proposed Knowledge Excellence Framework (KEF) will purportedly ensure that knowledge produced by universities is put to good use. All these frameworks are deeply flawed. In the case of the REF and KEF, commercial interests largely determine whether produced scholarship is ‘impactful’ or ‘useful’. Moreover, the pressure on academics to keep churning out and submitting articles to keep their jobs or gain promotion perpetuates and deepens a ‘publish or perish’ culture amongst staff, to the detriment of well-being and research quality alike.

As for the TEF, its two major metrics are employment rates and graduate earnings on the one hand, and the National Student Survey (NSS) on the other. Even on their own terms, these are wholly unreliable metrics. After all, a student could very easily have the most skilful and understanding teachers imaginable, yet still struggle to find a well-paying job after graduation, whilst NSS results are basically junk data. More fundamentally, the TEF was established with the ultimate aim of allowing high-scoring universities to become more expensive than low-scoring universities, thereby making education even more hierarchical and commodified. This is why the National Union of Students (NUS) passed policy in 2016 to boycott the NSS until the higher education reforms are withdrawn, and why Students’ Unions and activist groups across the country are continuing the boycott this year. In short, like the pensions cuts at the heart of UCU’s dispute and the proposals in the higher education review, the ‘excellence frameworks’ demonstrate the grave effects of marketization upon staff and students alike.

Until and unless we overhaul the entire education system to prevent managers from running universities like businesses, May’s promises will continue to ring hollow. This is why the call for staff-student solidarity must fall upon receptive ears. This is the point at which the common struggle of students and workers on campus is most starkly apparent. Much of the sector has already withered in the malignant presence of marketization. Nevertheless, if staff and students realise how viewing education in terms of ‘value for money’ has led to the predicaments they face today, they can organise to fend off the latest wave of attacks upon education and to lay the foundations for a radically different system. Only by noticing their shared material interests can students and workers form the kind of solidarity needed to defend the education sector we have, and to bring forth the education sector that could be.

Categorías: Universidade

Boycott the NSS: Winning the Arguments

Sáb, 03/02/2018 - 12:37

This is a toolkit for SU officers and student activists who are currently running or thinking about running NSS boycott campaigns. Hopefully, it will help you win the arguments on your campus. Please share it widely and get in touch in NCAFC if you have any other questions!

Some links Why boycott?

The NSS is one of the key metrics used in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a scheme of ranking universities Gold, Silver or Bronze according to extremely flawed criteria. The TEF is central to a set of recent reforms designed to turn universities into businesses and students into consumers, putting profit before education. It is also linked to fee increases: the idea behind the framework was that the top scoring universities would be allowed to become more expensive than those with lower scores. In 2016, NUS passed policy to boycott the survey until the recent higher education reforms are withdrawn.

But hasn’t the government promised to freeze tuition fees?

In short, the Tories’ policy on higher education is currently a complete mess. Last October, Theresa May’s announcement that tuition fees would be frozen at £9,250 and not go up with inflation took many people by surprise. This included the education secretary and the universities minister, who were not consulted over the idea. May’s speech was followed by speculation across the sector. Is the freeze for one year or more? What does this mean for the TEF? None of this was ever clarified. May also vaguely mentioned that the Tories were working on a review of HE funding, whatever that means. In the summer, the idea was also floated that low-scoring universities could be forced to cut fees (without replacing the income with public funding), which would mean even more campus cuts and even more underperforming institutions losing resources. There has been no guarantee that fees will stay frozen or be delinked from the TEF. There’s clearly an appetite amongst government figures to introduce differential fees and the TEF is a tool which will allow them to do so. Let’s not trust them.

It’s also important to remember that the NSS boycott is about much more than just fees. It is about resisting marketisation in higher education. Even if fees don’t go up, the TEF and marketisation will have a harmful effect on students, staff, and education.

What’s wrong with marketisation?

Marketisation isn’t just an abstract concept and a buzzword thrown around by student lefties. It has real-life consequences. When universities are forced to compete with one another for income and places in nonsensical league tables, they save money on staff and student services, and cut courses that don’t bring in enough cash. They invest in marketing and spend millions on shiny buildings that look good in a prospectus, but don’t actually improve education.

