Take action on every campus on 29 Nov: Free Education Now, Tax the Rich!

warwick students occupy - historyWe need to take this fight back to our campuses after the demo. As well as holding our Winter Conference 9-10 December, we’re calling a national day of action on campuses around the country on Nov 29th, with the same demands: scrap all fees, living grants for all, stop the campus cuts.

This is an opportunity for you to link up with the students and workers who could not make it to the demo itself, and to engage those who saw the demo and now want to get involved. Whether it is a protest on campus, direct action, or a follow up meeting on or around this date, make sure to take lots of pictures and use #FreeEdNOW to link this action up with the dozens of other campuses also mobilising. Free education is within our grasp: let’s get back to our campuses, keep up pressure across the UK, and win.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thousands of young people to march on Wednesday Nov 15 in Corbyn-backed Free Education demonstration

  • Thousands of students to march on Parliament for free education
  • March backed by Momentum, with Corbyn urging young people to attend
  • Comes immediately following the Tories’ U-turns and defeats over tuition fees, with young people strengthening Labour’s political weight in Parliament

Thousands of young people and students will march in London on Wednesday to demand an end to tuition fees, backed by Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader.

Organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), the march seeks to capitalise on the surge in popularity of free education following its prominence in the general election that wiped out the government’s majority, and the Tories’ defeat on tuition fees in September.

The demonstration will demand the abolition of tuition fees, full non-means tested living grants for all students and an end to the wave of job cuts that are affecting universities and colleges across the country.

Organisers expect more than ten thousand students to attend, with Corbyn having urged young people to join the march. More than 60 student unions and colleges are actively mobilising across the country including Durham, Oxford and Cambridge and students are travelling to London from as far as Aberdeen, Bangor and Falmouth.

The demonstration follows significant student mobilisations in 2014 when 10,000 students attended a demonstration in support of scrapping tuition fees, and the recent NUS campaign to boycott the National Student Survey which was backed by 25 universities including Warwick, Oxford and Cambridge.

In a video posted on social media, Corbyn said “Everybody should have access to high quality from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety. No one should be shut out. That’s why I support the demonstration for free education organised by NCAFC. And Labour in government will deliver it.”

Hansika Jethnani, an NCAFC organiser, said, “We refuse to lie down in the face of the government’s relentless attacks on education. Tuition fees are fundamentally illegitimate – education is a public good – not a product – and it should be funded by progressive taxation on the rich. The orthodoxy that students can be charged more and more has been shattered.”

Chris Townsend, a student at Sheffield and first time demonstrator, said, “We’re already winning the argument for scrapping tuition fees. Now we’re going do the same for universal living grants for all and an end to campus cuts. It’s young people that drove Corbyn’s Labour leadership election and took away the Tories’ majority – and it will be through us that a Labour government will be able to create a properly funded, free education system with living grants for all.”

ENDS

NOTES

  1. For more information and interviews please contact Andy Warren on 07752640847 or Mark Crawford on 07891574894
  2. The demonstration is organised by the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts (NCAFC), a network of students and education workers founded in 2010, and backed by Momentum.  
  3. There will be a press conference on the day of the demonstration at 12 noon in the Conference Room, 2nd floor of the Bloomsbury Theatre Building WC1H 0AH. To RSVP or for more information, please email [email protected] or ring Andy on 07752 640 847.
  4. Jeremy Corbyn’s quote was taken from this video: https://www.facebook.com/JeremyCorbynMP/videos/10155912301008872/

Help chart the next steps in the fight for free education at NCAFC Winter Conference 9-10 Dec

winter conference 2017 graphic

On the weekend 9-10 December NCAFC will host its 2018 Winter Conference in Liverpool!

Happening just three weeks after the national demonstration, this is the perfect opportunity for reflection and strategising for the new year.

As always, access to the conference, food and accommodation is free. However, if you are struggling with transport costs, you can use our access fund. Please email [email protected] with your requirements and the finance committee will try to cover as much of your fees as possible.

The conference will officially start on the morning of Saturday 9th December, however there will be an informal social on the Friday evening for early arrivers. Please try to book your transport as soon as possible.

As well as workshops and discussions, we’ll be debating and voting on motions from our members to decide what NCAFC should do in the coming months. Motions can be proposed by affiliated local and political groups, or by any group of at least 7 individual NCAFC members, and must be submitted to [email protected] by 18:00 Thursday 30 November. Submitted motions will be published and then any member of NCAFC may submit amendments before 18:00 Monday 4 December. Please see here for a guide to how motions and our conference democracy work.

Register your place for free below (you can also find the form via this link) and click going and invite your friends to the facebook event.


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Justice for University of London Workers!

Placard: "If outsourcing is such good value for money, outsource management!"Solidarity with workers at University of London who are going on strike on November 21 for in-house contracts, secure hours, and pay rises to various staff.

These workers, made up of security guards, porters, cleaners, and receptionists, are organized with their trade union Independent Workers of Great Britain.

Students from various London unis have started a solidarity campaign, Justice for University of London Workers, which has already been formally supported by Students’ Union UCL.

We call on students and others in the community to support this campaign and get involved!

What can you do?

More information about the dispute can be found here.


Motion: Justice for University of London workers

Please adapt this motion as appropriate for your union and propose it to a general meeting, council or other democratic decision-making forum in your union!

