Universities

Universities: no classes? No rent!

Most first year uni students will have planned to stay in university accommodation this year. Most will already be locked into contracts or will have paid for the first month or term. This year, as in all recent years, rents may be so expensive they drain most, even all, of a student loan. But this year we are also living with Covid-19. Now students are stuck in high-density barely-affordable accommodation where there is a high risk of getting the virus. If say 1 in 500 among students (an age-group with a higher infection rate) has the virus, then, statistically, among student hall-of...

Virus: indict the Tories

In Britain as in other countries in Europe, detected SARS-Cov-2 infections have been rising slowly since early July, and now faster since points in August. In France, the rise has been much faster. In Spain, it has already fed into a rise in Covid-19 deaths, though so far only to a rate about 5% of the April peak. From mid-April through to early July, infection levels fell fairly steadily across Europe. The fall was not reversed, halted, or even visibly slowed by limited lockdown-easing measures across those months, notably the reopening of schools in many countries. The obvious explanation...

Universities return: fight for control!

The 2020-21 academic year is getting underway. Higher Education (HE) institutions that closed down and sent most of their students away in March, scrambling to move all teaching online, are preparing to welcome over two million people, mostly young, once more. Universities and colleges like many workplaces are allowed – expected – to reopen so long as they are “Covid-secure”. All insist that they are now that – for students, staff, and the surrounding community. They cannot afford to do otherwise! HE institutions are now basically businesses who must compete and make money to survive. They...

Government should bail out universities

The A-levels fiasco will have perverse effects on universities. High-tariff universities have had their limits on student numbers lifted, and been pushed to accept more students than they've planned for. Some are offering money to students who will defer their places for a year. They will probably try to shift more of their increased teaching load onto casualised, insecure, low-paid staff. They will siphon off students from low-tariff universities, which may offer better teaching but rank lower in Britain's university-snobbery system. Some of those low-tariff universities will be at real risk...

Grades? Let the students into uni!

By a London Teacher

Scottish school students received grades for Nationals, Highers and Advanced Higher courses on Tuesday 4 August.

Grades had been estimated by schools after exams were cancelled due the Covid pandemic. 125,000 grades, or a quarter of the total, were lowered by the Scottish...

Remobilising the left

At the end of July, local AWL organisers met to discuss remobilising members to respond to the economic and political upheavals that face labour movement activists as the lockdown eases. Our window for that remobilisation may be short if lockdowns are partially or fully reintroduced. As socialist activists whose political bread-and-butter is face-to-face communication and outward-facing activity such as meetings, street protests, and picket lines, we need to learn the lessons of lockdown. Some trade union activity has been possible in some unions, at the local level and among leftists, but...

Push for factory-universities

The Government has published a "Restructuring Regime" for universities that need emergency funds in the wake of Covid-19. It's clear the Tories want to use the virus as an excuse to force through major cuts and reorganisation in the sector. Any university in need of a bail-out will be required to show that it has "strong graduate employment outcomes in areas of economic and societal importance, such as STEM, nursing and teaching". This effectively treats universities as factories pumping out graduates suited for capitalist bosses, rather than as critical individuals able to think for...

University staff rally against cuts

On 25 June, over 500 people attended an online rally jointly organised by branches of the University and College Union (UCU) at Imperial College, SOAS, Roehampton and Liverpool Universities in parallel with socially-distanced protests in Liverpool and London. Those institutions are facing some of the harshest cuts in the university sector. Management at Reading have threatened to sack the entire workforce and rehire only those prepared to accept inferior terms and conditions. Roehampton staff have been asked to take a voluntary pay cut, and a redundancy scheme is up and running. Their branch...

Organise against university cuts

Coronavirus is intensifying the fault lines in UK higher education, and huge cuts are coming to our universities. Universities are announcing job cuts and hiring freezes to mitigate the huge predicted loss of income from international students’ fees. Staff on casual, fixed-term or hourly paid contracts will be the hardest hit, and their workloads will be pushed onto permanent staff. Lots is still unclear. On Sunday 24 May, Student Strike Solidarity held a meeting to discuss how students can organise with university workers to stop these cuts. We heard from activists involved in local campaigns...

University jobs at risk

The pandemic, and the fall-off in international student fees which will come as a consequence, has tipped an already unsustainable model of university expansion into crisis. It will speed up marketisation, and bring on cuts harder and faster than they would have come before. The government has brought forward some payments due to universities to avoid a cash-flow crisis, but as yet has refused to provide extra funding to fill what could be a £1.7bn gap. It is unlikely to want to see universities closed outright, especially in marginal constituencies. But some of the more vulnerable...

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