The TEF is already leading to job cuts and course closures, as universities jump through hoops to score highly in the metrics without regard for students or workers. To give just one example, the University of Manchester cited changes in HE policy when they announced cuts to hundreds of staff.

We need to fight back or your tutors could be next.

Hasn’t the NSS been removed as a TEF metric?

No. Some changes to the TEF have indeed been introduced as a result of the boycott: the weighting of NSS has been halved and institutions affected by the campaign are allowed to participate in the TEF without NSS data, if they can prove that students took part in the boycott. However, the NSS is still a TEF metric and an important tool in the Tory marketisation agenda. The rhetoric of “student feedback” and “student choice” was used to legitimise the implementation of these reforms in the first place. The more students withdraw their feedback, the stronger our voice against them.

The recent changes to the TEF were only introduced to put students off boycotting. They show that the government is scared and that the boycott is working.

Will boycotting the NSS negatively affect my SU?

Universities use all kinds of dodgy tactics to stop unions from boycotting the NSS, from intimidating officers to threatening to cut funding. However, as far as we know, none of the unions that took part in last year’s boycott were actually penalised. If management threatens your SU with cuts, the best thing to do is go public about it. The university has no interest in cutting funding that is spent on your baking society or rugby club – can you imagine how many people that would piss off if they found out?

Sometimes every SU will have to make decisions the university doesn’t like – this is the whole point of unions being independent, rather than just another department of the university. Universities trying to regulate what SUs can and cannot campaign on is a free speech issue, and NUS NEC passed policy to defend by any means necessary SUs’ right to boycott.

Some officers are worried that taking part in the boycott will damage their relationship with the university. However, it is naive to think that university management will do anything that benefits students just because they are personally friendly with a 20-year-old who won a sabb election. Moreover, if a sabbatical officer drops a campaign that is in the interest of students just to preserve their “good relationship” with the university, then they are not doing their job well and need to be held to account.

Will boycotting the NSS negatively impact my course/institution?

No. Both NUS and the academic staff union UCU have policy to support the boycott. (Your lecturers are most likely asking you to fill in the NSS not because they care about the survey, but because the university is making them promote it.) The boycott is a national campaign of which both the university and the government are aware. Low response rates will not be used against individual institutions.

Some courses, like this one, have released public statements and contacted the university to tell them they are boycotting the NSS, and that low response rates should not be used against staff. Do the same.

However, what almost certainly will negatively affect your institution is the TEF. If it scores Gold, then it will become more elitist and possibly more expensive. If it scores Bronze, then it will risk losing its reputation and funding, and having to make cuts. It’s a lose-lose situation, so maybe it’s better just not to fill out that bloody survey.

But i want to give feedback!

There are many ways to give feedback on your course. You can use the course rep system and unit evaluations, email your tutor or department directly, and get involved in your students’ union to launch campaigns that are more likely to achieve meaningful change. Most students get constantly bombarded by surveys from their university – do you really want to fill out yet another one?

The NSS reduces your “feedback” to a simplistic 1-5 scale, which provides no meaningful information to universities. Many in the sector acknowledge that NSS scores are basically junk data: even the Royal Statistical Society has spoken out against the survey’s fundamental flaws. What’s more, studies have shown that, due to unconscious bias, courses with women and BME academics tend to get lower scores. This is especially worrying because NSS results are often used to victimise staff.

Do boycotts work?

This is not an individualistic consumer boycott. It is a collective action endorsed by the National Union of Students and a number of students’ unions across the country. In many ways, it is more like a strike. Universities rely on the NSS as part of the machinery driving their profit-making agenda and we as students power the NSS. If we stop filling in the NSS, then the machinery grinds to a halt and their plans are disrupted.