Students’ Union notes

  1. Workers at the University of London (UoL, of which [your university] is a part) are campaigning against unjust working conditions. They want an end to discriminatory outsourcing and insecure zero hour contracts, respect at work, and the pay rises UoL promised them 6 years ago.
  2. Most of them are on low wages, with some having to work 70-plus hours per week to get by. If UoL had kept its pay promises, security guards for instance would be earning 25% more.[1]
  3. These workers are disproportionately BME, women and migrants. Tackling low pay and precarity are necessary to closing the discriminatory gaps in our university.
  4. They have tried negotiating, and have now been forced to begin calling strikes as the university managers aren’t listening.
  5. Students from [your university] and other UoL institutions have come together to set up a student and community support campaign, Justice for University of London Workers.[2]
  6. Our union has a record of solidarity for workers at the University of London, and they have reciprocated with support for our campaigns against fees.

Students’ Union believes

  1. The workers’ demands are right and this injustice is a stain on our university community. It is wrong that senior managers get exorbitant salaries and outsourcing companies’ bosses get their pockets lined while poorer workers are subject to these conditions.
  2. Solidarity between students and university staff is a reciprocal relationship that vitally helps our own campaigns too.
  3. Workers fighting against low pay and precarity push up conditions in the whole labour market, so while students are also struggling in exploitative jobs we have an interest in supporting campaigns like this.

Students’ Union resolves

  1. To support this campaign by the UoL workers through their union, the IWGB, and the student and community solidarity campaign, Justice for UoL Workers.
  2. To support campaign action by the workers and student supporters, including industrial action, protests, lobbying and direct action.
  3. To promote a fundraising campaign for the workers’ strike fund.
  4. To use our communication channels, including all-student emails, to inform students of the campaign and future campaign events, and to encourage them to get involved.
  5. For a representative of the Students’ Union to send an email to the Vice Chancellor of UoL, Adrian Smith, calling on him to meet the demands of the campaign.

References

[1] https://www.facebook.com/uoliwgb/

[2] https://www.facebook.com/JusticeforUOLWorkers/

Why Disabled Students Should Support the Free Education Demo!

4 people with a banner reading "Disabled students' campaign" "NUS disabled students"By Rachel O’Brien, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer

On Wednesday 15th November, I will be supporting the demonstration for Free Education, running Demo HQ and encouraging disabled students around the country to attend, as well as making sure that Student Unions and the organisers make sure the demo is accessible as it can be.

Why should disabled students support free education? For me, this is an easy question to answer. All students should support free education and fight for it to be realised. Free education is not just about university tuition fees (although this is a part of it!), it is about everything from making adult education accessible and available for people wanting to return to education or start at a later age, to making sure that Disabled Students’ Allowance and Education Health and Care Plans are fully funded and fit for purpose. Our education system should be a social good and liberatory force, and right now it is neither of those things. In fact, it can often be the opposite – a place where working class students and those from oppressed groups (these are not mutually exclusive categories!) experience violence of different types. Disabled students are more likely to come from working class and lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well as having more costs than non-disabled students, so debt hits us especially hard.

It affects our mental and physical health. Debt is shown to be a major factor in student mental distress, and as a group, we will have more of it. The lack of living grants and access to disability benefits means that we are often forced to live in houses that are not accessible to us and I have yet to meet a disabled student who does not worry about being able to afford their prescription fees. Simply put, our education system and the disproportionate financial cost it has on disabled students is bad for our health. Access to education and retention rates are distressingly low amongst disabled students. We get into debt to go into education and then have to drop out due to the effect that debt and disableism has.

On the 15th, join us in marching for free education! I have been working with the organisers to make sure that the route and march itself is accessible as possible. And in the case that #wecantmarch, I will be running Demo HQ – a place where people who cannot march for whatever reason can do invaluable demo tasks. Be that because you have a mobility impairment, precarious visa status or issues around sensory overload, or any other reason – this is the space for you. We’ll be doing social media and co-ordinating arrestee support for the demo!

Tories to chain university research even more tightly to business

Science for people not profitBy Ben Towse, UCL, NCAFC Postgrad Co-Rep

Universities minister Jo Johnson announced plans this month to develop a “Knowledge Exchange Framework”, to measure and incentivise universities’ commercialisation of research in England.

Johnson says he wants universities to do more to ensure that their knowledge and research is being put to use in the wider world. But of course, he’s thinking of a narrow set of social applications. Subversive or radical work that seeks to critically examine the powers-that-be, to transform the society we live in, to give a voice to the voiceless and to equip us with the understanding and the intellectual tools to dismantle capitalism and oppression, is hardly going to be at the top of the Tories’ agenda.

Serving capital

Instead the KEF will focus on ranking institutions, and rationing funding, according to how closely they serve private business. That means conducting research programmes under contract for businesses (who direct the research and own its product), offering paid consultancy services, and spinning out new discoveries and inventions for sale to the highest bidder.

Johnson can spout rhetoric about serving society, but what he wants is for universities to serve the needs of one small layer of society: the capitalist class. The KEF follows in the footsteps of the recently-introduced Teaching Excellence Framework, which demands that universities churn out graduates trained and prepared to generate more profit for their future employers, and the longer-standing Research Excellence Framework, which has already ramped up its weighting of research “impact” in such a way as to deprioritise “blue-sky” research and bring commercial interests to the fore.

Dictating priorities

What will be the impacts on universities and research?

First, it will obviously be easier for institutions with a stronger focus on science and technology to compete in these rankings, than those prioritising the arts and humanities.

But we should also worry about the sciences. The drive for business-friendly research outputs favours particular areas of scientific research over others, and it favours particular ways of applying discoveries in the wider world. For instance, rationing funding according to what research can be easily and rapidly commercialised might support the development of new building materials, but it is less likely to value uncovering the mysteries of the big bang.

