On 8 February, over 100 students at Sussex University marched up to the top floor of the university’s prestigious Bramber House conference centre and staged a “‘flash occupation”. They marched out 30 hours later, promising more actions to come in the future. The occupation was part of the Defend Sussex Campaign, a fight by students and staff at Sussex against huge cuts that the university is planning.
Our Defend Sussex blog outlines the scale of the threat: “The university is planning to cut £3 million this academic year, and £5 million next year. The costs of these cuts will be passed on to schools through restructuring and course closures, and to staff and students in the shape of job losses, pensions cuts and fee increases. However, at the same time as proposing these cuts, the university administration is planning to spend £112 million on new buildings and refurbishments on campus, as well as raising the salaries of the top 14 managers to a combined £2.1 million per year.” These cuts are being packaged as a business plan that management calls the “Unique Solution” — an indication of the business ethos that education chiefs are promoting.
During the occupation, students issued statements via the internet, declaring their support for the UCU’s forthcoming strike ballot on campus, and held a collection towards the strike fund, raising £250.
Word of the occupation spread quickly through the national network of anti-cuts campaigns in education that the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts had established the weekend before, and messages of support flooded in.
Bin workers in Sussex, who had recently been on strike against cuts that they were facing themselves, got in touch to pledge their support. Their message of support for the Sussex occupation illustrates clearly the point that the whole workers’ movement and the student movement must grasp — attacks on education are part of the same wave of public sector spending cuts that we are seeing in the whole economy. There is no such thing as “student politics” — these cuts, and the resistance to them, are one part of the class struggle that defines our whole society.