The boycott itself is not enough to stop and overturn the government’s reforms. This is why NCAFC and activists who work with us have been organising local and national demonstrations. Likewise, we have held discussions and rallies on campuses, written articles in the press, and influenced the debate on higher education policy in a number of other ways. However, the NSS is the only metric in the TEF over which we have direct control and disrupting it gives us leverage.

Last year, the boycott engaged tens of thousands of students. It was probably the most widely reported NUS campaign in the media and was mentioned during Parliamentary debates. It led to the government having to announce a fee freeze, hoping it would put us off boycotting and campaigning. It hasn’t.

Time and time again, history has shown that collective action works. However, if you think your actions won’t change anything, why would filling in the NSS do anything for you? You are only asked *not* to do something. Spend those 20-odd minutes of your life doing anything else: make yourself a cup of tea, paint your nails, call your mum. Don’t spend them providing free labour to the Tories to drive their marketisation agenda.

 

Categorías: Universidade

NUS and UCU: Unite and Fight Better than This!

Ven, 02/02/2018 - 18:39

By Dan Davison, Cambridge Universities Labour Club Graduate Officer & NCAFC Postgrads & Education Workers Co-Rep

As covered in a previous article, members of the University and College Union (UCU) overwhelmingly voted for strike action over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the primary pensions scheme for ‘pre-92’ universities. These changes would make final pensions depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions, effectively ending guaranteed pension benefits, with the typical lecturer set to lose as much as £200,000 in retirement. Following the end of talks between UCU and the employers’ consortium Universities UK (UUK) without agreement, UCU has announced 14 strike dates at 61 universities, beginning 22 February.

On 30 January, Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU, and Shakira Martin, President of the National Union of Students (NUS) released a joint statement on the USS action. In this statement, NUS expresses its concerns that ‘the imposition of these cuts in the face of sector wide opposition will lead to a demotivated and unhappy workforce and consequent recruitment and retention problems as staff vote with their feet and move elsewhere’. Accordingly, in ‘full solidarity’ with UCU, NUS has asked its members to:

  • continue to call for the university employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and agree to meaningful negotiations either directly with the union or via ACAS
  • write to their institution head to complain about the impact the strike will have on their learning
  • participate in local demonstrative solidarity action during the strikes in support of UCU members.

Whilst we in NCAFC welcome staff-student solidarity action around the strike, the overall response from NUS has been thoroughly unimpressive. First, although the UCU industrial action ballot results came out on 22 January, we did not hear any official statement of support from NUS until 30 January. For the union tasked with fighting for the collective interests of students in this country to take over a week to give public backing to a vital and visible struggle of workers organised in the national union for academic staff is nothing short of disgraceful.

Second, the actions that NUS has finally requested from its members range from tepid at best to misguided at worst. Especially objectionable is the call for students to ‘write to their institution head to complain about the impact the strike will have on their learning’. This risks shifting blame onto the education workers standing up for their rights. Make no mistake: complaining to management about the disruptions caused by a strike is tantamount to complaining about the strikers themselves, and management will capitalise on this. Moreover, even if one were to frame such complaints in a manner that more squarely blames the employers’ consortium for imposing the pensions cuts, focussing on the strike’s impact on students obscures how the most hazardous financial costs are those borne by the workers themselves because they are not receiving wages on their strike days. This is especially true of staff on hourly-paid or similarly insecure contracts of employment.

Whilst all this would be cause for disapproval in isolation, it becomes utterly damning in light of the policy passed on 6 December by NUS’ own National Executive Council (NEC) when the UCU industrial action ballot was ongoing. Amongst other things, NUS NEC resolved to ‘produce materials including posters and leaflets that SUs can use to help explain to students what is happening and why our staff need support’. No such concrete support from NUS is anywhere in sight. Furthermore, in the space of time between the passing of that policy and the release of the ballot result, Shakira Martin never publicly wrote to UCU pledging support for their campaign or to the employers’ consortium urging them to reverse the attacks on staff pensions, despite these being clear NUS NEC commitments.