“Knowledge transfer”: people or profit?

Finally, even in fields where business is keen to see advances, we have to ask – is commercialisation the best way to ensure that knowledge developed in academia is transferred to the real world to improve lives and improve society?

Johnson cites an example of “knowledge exchange” he wants our universities to emulate: Remicade, a medicine discovered at New York University in the 1990s. This one drug earned NYU more in one year than all UK universities made together.

Remicade is one of a class of modern medicines that mimic natural antibodies – the complex molecules used by the body’s immune system to target disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites  – and it is used to treat a number of disorders like Crohn’s disease and types of arthritis. Like most such breakthroughs invented by researchers in non-profit universities, this drug was sold off to the private sector. It is now manufactured and sold by two pharmaceutical giants: Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) in the US and Merck in Europe.

In 2013, it accounted for about 10% of JNJ’s revenues. That’s not surprising, because the treatment costs £12,500 per year. Patients in the US face hundreds of dollars a month in excess charges on top of their insurance (and that’s if the insurance company will sign off on it: some penny-pinching providers are shunting patients to older drugs with worse side-effects). In the UK, before Remicade’s European patent finally expired, it was the NHS’s fifth costliest drug, with nearly £200m per year going into Merck’s pocket for it. On top of all this, now that expiring patents mean two decades of monopoly are over, JNJ has been accused of dirty tricks trying to squash competitors selling “biosimilar” drugs mimicking Remicade.

Artificial antibody drugs like Remicade are an example of incredible human ingenuity that can change lives. But as long as the means to produce and distribute such medicines on a large scale rest in private hands, the only way for public and non-profit research institutions to translate their discoveries into wider-world benefit is selling them to those for-profit businesses, which ration and limit access to the product, and charge extortionate costs, in order to turn a profit.

Jo Johnson wants us to believe that the only way we can benefit from scientific advances is by going further down this route and whipping universities harder to gear themselves to the desires of capitalists.

Instead, we should be talking about taking those capitalists’ businesses, and the vital infrastructure like pharmaceutical factories that they jealously guard, into collective ownership and democratic control. No longer would public health services (or individuals struggling with health insurance bills) have to hand over millions to big pharma for medical treatments that could only have been produced with knowledge developed in public and non-profit institutions. Instead, science could genuinely serve society, not shareholders.

Next steps

The immediate task facing us is to stop the roll-out of the KEF. A crucial force will be the precarious early career research workers for whom this will mean yet more fetters and hoops to jump through in an already highly-pressured workplace.

Beyond this, we need to set our sights on a socialist alternative. We should be raising the call within Labour and elsewhere for big pharma and similar industries that leech off public research to be nationalised, and for them and research institutions like universities to be placed under the control of their workers, students and the communities they ought to be serving.

NSS boycott first year makes a big dent: bring on round two!

London College of Communications campus, University of the Arts LondonOn 9th August, the NSS results were released and it was confirmed that the NSS boycott had invalidated the data for 12 universities. This is something to celebrate and to build upon.

NCAFC have been advocating for a boycott of the survey for years; and in 2016, its proposed link to the Teaching Excellence Framework meant that the motion at NUS Conference passed overwhelmingly. NUS must stand by its mandate from National Conference and continue to push the boycott, not shy away from meaningful action – because in order to break the TEF, we will have to continue to build the NSS boycott until the higher education reforms are withdrawn.

We aren’t just campaigning against the increase of fees, but the wholesale marketisation of education which the TEF promises to usher in.

Surveys like the NSS help integrate competition into the heart of our universities. Universities have already been pushed to operate as businesses, incentivised to cut costs and spend more money on PR, advertising and big pay packets for management rather than on pay, teaching and support services for staff and students. The fight for free education lies not only in abolishing fees, but in the thorough eviction of the market from higher education; universities should be acting in the interests of students and staff, not money and big business.

The NSS boycott has been one of the most radical, far-reaching and effective campaigns have students and activists have pushed through in years. In mobilising students in the fight against the marketisation of HE, the boycott has already forced delays in fee rises – and even pushed the House of Lords to attempt to totally sever the link between the TEF and fee increases, with the boycott being quoted in the debate.

We have the power, the resources and the potential to carry this momentum even further. We should build upon our successes and push for an even stronger and bigger boycott next year. If we had 25 SUs boycotting it this year, let’s make it 100 next year – bring on NSS boycott 2018!

Final motions & amendments document for Summer Conference

Please take a look at the final motions document – now complete with the amendments proposed – that we’ll be debating and voting on tomorrow, here at our Summer Conference! Printed copies will also be distributed to everyone present.

Click here for the document

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Motions for Summer Conference 2017 – amendments submission now open

17904344_1408909535835622_7626500089657334934_nIn the run-up to our 2017 Summer Conference, 17-18 June at University of the Arts London, members and affiliated groups have submitted the following motions about what NCAFC should be campaigning on and how the National Campaign should be run.

All members of NCAFC can submit amendments to these motions – just email them to [email protected] by midnight Thursday 15 June.

If you haven’t registered for conference yet, make sure you do (fill out the registration form) and book your transport today! You can find more info about what to expect via the Facebook event.



Motion 1: The outcome of the General Election

Proposer: NCAFC National Committee

This is a placeholder motion. The General Election falls after the motion deadline and before the amendments deadline, so you can submit motions – in standard motions format – responding to the election result as amendments to this.

