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in order to break the TEF, we will have to continue to build the NSS boycott until the higher education reforms are withdrawn.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].

Occupation at Chelsea College of Arts: CCW Rethink the Restructure!

By Marianne Murray, a student campaigner from University of the Arts London (UAL)

UAL CCW occupationOn Wednesday 24th May 2017, a meeting of students was held at Chelsea College of Arts to discuss a plan of action to oppose a ‘restructure’ of UAL colleges Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon (CCW). The planned restructure was first brought to our attention in a video sent out to students by Pro-Vice Chancellor David Crow less than two weeks ago outlining his ‘vision’ for the three colleges: most worryingly he stated that my college, Chelsea, will be about ‘international markets’. The video gives a glossy, corporate insight in to the plans to change the universities without student or staff knowledge or input. 8 Fine Art research staff have been told they’re at risk of redundancy, and university management have been emailing all staff offering ‘voluntary redundancies’. This has created an atmosphere of fear amongst staff, who are scared to speak against the changes for fear of losing their jobs. Many of these staff are on rolling contracts, effectively zero-hours contracts, with little job security. Still more staff have been left in the dark about the changes. Much of the information we have about the ‘restructure’ is from a document leaked to the Student Union by a staff member in the UCU.

During the student meeting we discussed the likelihood of huge cuts to workshops, courses and staff – with some specialist courses possibly being scrapped altogether. For these reasons, we decided to occupy a space at Chelsea. 10 people from across CCW, the Arts Students Union, UAL and other students acting in solidarity secured the space and occupied overnight. The following day we were met with increasing hostility and aggression by security staff, who would not allow fellow students to pass us food. Security physically blocked students from entering the occupation, grabbing one student. We were unable to exit the room to use facilities and re-enter the occupation, as more and more security staff were brought in and a metal barrier was placed around the door. Despite being unable to let more people in to occupy, we received huge support from those outside – including anonymous messages of support from workers at UAL and banner drops orchestrated by fellow students. Due to the difficult conditions of the occupation, we decided to end 24 hours after we started with a statement, after speaking to management and securing a 2-week extension to the decision to cut any jobs. We will continue to take direct action against these cuts as well as negotiating to save jobs and facilities for all future students and staff.

ccw rethink the restructure (small)

Labour Students targets NCAFC members

Alex Stuart, Chair of Surrey Labour Students and NCAFC South-East Co-Rep, writes about the attack on his Labour club by the Labour Students leadership. If you’d like to write an opinion piece for anticuts.com, get in touch. See below for NCAFC’s comment.

On Saturday 2surrey labour students7th May, Labour Students held a ‘Transitional Conference’ to elect national officers for the coming year. All Labour Clubs were invited to send four delegates, as per the new constitution. Surrey Labour Students is one of such clubs and they elected and submitted their delegation in the proper and timely manner. A few days later, we were contacted by the National Secretary. Instead of confirming our delegation and providing further details about the conference, he ranted and raved about our club’s affiliation to NCAFC. The e-mail suggested we had violated the new constitution by affiliating to a rival organisation to the Labour Party. Following this, our club was barred from voting at the conference.

We dispute the accusation that NCAFC is a rival organisation to the Labour Party. Many NCAFC members are also Labour Party members and they do important work in their Labour Clubs, Young Labour groups and local parties. NCAFC welcomes the Labour Party’s recent commitment to scrapping tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants and many members will be campaigning for a Labour government in the coming days.

Nevertheless, we are concerned by the implications of this accusation. We believe the Labour Students office are trying to find grounds to refuse our delegation and even remove our club. This is a political attack against the left that has been seen across the Labour Party, with thousands of socialists expelled without the right of appeal. A reason given for expulsion was being associated with socialist organisations such as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty or Socialist Appeal. Others have been expelled on spurious grounds such as retweeting a tweet by the Green Party. We don’t believe the Labour Party membership should be decided by a historically right-wing, undemocratic central office, with the ability to expel and discipline members that they don’t like. Instead, we want to transform the Labour Party into a member-led, democratic party where political differences are sorted through debate and democratic votes.

If we don’t challenge the sort of expulsions described above, we may soon see Labour members expelled on the grounds of being an NCAFC member. The logic of the purge is to, step-by-step, shut down left-wing members’ ability to organise with each other, to cut left-wing voices out and, where that’s not possible, to chill them into silence.