This brings me to the overarching problem with NUS’ lacklustre showing. The pensions cuts at the heart of UCU’s dispute are only one aspect of the bigger picture: marketization. In other words, the hardships facing academic staff, such as the casualisation of employment and the attacks on pensions, and the hardships facing students, such as tuition fees and extortionate rents, all stem from the systematic effort to transform education into a commodity and the education sector into a free market. What should be at the forefront of staff-student solidarity actions around the strike is the message that this fight is every bit as much the students’ as it is the staff’s.

This is why, in addition to avoiding classes on strike days, I urge all those students who rightly refuse to see education as something to be bought and sold to do as follows.

  • Join UCU strikers on picket lines.
  • Find ways to provide financial support for strikers. This could be through UCU’s general ‘fighting fund’ or, better yet, a student-supported strike fund for your local branch.
  • Explain to your fellow students why, no matter the short-term pains of the strike disruptions, the long-term devastation to our conditions of learning, teaching, and research is too great for us to focus on how the strike might inconvenience us as individuals now.
  • Link the defence of staff pensions to other collective actions against the marketization of education at both the national and the local level, such as the NSS Boycott and campaigns against course closures.
  • Pass motions in your Students’ Unions (like our model motion here) in support of UCU’s action.
  • Lobby your Vice-Chancellor to come out against the pensions cuts and to use their voice in the employers’ consortium to press for conceding to UCU’s demands.
  • Use your student and local media to keep solidarity with staff visible.
  • Organise sit-ins, rallies, and other highly noticeable demonstrations of support for the strike.

Students and workers have begun to unite and fight against the pensions cuts, but we can and should go much further than NUS has gone so far. We are not only battling for education workers to enjoy some security in their retirement: we are battling for the future of education itself.

Categorías: Universidade

Solidarity with striking staff: Acting like consumers is not what’s needed!

Ven, 02/02/2018 - 18:39

Tyrone Falls, NCAFC South-West Rep, offers a response to proposals that students should demand fee refunds for days and lectures disrupted by strikes. For a contrasting view, see this article by NCAFC International Students’ Rep Bobby Sun. Want to write an opinion article for our blog? Email againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com!

At KCL a campaign has recently been launched by students to demand a refund for days and lectures lost due to strike action by UCU. The slogan for the campaign reads: “Our conscience should be free, refund our fees”. Whilst it’s understandable that students are annoyed that their lectures and seminars will be cancelled, presenting it as an either-or situation – either we have to strike-break because we are not getting a refund or we stand on the picket line because we are going to get a refund – creates a false dichotomy. Ultimately, staff are on strike because their pensions are under threat. Moreover, if these reforms go through they pave the way for further cuts and restructuring of universities. Therefore, the strike is to stop conditions worsening in education. This ought to be cause enough to support it.

However, there are further reasons why this campaign is the wrong approach. Firstly, it accepts the logic that students are consumers; secondly, the way it’s formulated now, it doesn’t strengthen solidarity, but instead says we might show solidarity if we get a refund; and thirdly, it misses the point that the people most immediately affected by the strike are lecturers, particularly those on more precarious and lower-paid contracts.

Solidarity with workers based on defending education not consumerism

A major issue with this campaign is that it embraces the logic that students are consumers and that education is a commodity. Rather than calling out this view of education – that you can attach a price-tag to the education you receive – as a myth, the campaign accepts it. Of course, you might reply, ‘Yeah, I’m against this logic too but the fact is that’s the system we have and we have to work with it’. You can still reject this logic and look to how we can best support the strike. How can we best make links with other workers that will set up structures to fight for a free and democratic education? Unfortunately, behaving like consumers who are paying for a service does nothing to question this model’s underlying logic, and so does nothing for people to become conscious and persuaded that education based on fees and consumerism can never be fair.

Lecturers are fighting cuts to education – this is why we should show solidarity

Again, I can see why students are annoyed that they are missing lectures. However, it is unfortunately normal that strikes negatively affect people other than management. However, if you understand why it is that lecturers are going on strike and agree with them, then you should be supporting the strike anyway. For any support of the strike to be real and genuine, it has to come from people appreciating why it is that workers have been forced to take this action. This is how we should be talking to students and others about the strike. If an en-masse refund campaign were done together with strikers purely for the tactical purpose of causing administrative disruption, then it would be different. However, as currently formulated, the campaign basically says that you can be unsupportive of workers who are taking action, losing pay, and trying to stop further cuts to education, if you don’t get a refund.