Motion 2: Stop cuts and growing divisions in schools

Proposers: Alex Stuart, Ana Oppenheim, Maisie Sanders, Hansika Jethnani, Justine Canady, Alex Booth, Sahaya James

NCAFC Notes:

  1. Schools in England and Wales face cuts of up to £3bn by 2019-20.
  2. The cuts are taking place at the same time that a new generation of grammar schools, free schools, faith schools and academies are being funded.
  3. This underfunding will very probably lead to more teachers leaving the profession, placing an extra burden on an already stretched service.
  4. Particularly, we agreed to support campaigners at Forest Hill School, who are taking industrial action to fight cuts of over £1m.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. We should work with the trade unions and other campaigners to protect public services from cuts and privatisation.
  2. We should reaffirm our commitment to campaigning for a fully funded, publicly provided, democratically controlled, national education service.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To campaign against cuts to school budgets and seek to build links with the trade unions and other campaigners in achieving this aim.
  2. To encourage local young activists to participate in the campaign and engage with school students.
  3. To oppose new grammar schools, free schools, faith schools and academies and campaign for well resourced, adequately funded, non-academically selected, locally managed schools.

Motion 3: Organising young workers

Proposer: Workers’ Liberty Students

NCAFC Notes:

  1. British capitalists have driven down workers’ wages further and longer than at any time since the 19th Century.
  2. Almost a million workers – mostly young workers – are on zero hours contracts. Nearly as many are subject to spurious self-employment, of the kind common among “gig economy” workers such as Uber drivers or Deliveroo workers.
  3. The 2017 Labour Party manifesto has put the abolition of zero hours contracts (already a reality in France and New Zealand to name but two countries); and the demand of a £10/hour minimum wage, on the agenda for millions of workers in a new way. It has proved that these things are a possibility.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. That the pressures for a revolt over pay and working conditions, especially among young workers, are immense.
  2. That NCAFC should encourage and shape this revolt as far as we can.
  3. That ‘worker solidarity’, for student activists, should not only mean bringing solidarity from students to groups of workers in struggle: but it should also mean the understanding that millions of students are workers themselves and that it is our vocation, as activists, to organise them as workers and speed their revolt.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To build up an information hub on our website about struggles waged by young workers, or workers in the kinds of jobs that students commonly take.
  2. To build up as part of that hub a resource for activists wanting to know their rights at work and how to organise on the job.
  3. To encourage grassroots activists in FE institutions, but also HE institutions, to organise events around the demands for no more zero hours; £10/hour minimum wage and/or the themes of low-waged, insecure work and bullying bosses, and inspire and train themselves and others to organise on the job.
  4. To make it a given that the theme of workplace organising by and of student workers should occupy a space on the agenda of most of our national educational, political, and training events.

Motion 4: Rebuild the grassroots, fight university cuts across the country

Proposers: Alex Booth, Shula Kombe, Workers Liberty Students, Connor Woodman, Jasmine Simms, Tyrone Falls, Rida Vaquas, Chris Townsend, Hope Worsdale, Lily Mactaggart, Nathan Rogers, Stuart McMillan, Dan Smitherman, Ana Oppenheim, Demaine Boocock, Josh Berlyne, Hansika Jethnani, Sahaya James

NCAFC Notes:

  1. NCAFC was founded in 2009-2010 as a fighting coalition of grassroots education activist groups, with names like [Institution] Free Education, [Institution] Defend Education, [Institution] Occupation, or [Institution] Against the Cuts.
  2. In recent NCAFC conferences we have noted a decline in the number of campus-based Free Education activist groups, and we made reasonable adaptations in our methods and orientation to fit that context
  3. The Higher Education Reforms, heightened class struggle in campuses such as LSE, and sweeping job cuts at universities across the country have created the basis for a likely revival in campus activism
  4. Since the beginning of 2017 at least 10 UK universities have announced budget cuts which will lead to around 600 job losses, possibly more.
  5. At the University of Manchester, management explicitly cited the higher education reforms as a reason for cutting 171 jobs.
  6. The Free Education pledge in the Labour manifesto (in part a product of years of agitation on this point by the student left, led by NCAFC) has put arguments around free education and education as a public good back on the agenda in a big way.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. In response to a decline in campus activism, the previous national committee chose to re-orient NCAFC as a special interest group which would agitate for free education at a national level, in NUS, Labour, and the press, rather than organising serious mass actions ourselves.
  2. That there is no less need for direct action now than before: student debt is rising, cuts are still being made, privatisation continues to proliferate across various spheres of education.
  3. That there is definitely a basis in the new term for a revitalisation of campus grassroots activism in the NCAFC mould
  4. That NCAFC should take a conscious turn to rebuilding itself as a coalition of fighting grassroots groups.
  5. This means using our national reach to amplify the local struggles against job cuts and other education disputes such as the LSE Cleaners’ strike and rent strikes; and also intervene in those struggles to promote the development of grassroots activist groups
  6. That we should share NCAFC’s accumulated experience of grassroots organising to help local activists build up activist groups
  7. That we should combine the work of setting up local groups with a drive to convince already-existing grassroots activist groups of the NCAFC project –of the need to bring local education struggles together at the national level, to give the radical grassroots a political voice.
  8. That we shouldn’t be prescriptive about the precise forms that this local organising might take: namely, that some of these struggles will be led by activists in Labour Clubs, others in groups affiliated with the Greens, and others again with different names, backgrounds and political outlooks. We want to propose a united front to any and all groups involved in these struggles.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. There are three main factors driving these cuts: the removal of a cap on student numbers, the uncertainty caused by TEF, and the uncertainty caused by Brexit. In other words, these are at the razor’s edge of the marketisation agenda.
  2. NCAFC’s legitimacy comes from being a democratic grassroots organisation. These two things–a strong democracy and a strong grassroots–are inseparable.
  3. NCAFC’s strategy over the past year has had some success, particularly by pushing the NUS to organise a somewhat successful NSS boycott.
  4. However, it is also profoundly limited: the thorough trouncing of the Left at NUS National Conference this year demonstrated this, and the politics of the incoming leadership suggest that free education and confrontational action will not be at the top of the agenda.
  5. NCAFC needs to return to its roots and return to the grassroots. This will involve the hard work of building up local activist groups.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To make fighting these job cuts a strategic priority of the organisation over the coming months.
  2. To undertake all our preparatory work in the summer, and campaigning work in the new term, with the objective of discovering, meeting, training, building up and promoting democratic, regularly-functioning grassroots education activist groups, including in FE.
  3. To republish and replenish NCAFC’s literature on best practice in organising a local education activist group and consult widely about what kinds of support local groups need and want.
  4. To send NC members to travel to visit new or newly-contacted groups proactively, reimbursing travel and worrying about overall transport costs later.
  5. To have the NC do regular audits of where local education activist groups, or sympathetic Labour Clubs or other suitable bodies exist and what relations we have with them.
  6. To seek affiliations, and participation in our national events, of as many grassroots groups as possible
  7. To organise regional events where appropriate for fostering links with grassroots activists in a given area. And to mandate regional representatives to contact activists, students’ unions and trade unions on campuses affected by cuts, offering our support.