NCAFC has worked tremendously hard to contribute to the acceptance of free education by the Labour Party. We must stand up and defend this most central idea. We want NCAFC and Labour to work together to achieve a common goal: a free, liberated, accessible education service for all.


From the NCAFC National Committee:

Surrey Labour Students has been attacked by the outgoing Labour Students leadership for its affiliation to NCAFC. They have made spurious claims that this association breaks Labour Students rules. The real reason they are being attacked for participating in a non-party campaign for free education is simply that the current Labour Students officers want to cut out left-wingers and supporters of the fight for free education. We oppose this attempt by the Labour right to bar left-wing voices from Labour Students and offer solidarity to Surrey Labour Students. Dealing with political disagreements through bureaucratic manoeuvring like this, instead of through democratic debate and votes, is wrong. We have sent this message to Surrey Labour Students:

Dear Surrey Labour Students,

We are appalled to hear about the spurious and unfair attacks made on you by the Labour Students leadership for your involvement in the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts. These attacks are obviously politically motivated. The current Labour Students officers oppose the campaign for free education and they oppose Labour’s welcome manifesto commitment to it and other left-wing policies. Rather than contesting their political opponents in open debate and democratic decision-making, they are clutching at straws, trying to use bureaucratic means to cut them out, denying their right to a voice and a vote.

We offer you our solidarity and support and look forward to continuing to work with you and the many other Labour members who are part of NCAFC, in the fight for free education.

In solidarity,

NCAFC National Committee

Labour’s manifesto: free education and a National Education Service

In this article a NCAFC activist explains why the Labour Party’s Manifesto commitment to free education and a National Education Service is important and badly needed. But a free, democratic and emancipatory education is something we’ll need to fight for to win whatever the outcome of the general election.

Got an opinion and want to share it? Get in touch and write for anticuts.com!

o-CORBYN-STUDENTS-facebookCurrently, England is the most expensive country to study in the world. Since the 2010 Tory-LibDem higher education (HE) reforms there have been cuts to government funding, an expansion of the student loan system and of course the famous trebling of tuition fees to £9,000. These sets of changes have been come together with an overall neoliberalisation of universities: more casualised labour and decreased pay  and pensions for workers in HE, higher salaries for university managers, and more private institutions getting their foot in the door in the HE market. In turn there is now a lower proportion of working class students going to university and those leaving HE leave with massive amounts of debt. The current Conservative government is pushing the neoliberalisation of universities further by implementing a set of Higher Education Reforms which will result in universities being ranked according to a Teaching Excellence Framework, and these rankings allowing some universities to raise their fees and those who are seen to “fail” be closed down or taken over by private businesses. As it stands many universities across the UK from Aberystwyth, to Manchester, to Durham are announcing a wave a job cuts citing the pressures of marketising reforms as their reason. The current system desperately needs to be overhauled.

The call by the Labour Party in their manifesto to abolish fees and implement a National Education Service is a welcome event. This is a massive change from New Labour which implemented tuition fees back in the 1990s, as well as from a Labour Party a couple of years ago which only promised a cut in tuition fees to £6,000.  An NES would mean a cradle-to-grave system that guarantees access to learning for everyone: free childcare, comprehensive schooling, abolition of fees and valuing properly those who do the work. Furthermore, establishing an NES and deprivatisation of education creates the potential for a more democratic education where those who are doing the work and study call the shots and make the decisions, rather than managers.

Education at all levels is necessary for a democratic society. It allows people to discuss and think creatively and critically about the world they live in, and is important to allow society to flourish by giving people the means to learn, discuss and teach whatever it is they might want to do. Because education benefits all of us it the costs should be borne by those who have the means to pay for it. Despite the backlash Labour will get from the press and right wing parties, the abolition of fees and a NES is necessary and totally possible. HE funding is currently not sustainable and is coming of the back of student loans, much of which cannot be paid back and which the government continuously tries to sell-off. If we restructure how education is currently funded and tax the rich in our society who hold the wealth that is created by working people – bear in mind that the richest 10% in our society hold half of the £8.8 trillion pound wealth in the UK – then we will have enough money to fund not only the NES, free childcare and Labour’s other pledges, but much more. We need to argue beyond what Labour is currently guaranteeing. Maintenance grants must not only be reinstated, but increased to a decently liveable level and extended to all students, and living costs eased by not just restricting rent rises, but reversing them in halls and beyond. Labour should clarify that its pledge to abolish fees will be applied to international as well as British students.  And graduates should receive an amnesty on the student loan debt that should never have been imposed in the first place.