Those most affected by the strike are the lecturers

The third issue with the Refund Our Fees campaign is its focus. Yes, people are missing lectures and (based on a marketised view of education) they are losing money. However, those who are most affected by the strike are the lecturers, particularly lecturers on precarious and low-pay contracts. These workers will be losing out on big chunks of pay to defend their pensions. As people who are sympathetic to the lecturers’ actions, our focus should be first and foremost on how can we support striking staff to get over this difficult period and win. We should be asking: “How can we best build the morale of strikers, or help with strike funds, or get other students to understand what is at stake and genuinely support the strike?”

Victory to the UCU strike!
Categorías: Universidade

Open Letter from Sussex Labour Club – Support the UCU strike!

Xov, 01/02/2018 - 18:58

University of Sussex Labour Society have released this open letter calling for students to support the UCU strike!

Sign up to it here: goo.gl/M4dnba

See here for more information about the dispute: http://anticuts.com/2018/01/23/stand-up-for-staff-pensions-ucu-votes-to-strike-for-uss/

And submit this model motion to your SU: http://anticuts.com/2018/01/23/model-motion-to-back-ucu-industrial-action-in-pensions-dispute/

Categorías: Universidade

Our Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Xov, 01/02/2018 - 18:58

Following discussion of sexual violence on the left, NCAFC is re-highlighting our Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure, which is available on the website here: anticuts.com/behaviour-complaints. We have regularly spoken about and re-evaluated our policy to best prevent and deal with harassment and abuse, and welcome any feedback on it.

Categorías: Universidade

The student left needs to unite to fight the right!

Ven, 26/01/2018 - 18:01

The student left needs to unite to fight the right!

That is especially true at NUS Conference. Over the last fortnight, NCAFC activists have issued a call to the rest of the student left for left unity to beat the right and stand up for education and socialist values in the student movement.

We made a proposal to leading figures on the student left, including the left wing members of the NUS NEC, for a shared left wing platform as the basis for a united left slate in the elections at NUS conference – a platform that isn’t just for elections, but one that we can take into colleges and campuses, to inspire and mobilise students. You can read that proposal here.

This weekend we met with prominent left wing student activists from the NUS NEC to discuss the way forward. NCAFC thought that this meeting was very productive and all participants agreed with the politics of the platform – and that left unity is needed. We look forward to another meeting this coming weekend when we will be able to announce a united left slate.

Some voices on the left have been saying that they agree with the proposed politics of the united slate… but they want any collaboration with the NCAFC to be “strictly private”. That is, they want a united left, but they don’t want to tell anyone about it!

We think that if we are going to unite the left to beat the right, the left needs to be open and transparent about its values – otherwise, how will we persuade anyone? If we don’t tell left-wing students what we are doing (and not just those ‘in the know’), we will not be able to build a healthy movement that can win.

So we will be pushing for left unity – not a secret agreement where we don’t tell people what we stand for, but a united left that wears its heart on its sleeve and persuades, mobilises and inspires students to beat back the right.

Categorías: Universidade

Stand Up for Staff Pensions! UCU Votes to Strike for USS

Mar, 23/01/2018 - 01:20

By Dan Davison, Cambridge Universities Labour Club Graduate Officer & NCAFC Postgrads & Education Workers Co-Rep. See here for a model motion supporting the UCU campaign to propose to your SU!

On 22 January 2018, the University and College Union (UCU) voted to back industrial action over proposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the main pensions scheme for ‘pre-92’ universities. The balloting took place between 27 November 2017 and 19 January 2018. Based on a turnout of over 58% of UCU members eligible to vote, 88% backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. Consequently, as many as 61 universities could see industrial action this Spring.

