Education is being attacked as the government plans to cut a staggering £449 million from university budgets. Funding council Hefce announced the cut last week – 5 percent of the national universities budget. The cuts will mean courses abolished, campuses closed and thousands of people thrown out of work; entire universities could even go bankrupt. Tens of thousands of working class students will no longer be able to get an education. And pressure to abolish the “cap” limiting the level of top-up fees will intensify. Once campuses have been mothballed they are unlikely to be used again for many years – if ever. Colleges and adult education are also under attack. In the long term the cuts will represent a removal of education from thousands of people. They are an attack on the entire working class. And this is just the start – the government plans to cut almost £1 billion from university budgets over the next three years. But the fight back has started too. Workers have voted for strikes at Leeds University, in a ballot that achieved the highest turnout that the union at the university has ever seen. The UCU lecturers’ union was set to announce strike dates today.
Workers are discussing holding a series of strikes, getting longer each time, and a march. Strikers shutting down Leeds University would be a magnificent response to the assault on education and would show workers elsewhere that it is possible to fight. Management’s list of planned cuts is dizzying. Bosses at the University of Cumbria are to close its Ambleside campus. Some 200 jobs will disappear. And the University of Gloucestershire wants to close its campuses in Cheltenham and London. The entire physics department at Reading University is under threat. Over 200 jobs are under threat at King’s College and 150 at the University of Westminster. Building plans for a £25 million creative arts centre at the University of Worcester have been put on hold, as have plans to build a new science block at the University of Hertfordshire. The groundswell of anger provides a real potential to build a broad and militant response. Lecturers and students have organised protests and strikes to save jobs and education and in many places they have won – such as at Liverpool University and Tower Hamlets College. In other areas they have held off cuts – such as the “Save our Sociology” campaign at Birmingham University.
In several meetings over the past couple of weeks, workers have voted to ballot for strike action – notably at the University College London and the University of Sussex. Students at Sussex University went into occupation on Monday of this week in protest against management plans for huge cuts. The plans will mean the loss of 100 jobs and cuts across departments. Student Sarah Young said, “We’re occupying to show management we are standing by the unions that are balloting for strike action. These cuts will wreck the university." The occupation came out of a demonstration of 400 staff and students against the cuts. And 200 protested on Tuesday. Workers at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London were set to meet on Friday of this week to discuss balloting for action to save jobs. The mood exists to fight. But delays and endless “talks” with management can dissipate it. The key is taking swift action to save jobs and defend education. The future of following generations depends on this type of action.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.