Motion 5: Making motions debates more accessible

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Shula Kombe, Uma Kotwal, Clementine Boucher, Marie Dams, Connor Woodman, Josh Berlyne.

NCAFC believes:

  1. Currently, debates on motions at NCAFC conference take the format: speech for, speech against, and summation.
  2. This format does not encourage nuanced debates–even if extra rounds of speeches are granted–and encourages a confrontational, rather than comradely, style of debating.
  3. The speed with which motions are debated means that to engage properly, a lot of background knowledge is usually necessary.
  4. At last Winter Conference, a very small range of people got up to speak on motions, and those who did were overwhelmingly cis men.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. As an organisation we pride ourselves on being open, democratic, and encouraging a culture of free and healthy debate.
  2. Debate should be rigorous and incisive, but not needlessly confrontational.
  3. Debate should also be inclusive–it is important that everyone feels able to contribute to discussions and debates. That is a sign of a healthy democratic culture.
  4. There may be a number of reasons for lack of participation in debates on motions:
    1. People generally not feeling confident to speak publicly
    2. The confrontational style of debate being off-putting or anxiety-inducing
    3. Too much background knowledge being assumed, and not enough time to ask questions or make points around the topic which do not directly address the motion
  5. Changing the style of debate, by adding a section for questions and for “speeches around”–that is, speeches which are related to the motion but which are not clearly for or against–could alleviate some of the problems outlined above. Something similar to this format was used at Women & Non-Binary Conference last year, and was well-received.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To change the format of debates to include questions and speeches around. As such, the format would be:
    1. Speech for
    2. Speech against
    3. Questions
    4. Possible extra round of speeches – at the chair’s discretion
    5. Speeches around – number of speeches taken is at the chair’s discretion
    6. Summation speeches

Motion 6: Stop the Labour Purge

Proposer: Surrey Labour Students

  1. We note that, at the 27 May Labour Students conference, the organisation’s Blairite leadership kept control of the organisation by expelling and excluding numerous left-wing Labour Clubs and activists from the event. This included suspending and excluding Surrey Labour Students explicitly on the grounds of its affiliation to NCAFC. They described NCAFC, absurdly but worryingly, as a “rival” organisation to Labour.
  2. This is an attack on the right and ability of Labour Clubs and Labour-supporting students to campaign for free education and other left-wing policies. It is also, clearly, part of the broader drive of the Labour Party machine to purge left-wing activists to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and repress and disperse its left-wing membership. This has included members of socialist groups such as Workers’ Liberty and Socialist Appeal being expelled, as well as people who have left other left-wing parties including the Greens and Left Unity to join Labour. In the run-up to the previous Labour Students Council, the meeting was gerrymandered on a smaller scale by expelling individual left-wing delegates.
  3. Unfortunately, shamefully, some on the left, e.g. at the top of Momentum, have not only failed to fight these purges but even in some cases endorsed them. The day after the 27 May conference, after Momentum-affiliated left candidates lost elections by margins smaller than the number of excluded left delegates, Momentum Youth & Students committee embarked on an unconstitutional purge of its own membership through a snap vote, excluding those who have been purged from Labour and members of “democratic centralist” organisations.
  4. Many NCAFC members are Labour Party members; many are not; some are members of other parties. But given what has happened to Surrey Labour Students NCAFC has a direct self-interest in opposing and speaking up against the Labour purge; as well as a more general interest, as part of the grassroots anti-capitalist left, in fighting for rank-and-file democracy in the labour movement.
  5. Moreover, we recognise that the escalation of the purge, targeting NCAFC and attacking entire local groups, follows from and cannot be separated from earlier rounds of more limited purges against individual left-wingers. The bureaucracy felt able to escalate because it had been largely permitted to get away with earlier rounds. And if they get away with their latest moves, they may go further.
  6. We will do everything we can to oppose the persecution of the socialist left in the Labour Party and support our comrades who are active in the struggle against the purge and for Labour democracy.