The dispute itself has arisen because UUK, the employers’ consortium, wants to switch the USS from a ‘defined benefits scheme’ to a ‘defined contributions scheme’. Put simply, this means that final pensions will depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions. This in turn means the effective end of guaranteed pension benefits. According to independent modelling of the proposals, a typical lecturer is set to lose as much as £200,000 in retirement.

The significance of the ballot results should not be understated. They boldly show that tens of thousands of workers in one of the largest national unions are willing to go on strike, more than meeting the Draconian threshold of 50% voter turnout for a valid ballot result under the current legislative regime. Already, universities might face escalating strikes over 14 days, beginning with a two-day walkout starting on 22 February, if the USS dispute is not resolved. In the words of Sally Hunt, the UCU General Secretary, ‘Universities will be hit with levels of strike action not seen before on UK campuses if a deal cannot be done over the future of USS pensions. Members have made it quite clear they are prepared to take action to defend their pensions and the universities need to work with us to avoid widespread disruption.’

We in NCAFC support UCU in their dispute. However much industrial action affects students in the short-term, students are the primary beneficiaries of education and should stand with the workers responsible for keeping our academic institutions running. Moreover, PhD students and early career academics stand to lose the most from the proposed USS changes because they have built up the least on the current pensions scheme.

We also cannot ignore how these threats to the material conditions of workers on campus form part of the wider, harrowing picture of an increasingly marketized and commodified education sector. Therefore, we encourage activists to submit tailored versions of our model motion to their Students Unions. We call on students not to attend lectures and seminars, or use services still in operation, during any strike days. We urge as many as possible to stand with staff on picket lines. Let that rallying cry of the student and labour movements ring out across our campuses: ‘Students and workers unite and fight!’

Categorías: Universidade

Model Motion to Back UCU Industrial Action in Pensions Dispute

Mar, 23/01/2018 - 01:01

UCU trade union members have just voted to take industrial action against major attacks on staff pensions, affecting 61 universities (listed here). Please check out and share the article here to find out more about it, and pass this model motion in your student union as part of the solidarity campaign!

Motion to Back UCU Industrial Action in Pensions Dispute

[X] Students’ Union notes:

  1. In the period 27 Nov 2017 to 19 Jan 2018, the University and College Union (UCU) balloted on industrial action in Spring, in response to damaging proposals from employers to the USS pension scheme. 1
  2. Nationally, 88% of UCU members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was over 58%2.
  3. The USS proposals will end guaranteed pension benefits, making final pensions depend on investment performance rather than workers’ contributions. They risk the futures of academic staff, effectively destroying the pensions scheme.
  4. The USS pension scheme’s own analysis shows that the employers could muster the funds to avoid this and keep guarantees on pension payouts.
  5. UCU have consistently supported student campaigns and actions.3
  6. NUS Conference has previously voted that our default position as students should be to back industrial action by education workers, because we understand that working conditions and teaching quality are so closely tied, and because we understand that the alliance of solidarity between students and education workers is vital to our own campaigns.
  7. NUS have resolved to support the industrial action.

[X] Students’ Union believes:

  1. Student-worker solidarity should be central to everything we do.
  2. Although industrial action is likely to affect students in the short-term, fighting for pensions means fighting for the long-term health of a profession of which students are primary beneficiaries.
  3. Threats to staff working conditions are part of a wider picture of cuts to education funding and marketisation.
  4. The attacks on different pension schemes are used to play staff against one another – one scheme is undermined, then members of another are told that they must accept attacks on their own scheme on the grounds that it is unfairly better than the first.
  5. These attacks will be most damaging to workers at the beginning of their careers, including our members such as PhD students looking to begin research careers, which could have a devastating impact in years to come. Furthermore, we all have a long-term interest in halting and reversing the erosion of pensions across the labour market.

[X] Students’ Union resolves:

  1. To give full and public support to UCU on any industrial action that follows the ballot result.
  2. To lobby the University to oppose the changes to USS.
  3. To encourage students to show solidarity by not attending lectures and seminars, or using services still in operation, on the strike day(s).
  4. To encourage students to join staff picket lines.
  5. To engage in an educational campaign for our students explaining why the strike is happening and why we should all show solidarity. Staff working conditions are our learning conditions.

