Universities

Workers' Liberty students

Student activists in Workers' Liberty argue for working class socialist ideas and campaign on issues like freedom of movement, anti-racism, workers' rights, international solidarity and free movement. Usually, every Monday from 6-7pm, Workers' Liberty Students hold informal online political discussions on a wide range of topics with the emphasis on current and relevant struggles. Summer term programme will run from 26 April 2021. Summer term programme will include • Kill the bill • End violence against women • After Covid: build back better in Higher Education • History of marketisation •...

Student campaigns make links

On 1 April student organisers from five London universities met to reflect on lessons and steps forwards for fee strike action. Over 200 students remain on fee strike across Goldsmiths and SOAS, whilst UAL (University of the Arts, London) and LSE (London School of Economics) students are building support among international and postgraduate students, who remain the only groups capable of withholding fees. The strike at RCA (Royal College of Art) is somewhat diminished due to management bullying and threats of border controls against visa-dependent students, but some students are still on...

For real free speech on campuses!

In October 2020, Gavin Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, and insisting on action before Christmas… or else. In February the government announced plans to appoint a “free speech champion” whose job will be to ensure freedom of speech and expression is not stifled at UK universities. The role is embedded in the Office for Students (OFS), which would have the power to impose fines on institutions if the OFS find they have suppressed free speech. New legislation...

Uphold free speech, fight antisemitism

David Miller The government’s new attempt to police freedom of speech and academic freedom on University campuses — e.g. to withhold registration if a University is deemed not be complying — should be opposed. Universities already have a statutory duty to uphold free speech (in the 1986 Education Act). The new push is a demagogic attempt to push back against “wokeness”, linked to reactionary attempts to promote historical pride in such things as colonialism and slavery. However, there are real pressures against free speech and the right to organise on campuses. There have been many free-speech...

UEL strikes 22-23 February

University of East London UCU (University and College Union) held a 230-strong solidarity strike rally on Monday 22 February, the first day of a two day strike, with staff, students and other union activists speaking. The strike is over four compulsory redundancies, including the UCU branch chair (a clear example of victimisation). UCU is also fighting rising workload, drastically increased since September 2020, when 82 jobs were cut. Speakers talked about the effects of the cuts to date, in terms of insufficient services and overwork. Many called for national action by UCU over this and a...

Fee strikes and solidarity

Talk of fee strikes is starting to spread through the UK student movement. There are fee strikes ongoing at SOAS University of London and Royal College of Art (RCA); they started in January primarily due to students feeling they have not received “value for money”. Fee strikes are particularly feasible at those universities because of the high proportion of international and postgraduate students, who pay fees from their own accounts, and can therefore withhold them. Home undergraduates’ fees are paid directly by UK student finance, and so they cannot “fee-strike”. The ongoing strikes remain...

SOAS starts a fees strike

Students at SOAS [a university in London centred on the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East] are refusing to pay fees as leverage to win their demands on the university management. Close to 1000 students (out of around only 5000 “campus” students, i.e. students who would be on campus in usual conditions, as distinct from those online-only anyway) signed a petition supporting the call for a bailout, pledging solidarity with staff against insecure contracts and “restructuring”, and further demanding that the university does not comply with the government’s Prevent and Hostile...

University battles over job cuts

As rent strikes continue around the UK, other fronts of struggle in higher education are opening up. Leicester and Liverpool Universities have recently announced redundancies of academic staff. A strike planned for 8 February at Brighton University over cuts in the IT services was called off after management made some concessions but the fight continues. Action Short of Strike by UCU members at Goldsmiths continues with no sight of management backing down on long-threatened redundancies, despite no drop in student numbers. Many university managements are using the pandemic as an opportunity to...

Much more needed on student rents

There are now around 70 student rent strike and tenants’ groups at universities across the UK and the organisation and politics of the movement is taking a clearer shape. At the same time some University and private landlords are offering inadequate rent rebates, though inadequate ones. The National Union of Students held a high profile rally on Monday 25 January, under the banner Students Deserve Better, with UCU General Secretary Jo Grady, Owen Jones and rent strikers speaking. The grassroots organising is being co-ordinated by local groups, a new committee of rent strike groups and local...

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