There has been some confusion in the student movement recently about the date 29 January. NCAFC is backing and helping to organise two mass student demonstrations against fees and cuts, one in London and one in Manchester. Here we explain why and advise activists on what to do on the day.
We are organising a demonstration in London for obvious reasons – because London is not only the biggest city and easily accessible, but the seat of political power. The Facebook event for this demo, which has already attracted over 3,000 attendees and seen 23,000 more invited so far, is here. This demo has also won support from many trade unionists including UCU (see here) and leaders of the GMB and Unite (see here and here.)
We are also mobilising students for Manchester, because that day the Young Members Network of the civil service union PCS, UCU and others are holding a young workers’ march to the TUC’s youth rally. (This is not an official Facebook group, but it’s the only we can find so far. We’ll update asap.)
More details of both, plus promotional materials, very soon.
Why it’s right to demonstrate in London as well as Manchester
We are mobilising students for Manchester to make it clear we don’t want to clash with the PCS Young Members march – indeed we want to protest alongside and in solidarity with it. However, we reject the idea, put forward for instance by the leadership of NUS (see Aaron Porter’s letter to student unions and motion for the January 10 NUS executive meeting below) that it is wrong to protest in London on 29 January.
The Manchester event was not widely known about in the student movement until now; and to be bluntly honest, it was never going to be the case that thousands of students from London and the South attended it. Nor was there any sign of NUS seriously trying to mobilise for Manchester! Meanwhile, the student struggle against fees and cuts goes on, and another mass demonstration in London is urgently needed. Aaron Porter and the leadership of NUS are using the Manchester march as an excuse, covering for the fact that they wanted 10 November to be the end of the campaign and wish students were not pushing for more action. We call on NUS to drop this ridiculous, opportunistic stance and officially support the London protest.
We want fraternal links between the two demonstrations, in London and Manchester; they should exchange speakers (we invite PCS Young Members to send a speaker to London) and, if possible, link up by video. Local student activist groups will have to decide which demo, Manchester or London, they want to take part in; we urge those nearer Manchester, to go to Manchester.
National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Letter from Aaron Porter to student unions
Last week I promised to write to you before Christmas setting out my thoughts on our next steps in the Education Funding campaign after what has been the most high profile campaign run by NUS in many decades. The defeat on the fee cap last week was painful- but I am immensely proud of the fight we put up, the attention we drew to the issue, the way in which we mobilised record numbers of students, the extent to which we shaped the debate and the way in which it has affected the coalition. Right now we all need a short break to recuperate – but in January we’ll need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get on with doing the very best we can for our members, as the campaign still goes on!
There is much to fight for in the new year. A white paper is being developed that will set out a new framework for regulation and accountability in Higher Education- and we must ensure that we are at the heart of that by winning new rights for students and their unions. The Government will set out the basis on which universities can charge over the basic £6k fee- and we’ll be pushing to test the Government’s assertion that charging over £6k will be “exceptional”. The new HE scholarship scheme is being developed, the EMA continues to be hotly debated, AimHigher needs saving, local authorities are about to slash young people’s travel subsidies and there are still huge cuts coming to provision in both FE and HE that need to be resisted. Many of these challenges involve decisions that will be made locally and I know you will expect maximum targeted support on a local scale as well as continued national action.
This is why in the motion to an NEC meeting I have called for January, I have set out clear and proactive steps for NUS to continue to seize the initiative in what is an ongoing campaign across HE and FE:
Joint action with Trade Unions and UCU on the 29th January, high level support for SUs in FE and HE facing local course cuts and closures, prioritisation of the campaign to save EMA and the AimHigher programme, a full inquiry into policing tactics on the recent student protests, full-scale mobilisation for the TUC National Demonstration on the 26th March and a long term strategy to reverse the damaging marketisation and reduction of public investment in our education system.
The TUC have asked NUS and UCU to support a mass protest and rally in Manchester (29th January) to highlight youth issues, including access to education, the scrapping of EMA and youth unemployment. Manchester of course has both the largest FE College and HE institution in the country and sits in a region with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country. As a national organisation I believe it is the right decision for us to ensure that not all our activity is based in London, therefore a national action in a region with such high levels of youth unemployment, jointly alongside the TUC and UCU is another reason for us to support this tactic, at this time. The event has had the longstanding date of 29 January, and I have agreed to join Trade Union leaders to speak on behalf of NUS.
It is therefore unhelpful that the “National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts”, alongside the “Education Activists Network”, have suggested a further National Demonstration on January 29th in London, when an event with the TUC and UCU has been longstanding. As I make clear below, a mass demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 10th November in conjunction with UCU was the right tactic at the right time. A further national demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 29th January in London when the TUC have organised an event in Manchester on the same day, would be the wrong tactic at the wrong time – especially when we need maximum unity with the Trade Union Movement, and moves to divide the student movement when we need maximum unity is not a direction of travel I support.