References:

1. https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss
2. https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/9194/University-staff-overwhelmingly-back-strike-action-in-USS-pensions-row
3. https://www.ucu.org.uk/boycott-the-nss

Categorías: Universidade

NUS: unite the left to fight the right

Ven, 19/01/2018 - 16:14

At January’s National Committee meeting we agreed to run NCAFC candidates for President and Vice President Higher Education, and push for left unity in NUS to transform it into a union that actually takes the fight to the government. We are calling for the rest of the NUS left to unite with us around a joint platform, focussing on the activism students and workers are doing on the ground, democratising NUS and the kind of big demands we need to shake up society. The joint statement will be discussed and agreed with left NEC members tomorrow – this is our contribution to that meeting.

A United Left for Free and Liberated Education

Students face an ever more neoliberal university system and an FE sector being virtually destroyed – an alarming mental health crisis – soaring rents – a future of debt and precarious jobs – and a world all around us being wrecked by capitalism. Huge numbers are inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and increasingly supportive of left-wing politics.

NUS could be playing a tremendous role in mobilising, organising and politically engaging many thousands to take on the Tories and transform society. Instead it has been absent or even hostile while activists organise locally and nationally through demonstrations, direct action and rent strikes. Instead of allying with trade unionists and an insurgent Labour it has collaborated with Vince Cable and even the government through the Office for Students. NUS needs top-to-bottom transformation so it is a union for struggle, not a union for careerists. NUS should be standing up for a different vision: for a free and liberated education.

  • Free education, living grants for all, funded by taxing the rich and won through direct action and demonstrations.
  • There is no free education without a liberated education: fight the rise of racism and fascism, support trans rights on campus, stop and don’t collaborate with PREVENT, fight for funding for proper mental health provision. Cops off campus. Defend the right for political organisation and action on campuses.
  • For a fighting NUS and student movement; campaign using occupations, direct action and strikes; activists as organisers, not bureaucrats
  • Launch an urgent campaign to save Further Education and reverse all funding cuts.
  • Cap on rent in student halls (£100pw in London, £80pw outside), and organising a wave of rent strikes.
  • For a 5:1 maximum pay ratio in universities and colleges, with a VC pay cap of £100,000, reverse widespread marketisation. Maintain and step up the NSS boycott.
  • Support workers’ struggles in education and beyond, work with Labour and trade unions to win £10ph minimum wage and banning zero hour contracts. Run a campaign to organise student workers, from postgrad lecturers and nursing students to fast food. Actively support workers in struggle, including practical solidarity, particularly young workers like the McDonald’s and Picturehouse strikers.
  • Solidarity with all struggles against oppression and exploitation, in Britain and across the world. Support Palestinian liberation, vocal solidarity with migrants and support free movement. Opposition to war and militarism. Mobilise to fight climate change. Scrap Trident and spend the money on decent, useful jobs.
  • A democratic NUS: reverse attacks on Liberation campaigns, and end to cliques and bullying, ensure policy is actually carried out, and make conferences/debates longer and more accessible.
Categorías: Universidade

Student Feminist Conference 2018

Ven, 12/01/2018 - 18:12

Register online here

NCAFC Women and Non-Binary Caucus will be hosting a student feminist conference on 17-18 February at UCL Institute of Education in London. This conference is open to any interested self-defining women and non-binary people.

The conference is free of charge and, if you register your requirements on the form, free accommodation and childcare will be available too.

Women have never enjoyed equality, whether this be in our universities, workplaces, or even our own homes. Today, conservative and neoliberal policies continue to oppress women in every aspect of our lives- from tighter immigration controls to cuts to healthcare services.

But, feminists have always organised to push the systems that oppress women closer to an end. From sisters in Argentina building a movement against sexual violence to Picturehouse cinema workers striking for better pay and maternity leave; from trans activists protesting discrepancies in healthcare to migrant women fighting for free movement and the closure of detention centres.