Motion 7: A strategy for action to defend higher and further education

Proposers: Ana Oppenheim, Sahaya James, Ben Towse, Monty Shield, Maisie Sanders, Justine Canady, Zack Murrell-Dowson, Tyrone Falls, Omar Raii, Andrew Peak, Chris Townsend, Rida Vaquas, Alex Booth, Nathan Rogers, Alex Stuart, Savannah Sevenzo, Dan Smitherman

NCAFC Notes:

  1. This motion might need to be amended depending on the General Election results!
  2. The HE reforms passed through Parliament, though our campaign, including the NSS boycott, did extract some concessions, in particular tightening regulations on private universities and delaying the link between TEF and fee increases. We also raised the profile of these reforms and the harm they will cause.
  3. The major wave of local cuts announced on HE campuses across the country this year, driven by the pressures of the market forced on universities in successive rounds of marketisation – in particular the removal of controls on student numbers and the new TEF, as well as financial instability as universities are left exposed to wider economic turmoil.
  4. The ongoing myriad local battles over cuts in FE colleges, driven by the government’s brutal regime of budget reductions.
  5. Ideas of and support for free, public and funded education have gained prominence through the General Election campaign and NES.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. It’s NCAFC’s job to help local grassroots campaigns develop and take action against these cuts at the campus level, and to link them to the fight against the cuts and government reforms at a national level that are the root cause of the local problems – which means linking up the local campaigns and acting as a platform for national-level action.
  2. There are striking similarities between current events and the situation in 2009-10 when NCAFC formed to give a national voice to local campaigns against campus cuts driven by government policy – but this time we have the benefit of 7 years of experience, and it’s up to us to apply that experience to make today’s fightback even more powerful.
  3. We have a responsibility to raise the political level – to show people the root causes of the local issues they are facing, and to offer a convincing and inspiring alternative way to organise education.
  4. What Parliament does, the streets can undo! The passage of the HE reforms is not the end of that fight. We can make the reforms impossible to implement and force their reversal. Such a reversal would be necessary as a first step in attaining our goal of a free, democratic education system – and any call for reversing the reforms should be made in the context of also raising that more positive, radical goal.
  5. We need a strategy that combines reaching out to local groups and nurturing them, with coordinated protest, direct action and industrial action at the national level. This strategy will include:
    1. Outreach and assistance to the grassroots
    2. A national demonstration followed by a coordinated day of action
    3. Continuing the NSS boycott
    4. Further action as the situation develops
  6. We are an organisation with limited funds that cannot do everything. So it’s important that our plans take this into account, avoid overreach, and the components complement each other to minimise work. This strategy does that.
    1. The work of reaching out to local groups to help them build, raising the sights of local groups to tackle the national root causes of their local disputes, and engaging local groups in building national actions like a demo and the NSS boycott, fits together well – in the same visit or call to a campus group, an NCAFC representative could touch on all of these.
    2. Moreover, offering the chance to get involved in a coherent strategy at the local and national levels will strengthen the bonds between NCAFC and local groups, and between local groups.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To link opposition to all campus cuts with specific demands to reverse the successive rounds of marketisation in HE and reverse the cuts in FE and fund it decently, and a broader demand for a free, public, democratically-coordinated education system to replace the current one governed by fees, cuts and market chaos.
  2. To adopt the following multi-pronged strategy and make it the major priority of our activity over the coming period:

Outreach and assistance to the grassroots

  1. NCAFC has to work to reaching out to local campaigns on HE and FE campuses, help them to develop and organise protest and direct action, and link up with each other.
  2. We are aware of more specific motions being drafted on this, which we don’t wish to duplicate.

National demo

  1.  Political narrative / demands /slogans: (N.B. the proposers expect this may be amended depending on the election outcome.) The political narrative of the demo should be to unite the various local anti-cuts campaigns at a national level, to protest against both all the campus cuts in solidarity with each other, and the national-level government policies driving them. The NC should write a title and set of politically clear slogans/demands that:
    1. cover opposition to all the campus cuts,
    2. cover a call to reverse the successive rounds of marketization (including the current reforms) in higher education and funding cuts in further education,
    3. and which contrast the current governing of education by fees, cuts and market chaos, to our positive demand for a free, democratically-coordinated public education system.
  2. Details: The demonstration should be in London, on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the first half of November
  3. Follow-up: Before the demo, NCAFC should announce a national day of action 1.5 to 2 weeks after the demo, and promote this at the demo.
  4. What purposes does a demo serve?
    1. A national demo is a key way for local activists and anti-cuts groups to build a network of activists and sympathetic students on their campuses at the beginning of term which will later help them in taking more radical actions such as occupations
    2. The student movement is unique in that there is such a high turnover of people which a new wave of potential activists joining colleges and universities every year. A national demo is a key way to introduce these students to radical politics.
    3. Often campus organising is hard and demoralising, especially when you have a small number of activists and an unsympathetic student union. A national demonstration can be an invigorating event for these activists; showing them that they are part of a national movement and that there are students similar to them organising elsewhere.
    4. Most big campus actions we see, especially where there isn’t an established anti-cuts groups, come after a national demo.
    5. Not all demonstrations – even A to B marches – are the same. With NCAFC organising, the politics can be clearer, the dynamic can be different, creative actions on the day can be welcomed, and most importantly the demo can be run not as an isolated event but as part of an escalating strategy.
    6. The HE Reforms are the most serious attacks on universities since the introduction of £9K fees, and we are currently seeing a wave of campus cuts at universities across the country which are the result of this marketization of HE through the TEF, as well as the earlier removal of student number controls.
    7. NCAFC’s role is to link up local campaigns against campus cuts and to link the local to the national, and a national demo is a very effective way of doing this, making clear that these course closures, campus cuts and job losses are not isolated events, but are part of a national trend and the result of marketisation.
    8. A national demo is an excellent way to spread our demands to as many students as possible outside of our normal sphere of influence
    9. A large demonstration early in the academic year will help set the tone of students politics for 2017/18 and especially with a right wing turn in the NUS there is a need for combative, anti-bureaucratic, left-wing politics to be front and centre

Further action as the situation develops

  1. As the situation develops, we should add other actions and activities to the plan, judging what is appropriate as we go. These could include attempting to coordinate waves/days of local direct action, calling or backing national demonstrations on particular campuses to support key disputes that have the ability to set national precedents, and many other possible ideas.
  2. NCAFC Winter Conference should offer a chance to regroup those engaged by the action up to that point, and review and revise our strategy going forward.