More importantly, the student movement must not respond to the defeat on Fees by coming to the lazy conclusion that a series of hastily organised National Demos will secure wins for students. This kind of tactical obsession is the wrong response to the challenges we face. I believe that our mobilisation for a mass protest and rally in Manchester on the 29th January, and then mobilisation again for the TUC National Demonstration on the 26th March is the right tactic, alongside engaging with ongoing policy issues with regard to access, EMA, cuts and so much more as the debate continues on.
To ensure we respond to these challenges with speed, early in the new year I have called a meeting of our National Executive Council of NUS, which will rightly have the opportunity to debate the next steps for the campaign. I will be asking the NEC to support the motion below, which I believe sets out the right campaign tactics for the months ahead.
For maximum openness, I have published below the main motion that I will submit to the NEC. I believe it sets out a clear programme of action and activity for the new year which deploys the right tactics, at the right time, in partnership with UCU and the Trade Union Movement.
I will of course be in touch early in the new year with the results of that meeting.
I want to finish off by saying a heartfelt thank you for everything this year. Whilst the result of the vote was incredibly disappointing, we have still run the most high-profile NUS campaign in decades. There is still so much more to campaign for, and that’s what we need to focus on in 2011.
Wishing you a peaceful and happy Christmas, and a prosperous 2011,
Main Motion to Emergency NEC
Monday 10th January 2011
1. Both houses of parliament have now approved a £9,000 limit on Higher Education Undergraduate Tuition Fees.
2. This happened despite an unprecedented mass campaign from NUS that has united students, lecturers and the general public and the largest student demonstration in a generation.
3. The student movement should be proud that the NUS/UCU National Demonstration on 10 November sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism.
4. The policing of both the NUS/UCU Demonstration and subsequent demonstrations has been widely questioned.
5. It has been widely reported that some on those demonstrations were bent on violence.
6. The changes to fees levels have to be seen in the wider context of savage cuts to education and public services.
7. The TUC have asked NUS and UCU to help build for a wider Rally on youth opportunities in Manchester on the 29th January.
8. The NCAFC/EAN have suggested that NUS hold a National Demonstration in London on 29th January
9. Cuts programmes inside HEIs continue and will only get worse in the new year.
10. A significant number of new student activists have emerged out of the campaign.
11. The removal of the EMA will devastate retention and achievement in FE and destroy access to universities by the poorest.
12. Aim Higher has been mooted to close.
13. A white paper on fees is due out in the new year.
NEC Further Believes
1. Our principal duty is to work to secure our members’ interests.
2. Our struggle on cuts to education and public services must now be bound up firmly with the wider trade union and social movement.
3. The prospect of £9,000 fees heightens and makes more urgent the need to radically improve student rights on campus and the regulation of HEIs.
4. Students’ unions need real, substantial help now on understanding and fighting cuts in their institution.
5. A mass demonstration on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 10th November was the right tactic at the right time. A further national demonstration in London on Fees, EMAs and Cuts on the 29th January would be the wrong tactic at the wrong time.
6. The TUC protest and rally on 29th Jan will be held in Manchester- home to the largest FE College and HE institution in the country and sits in a region with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country.
7. Some of the actions of some on demonstrations and in occupations have harmed, not progressed, our cause. Violent demonstrators have lost us considerable public support.
8. Some of the policing tactics in use at student demos in November and December exacerbated tension and violence and prevented peaceful students from demonstrating.
9. At a time when there is still so much to campaign for, there has never been a more important time for maximum unity, and not doing so is unhelpful and damaging to students.
10. Students in FE face a double whammy- 16-18 transport subsidies are to be cut in local authorities and learner support funds don’t support travel costs.
1. To support the TUC protest and rally for youth opportunities on January 29th in Manchester.
2. Continuing to work with UCU and other trade unions through the TUC is vital to ensure we are part of a wider campaign.
3. To reject calls from the NCAFC/EAN to hold a London based National Demo on January 29th.
4. To prioritise mobilisation amongst students for the 26th March TUC national demonstration in the first term.
5. To launch a local mobilisation and partnership strategy with trade unions and social groups aimed at developing activism over cuts in local constituencies.
6. To mandate the VP Higher Education to launch an anti cuts strategy with a detailed toolkit and advice available from NUS staff and officers.
7. To support the VP Furhter Education in continued prioritisation of the campaign to save EMA, cuts to FE and the fight for local travel subsidies for young people.
8. To call for a detailed enquiry must be held into Policing tactics used on demonstrations in November/December.
9. To continue to publically condemn inappropriate police tactics like kettling (containment) and horse charging.
10. To lobby for increased student rights and protections in the White Paper.
11. To push the Government to ensure that there is a more comprehensive system of student support, effective outreach given the new fee regime.
12. To continue to fight to save the EMA and to lobby to ensure that colleges are able to assist students with transport costs in the future.
13. To launch a major campaign aimed at protecting Aim Higher and ensuring that efforts to improve WP measure universities’ success at retention and acceptances rather than just applications.
14. To develop a detailed long term strategy aimed at reversing the damaging marketisation and loss of public funding about to be inflicted on HE.