In the last month, Sussex University (in Brighton) has seen hundreds-strong meetings of students and education workers to oppose the anti-democratic, pro-business “reforms” being pushed by the university’s management team. The first mass assembly of the Sussex Education Not for Sale campaign was attended by over 160 people; the second, by more than 300.
The management’s “Green Paper” seeks to transform Sussex into a business school, oriented to receive more government funding to research areas like “international security” (ie militarism). It seeks to transform the university into an institution in which students are seen as consumers, and academics enjoy less and less freedom and are increasingly subject to managerial control. (For a detailed explanation of the proposals, see the Sussex Not 4 Sale website below.)
Not just the student union, whose activists took the lead in setting up Sussex Education Not for Sale, and the UCU branch, which is backing it, are opposed. A staff survey found that 57% think the whole restructuring exercise should simply be abandoned, while 67% “doubt the consultation is a meaningful process”, 69% are against using the “language of business to talk about education” and 73% are concerned that the reforms threaten academic freedom. Only 14% think the university “urgently needs restructuring”, while 3% (not a typo) “understand and trust” the process under way.
Unsurprisingly, then, university management have resorted to highly undemocratic methods to push their reforms through, for instance by reversing the normal roles of the Senate (usually the highest decision making body, composed largely of academics and students) and the Council (composed largely of outside appointees). They have also withheld key documents (“the White Paper”) from the university community on spurious pretexts: what else are they not telling us?
There will be a demonstration on Friday 7 March, and more assemblies to follow. The struggle continues!
For more information about the campaign including a detailed summary of the reform proposals, see www.sussexnot4sale.org.uk or email Koos Couvee at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Koos is also national ENS’s candidate for NUS Treasurer)