—-

(The remaining bit of the motion – relating to the NSS Boycott 2018 strategy – will be debated alongside the alternative strategy proposed below in the next motion, and alongside any other strategy proposals on this topic submitted as amendments.)

—-

Continuing the NSS boycott

  1. On campuses where SUs or activist groups took up the NSS boycott, it had substantial success, making a serious dent in participation rates. Multiple institutions and many departments around the country were dragged below the 50% data publication threshold.
  2. Through this campaign, we not only began to exert direct pressure, we reached huge numbers of students with basic information about the negatives of the HE reforms, and engaged them in taking collective action.
  3. The NSS boycott was set-up as an ultimatum unless and until the government dropped the HE reforms – with the aim of getting us material leverage over the government. Its demands must continue until the reforms are reversed.
  4. We need to work to make the 2018 round of the boycott bigger and better. We should press NUS to organise for this, and do what we can if and where NUS falls short.
  5. The NC should draft and raise proposed activities for NUS to help build next year’s boycott, and pressure NUS to carry them out (and against any attempt by NUS to scab on its policy and abandon the boycott).
  6. NCAFC can also act as a platform to share the most successful boycott campaigns around the country and help spread their lessons.>
  7. NCAFC will help local activist groups to pressure their SUs to support the boycott and not scab, and to campaign for the boycott with or without their SUs.

Motion 8: Our role in an NSS boycott next year

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Shula Kombe, Stuart McMillan, Chris Townsend, Josh Berlyne, Connor Woodman, Sahaya James.>

NCAFC believes:

  1. The higher education reforms are already leading to budget cuts and job losses.
  2. One of the main metrics to be used in the Teaching Excellence Framework–the government’s flagship university reform–is “student satisfaction” scores, measured by the National Student Survey (NSS).
  3. This year 26 students’ unions organised NSS boycotts as part of a nationwide campaign initiated by NCAFC and run by the NUS.
  4. On at least nine campuses, NSS fill-in rates dropped below the 50% publication threshold thanks to NSS boycott campaigns.
  5. The demands of the NSS boycott have not been met: rather than being withdrawn, the HE reforms have been approved by Parliament and are ready to be implemented.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. In order to win demands and roll back the HE reforms, the NSS boycott must continue over a number of years and must involve more campuses. This was the intention, right from the start.
  2. To push fill-in rates below 50%, the NSS boycott should be organised by students’ unions. SUs have the networks, “legitimacy,” and money to engage a broad enough layer of students. Money is especially an issue: Sheffield SU spent well over £2,000 on the boycott campaign, and was successful. Warwick SU, similar in many ways, spent much less but the response rate was not brought below 50%.
  3. Some sort of national body is needed to coordinate the boycott and negotiate with government. Ideally, this would be the NUS.>
  4. The incoming right-wing leadership of the NUS, including the incoming Vice-President Higher Education, cannot be relied upon to organise an effective boycott.
  5. NCAFC alone does not have the capacity to organise an effective boycott next year.
  6. A provisional committee should be set up, with representatives from each campus prepared to organise NSS boycotts next year. It should be responsible for coordinating the boycotts, expanding the national campaign, and representing the boycott nationally in negotiations with government and in the media.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To contact activists and SU representatives involved in the boycott this year, inviting them to a meeting in July or August where the provisional committee will be set up and planning for the boycott will begin.

Motion 9: How we engage with the NUS

Proposers: Hope Worsdale, Connor Woodman, Shula Kombe, Josh Berlyne, Ana Oppenheim, Chris Townsend, Demaine Boocock.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. Since its foundation, NCAFC has intervened in the NUS, arguing for free education and universal living grants, and standing candidates on left-wing platforms.
  2. These interventions have been successful in shifting NUS to the left. For example, NUS now supports free education and universal living grants.
  3. Until recently, NCAFC’s candidates for Full-Time Officer (FTO) positions ran fairly low-budget campaigns.
  4. In the past two years, NCAFC has run more slick, professional and expensive FTO campaigns, with little reward.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. Our interventions into the NUS should have a clear purpose: to make the NUS more democratic, more grassroots-oriented, and to make it fight to win free education and living grants for all.
  2. This means that FTO campaigns are not just about winning by any means necessary. They are about winning without compromising on our core politics, and using the platform we are given to convince people of our ideas.
  3. However, this of course does not mean that strategy is irrelevant to our NUS interventions. It is sensible and healthy for NCAFC to make decisions which are to the strategic benefit of our campaigns/candidates, so long as these decisions do not contradict our political positions.
  4. Our interventions should not drain NCAFC of all or even the majority of our resources, especially where money is being spent on non-political items or gimmicks.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To carry out our future NUS interventions along the lines set out above.

Motion 10: Organising with the broader student left

Proposers: Josh Berlyne, Shula Kombe, Lina Nass, Hope Worsdale, Connor Woodman, Stuart McMillan, Demaine Boocock.

