A wave of cuts in universities

Submitted by Matthew on 19 November, 2009 - 11:16 Author: Ed Maltby

On Monday 16 November 100 students and teachers of the University of the Arts London staged a demonstration outside the Chelsea College of Art and Design.

They were protesting against the management’s new business plan for the University which will see 183 jobs cut, including 36 compulsory redundancies and the elimination of 16 courses in one school alone, the London College of Communication (LCC).

The week before, students at LCC, organised in the LCC Oppose Campaign, had staged a sit-in protest in one of the lecture theatres at the Elephant and Castle LCC campus.

Despite the sell-out leadership of the students’ union ignoring the campaign, and management hiring security contractors and getting court injunctions to turf the students out of their lecture theatre, the campaign has garnered mass support among students at LCC. It has increased the confidence of teaching and admin staff across the whole of the University.

The cuts, the heavy-handed repression of students, and the sacking of the lecturers’ union rep, Kulbir Basra, are the work of a new management team, recently brought in to transform the LCC into a new-look, prestigous, profit-making operation.

The new Rector of UAL, Nigel Carrington, is not an academic, but a former corporate lawyer for British Petroleum. Sandra Kemp, head of school for the LCC, whose first act at LCC was to cancel Black History Month (it should also be noted that the courses she has chosen to cut are ones with the highest concentration of black and ethnic minority students in the school), is also a lawyer, whose previous job at the Royal College of Arts saw her make enormous cuts too.

Management want to make savings on staff and teaching, and instead to plough money into prestigious building projects. This is an approach familiar to students around the country — at Leeds University, the anti-cuts campaign has taken up the slogan, “What can a brick teach us?”, as management cuts jobs to pay for an Olympic swimming pool and a pavilion.

Management have also “privatised the space” at LCC — hiring security guards and restricting students' access to the school, turning an institution of education into a private, heavily controlled space which is more like a modern shopping centre.

Mainly organised through Facebook, the LCC Oppose Campaign has thrown previously unpolitical students into action. Oppose member Ludwig Reuter addressed students in a meeting at UCL following the demonstration, saying: “Before this campaign I had never been involved in politics. Three weeks ago I would have told you that anyone occupying a lecture theatre must be stupid — and here I am doing it myself!”

Another member of the campaign told Solidarity, “We’re not trying to damage the reputation of the University: we’re trying to save it. No-one has any trust in management.”

The UCU at UAL has been mobilising teachers against the redundancies. One rep told us that union membership had increased 30% in the last term: “People are emailing me every week who had never previously considered union membership. The move has shifted from blithe ignorance... If it came to it, we would now be capable of staging industrial action”.

While students told us that their Oppose campaign would have never got off the ground without the assistance of certain courageous UCU members, UCU activists countered that the student mobilisation was giving confidence and courage to their members.

Get in touch with the campaign against job cuts at the UAL. Contact education.not.for.sale@gmail.com or visit lccoppose.blogspot.com

Around the country

The attacks at LCC are only one part of a nationwide wave of cuts.

Staff at Westminster University are striking for their back pay; students at Leeds University are organising a campaign against staff cuts; teaching jobs are also under threat at UCL, Sheffield University, London Metropolitan, and many other higher and further education institutions besides.

On the day that we go to press, reports are coming in of major demonstrations and student strikes across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Illinois, California, Indonesia, Italy, Sierra Leone, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland and France, as part of the International Students' Movement’s global day of action against cuts and privatisation.

• Contact the Leeds campaign: email en08cw@leeds.ac.uk or ucu@leeds.ac.uk

On Facebook search “Student Protests Against Job Cuts at Leeds”

• For information about other anti-cuts campaigns, contact:

education.not.for.sale@gmail.com or see www.free-education.org.uk

• For more information about the global day of action, see:

http://emancipating-education-for-all.org/

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