There will be workshops, debates and plenaries on various feminist topics from around the world. We will be having a strategy planning meeting the day after on 18 February; if you want to come to the strategy planning you can join NCAFC for £1 at the conference.

Join us to celebrate and learn from feminist struggles in the student movement and beyond!

About NCAFC Women and Non-Binary caucus

Register online here
Categorías: Universidade

Let’s make sure the OFS doesn’t see another New Year’s Day

Mér, 03/01/2018 - 20:56

By Rory Hughes 

On New Year’s Day the new ‘Office for Students’ (OFS) came into existence. This new body will be in charge of both funding and regulating the HE sector and is a composition of multiple other QUANGOs such as HEFCE and OFFA with some additional powers and responsibilities. The OFS is Jo Johnson MP’s pet project and is designed to impose ‘market forces’ and competition on the HE sector and make sure universities are ‘delivering value for money’ to students. The governing board of the OFS tells you everything you need to know and more about the accelerating dangers this government poses to Higher Education.

The most high-profile appointment to the governing board is that of Toby Young. Let’s be clear, Toby Young is a Tory bigot and was appointed to sit on the board of the OFS to be a Tory bigot. In his other work however, Young established the first ever (and repeatedly failing) ‘Free School’ in the UK and heads up the national network of these pet projects ‘delivering parent choice’ and sucking state funding away from comprehensives. He has called working class students “universally unattractive”, “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates” and ‘stains’. He has called students with disabilities “functionally illiterate troglodyte’s” and moaned about calls for ‘inclusion’ and wheelchair access in schools. He also believes that Oxbridge bears no responsibility for its racist admissions policy. Whilst Young’s selection is particularly vile it has unfortunately diverted scrutiny from the other members of the board which more fully illustrate the purpose of the OFS.

The chair of the OFS is Michael Barber an ‘educationist’ who headed up New Labour’s education reforms before jumping ship to lead a variety of global private education companies and trusts. Barber was also a key architect of the Browne Review in 2010 that formulated the basis for the introduction of 9k fees and further marketisation. He has a long track record of imposing neoliberal reforms onto education systems and his approach to HE will be no different. In his own words, “The world is going to change dramatically in the next five to 10 years. School systems will have to innovate, and innovation will come from the private sector or public-private partnerships, rather than government.”

Joining Barber on the board are a range of corporates including:

Gurpreet Dehal – who “has over 25 years of leadership, strategic planning and financial experience gained mainly at major investment banks”

Katja Hall – a partner at Chairman Mentors International, previously she was Group Head of External Affairs and Sustainability at HSBC

Simon Levine – Managing Partner and Co-Global Chief Executive Officer of the global law firm, DLA Piper.

Elizabeth Fagan – Senior Vice President, Managing Director of Boots.

What this ragtag bunch of bankers, consultants and the director of a tax-avoiding conglomerate know about the experience of students and staff on the ground is beyond any of us. They will be accompanied by some high-flying right-wing education ideologues including Carl Lygo who was the founding vice-chancellor of BPP University – a private, for-profit institution now owned by an American Private Equity Fund.

The OFS is just another in a long line of arm’s length government bodies designed to impose marketisation and privatisation on our public services. When the government wanted to accelerate privatisation of the NHS they created ‘NHS England’ and stuffed its governing board full of the same types of corporates and ideologues as the OFS.

Most worryingly however is the fact that our NUS leadership have spent months sucking up to government ministers and HE leaders, ‘being respectable’, ‘gaining access to the corridors of power’, ‘getting a seat at the decision-making table’ only to be snubbed by the government and failing to gain a powerless seat at an unpleasant table. The NUS has been side-lined in favour of a single random student from Surrey University who now represents all students on the board of the OFS. This is what happens when the student movement lobbies for scraps instead of fighting for what is right. We as student activists, the NUS and the Labour Party must re-start the national movement for a truly Free, Liberated and Accessible education system governed democratically by staff, students and the public. It is up to us to make sure that the OFS won’t see another New Year’s Day.

Categorías: Universidade