NCAFC Believes:

  1. NCAFC is a pluralist, non-partisan organisation which accepts anyone who agrees with our aims and principles as a member.
  2. NCAFC has a history of working with the broader student Left on campaigns, national demonstrations, and within NUS.

NCAFC Further Believes:

  1. NCAFC should continue to work with those who share its aims and principles.
  2. NCAFC should not unnecessarily isolate itself from the rest of the student Left by being excessively hardline and refusing to work with others except on our own terms–the whole Left, including NCAFC, is weaker for it.
  3. Open and honest criticism is vital for the Left; NCAFC should not avoid criticising other left-wing groupings or organisations in the student movement. Where disagreements do arise, however, criticism should be done in an open, honest, and comradely way, and dealings with the rest of the Left should be done in good faith.

NCAFC Resolves:

  1. To deal with the rest of the Left as outlined above.

NUS NEC report – Ana Oppenheim

Ana OppenheimOn May 30th was the last NUS NEC meeting of the academic year. I haven’t been great at writing NEC reports so far, primarily because NEC meetings are rarely interesting. The majority of time is spent on reports and presentations. Accountability is mostly performative, with questions pre-written by officers and sent to friendly council members, many questions not being read out at all, and FTOs having as little as 20 seconds to respond. There’s no more than an hour, sometimes less, for motions at the very end of a meeting. Sometimes there’s a bit of outrage, genuine or manufactured, and the occasional passionate speech written for a 90-second Twitter video (useful during election season). But ultimately, the result of motions debate often depends on which faction can mobilise more of its members to turn up.

A lot of the real drama happens outside of meetings, during factional pre-meets and in WhatsApp groups. Nothing has made me more critical of some of the left in NUS than having experienced NEC. We’ve seen NCAFC reps being pressured to withdraw a motion on the basis that it would look bad in the media, a liberation rep being attacked for submitting a question on behalf of a member without consulting the “whip,” and many other incidents emerging from a culture where following an arbitrarily set “line” takes priority over healthy internal debate.

Having said that, I have no doubt that the right/moderate faction organises in a similarly undemocratic way but it’s not unreasonable to hold the left to higher standards. We need an NUS where diversity of opinion is seen as a good thing, where representatives elected on their own individual platforms are not expected to just pick one of two sides and blindly follow, where an accountability question is not interpreted as a personal attack. A major culture shift is necessary to build a strong movement that can discuss ideas and challenge itself to effectively fight the government. During my second year, I’m hoping to make more of a conscious effort to challenge informal hierarchies and dodgy behaviour, alongside fellow NCAFCer Hansika Jethnani who was elected on an excellent platform of democratising NUS, and other sympathetic NEC members.

Moving on to the last meeting. Firstly, the meeting was moved from March 31st to 30th just a couple of weeks before the date to avoid clashing with the holidays of Pentecost/Shavuot. This meant a number of members were unable to attend. Then it was announced that staff would withdraw their labour from the meeting, due to breaches of staff protocol. There was a long email thread about whether the meeting should be cancelled or not, which only finished on the morning of the 30th. The meeting went ahead, having just about reached the quorum of 15 members – majority of whom were representatives of Labour Students and Organised Independents.

More time than usual was dedicated to motions – partly because many officers weren’t there to present their reports. First we debated motions remitted from National Conference UD and Welfare zones, most of which passed. I was pleased that a motion about trans and intersex inclusion finally got heard – at Conference it was prioritised worryingly low, after #LoveSUs and discount cards. We also passed good motions on students’ rights at work, promoting evidence-based drug policies instead of a “zero tolerance” approach and resisting the far right, among other more or less useful ones.

A motion to fight landlord cartels fell on the basis that it didn’t specifically mention FE and apprentices. There is an unfortunate tendency in NUS for motions to be voted down not because of what they propose, but because someone isn’t entirely satisfied with the way they are written (let’s recall the infamous amendment about free childcare which fell at LGBT+ Conference this year because it didn’t mention carers of adults.) As if a nice motions document which ticks all the boxes was more important than real work that NUS should be doing in the real world, in this case on the burning issue of student housing.

A decent motion on student hardship passed, however a line about supporting living grants got removed after VP SocCit gave a speech saying that the government should not be giving money to the rich. I got up to make the argument that no adult should have to rely on their parents for financial support, especially since not everyone has a good relationship with their family and not everyone’s parents choose to support them during their studies (“we should be helping not only those whose parents are poor, but also those whose parents are dickheads.”) I also pointed out that NUS already has policy from conference in favour of living grants, so removing it from this specific motion would be meaningless. The parts then passed, changing absolutely nothing about NUS’ position on living grants.

Then we got to new motions. First I spoke on a motion to make the NSS boycott next year more effective by starting early and facilitating SUs to share best practice. The motion was then amended to say it shouldn’t be heard on NEC given that it was deprioritised by Conference, and subsequently fell. It was then misreported by VPUD that NEC voted to end the boycott. This is incorrect – NUS has a mandate from 2016 to boycott the NSS, and the right simply voted down a motion proposing to learn from this year’s experiences and run it more competently. Existing policy was not reversed. We will be holding VPHE to account to make sure the boycott is maintained.

A motion on commemorating the Slave Trade passed, with NCAFC’s amendment to celebrate grassroots resistance. A number of other motions, including Solidarity with the Palestinian People, were withdrawn to allow for a fuller debate at a bigger meeting.

I’ll be writing more reports from the strange world of NUS bureaucracy throughout the next academic year. In the meantime, NCAFC members and all students are welcome to contact me regarding any NEC matters at [email protected].