In the university and higher education sector 800 jobs have already been lost. 600 jobs have already gone in further education colleges. Across the two sectors, a further 5,000 jobs are under immediate threat, the great majority in higher education. But these cuts represent only a “first wave” of likely cuts. As the recession bites, we can expect more.
The cuts are being made by local university and college managements, rather than by central government dictat. The way they are being made indicates some general long-term priorities the capitalist class has for the education sector — making it acceptable and profitable for big business.
Several institutions are making cuts to staff budgets in order to preserve prestigious building projects. At Leeds University, for example, an Olympic swimming pool and a showy “pavilion” are under construction even as the lecturers’ union UCU reports that 736 jobs may be axed under a planned 10% budget cut.
At University of the Arts London, over 15 courses are to be cut under an “efficiency plan” — courses that do not fit with the new business model the management is adopting. But a multimillion pound development in central London goes ahead.
As elsewhere, UAL’s management are from the private sector with no background in education. Rector Nigel Carrington is a former director of the McLaren group.
At some colleges (but not everywhere), staff and students are putting up stiff resistance. Students have organised demonstrations at Sussex, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham with mass meetings organised at many more colleges, and a short-lived occupation at London College of Communications.
The crucial task for these campaigns is to organise on a national level as well as on a local basis; and to organise students and campus workers into a single campaign, where each group can depend upon the other’s strength.
Education Not for Sale and other student campaigns and student unions are supporting the National Convention Against Fees and Cuts which will be taking place in University College London on 6 February. In the run-up to the Convention, activists will be meeting locally to plan the convention and link up their campaigns.
The next northern regional planning meeting of anti-cuts activists will be taking place in Sheffield University Students Union, in the Satpal Ram Learning Centre, at 12 noon on Saturday 12 December. All students and workers campaigning against cuts in the sector are welcome!
For more information about the Convention Against Cuts and Fees, and on the fight in the education sector in general, contact firstname.lastname@example.org