However, it will not be enough to vote Labour in and hope for them to make good on their promises. This is not how positive social change happens: a left-wing Labour-led government would face obstructions and immense pressure to retreat on its policies. We will need to continue building a strong student and workers movement in education and beyond which will provide the political pressure for these promises to be made a reality. One of the many reasons why it has been possible for the leading opposition party to take on these proposals is the pressure that has come from the grassroots movements. The seven years of protests, occupations, actions, boycotts, solidarity with striking workers, and convincing people of the necessity of free education has put these issues on the table – it is worth recalling that up until a few years ago the NUS was one of the only student unions in the world not to have any policy on free education.

Going forward it will mean continuing and increasing the pressure – whatever the results of this election. Quebec, Chile, South Africa, Germany and many other countries have managed to resist and reverse attacks on education by having organised and militant struggles through direct action and student strikes. NCAFC and education activists have been pushing student struggles in higher education, making the argument for free education, coordinating national demonstrations and pushing nationwide actions like the boycott of the National Student Survey. Join us to keep it up.

Tory “Teaching Excellence” in action: UoM cites TEF as motivation for massive cuts

Manchester students & staff protest cuts to catering jobs last year

Manchester students & staff protesting cuts to catering jobs last year

Just days after the passage of the Conservatives’ higher education reforms through Parliament, the University of Manchester has announced plans to axe 140 academic jobs and 31 support roles, placing 926 workers at risk. You can read the UCU trade union’s press announcement about the cuts here.

UoM isn’t facing a financial crisis. In 2015-16 the university made a £59.7m surplus, and it holds reserves of £1.5bn (including £430m in immediately available cash). They have also cited Brexit and economic uncertainty as creating a need to expand what they call their their “financial headroom”. Yet their headroom is already substantial and their most recent financial statements say that there are “no material uncertainties” posing a threat to their ability to stay afloat. The UCU has called this out as opportunism – university managers are using wider events as excuses to make these cuts.

Sackings on this scale are unprecedented for a UK university in good financial health. So why are they doing this?

UoM’s managers (including the Vice-Chancellor who was paid £296,000 as of last year) have cited the HE Bill passed by Parliament just 2 weeks ago. They say they can raise their score in the Teaching Excellence Framework by cutting staff and student numbers. As the UCU branch put it: “the aim is to become a smaller but more elite university, regardless of the costs to staff or the impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

This is a damning indictment of the government’s reforms, and a sign of things to come if we don’t reverse them. Universities are being incentivised to reshape themselves, not to benefit students, workers or communities, but to game TEF ratings and play the market.

Workers and students at Manchester are already gearing up to stop these cuts in their tracks. NCAFC sends its solidarity, and in the weeks and months to come we’ll be ready to take action to support them. At the same time, we’ll keep up the fight to reverse these ruinous reforms before they can do any more damage.

Higher education reform bill passes: we’ll fight to repeal it

Hard-won concessions have blunted and delayed some parts of the ruinous reforms, but they’re not enough. Now we fight to reverse it and win a democratic National Education Service.

Graffiti reading "What Parliament does the streets can undo"Parliament has rushed through the Conservatives’ Higher Education and Research Bill – the legislative vehicle for their ruinous agenda of fee-raising, university-privatising reforms – in advance of the snap General Election. But that doesn’t mean the issue is closed – we will keep campaigning until they’re reversed!

The battle so far

Over the past eighteen months, we’ve fought a major battle against the reforms. We have argued the case against the misleadingly named Teaching “Excellence” Framework (TEF), presented our alternative vision of a free education system governed by democracy not the chaos of the market, and through protest and direct action – most notably the boycott of the National Student Survey, which closed for 2017 last weekend – we’ve generated pressure that has extracted concrete concessions from the government. Despite attempts by some student union bureaucrats to wreck the union’s democratically-agreed strategy, the NSS boycott was taken up in large numbers on many campuses, and despite substantial spending by many universities to cajole and bribe(!) students into giving them good marks, participation at a number of institutions is expected to come out below the crucial 50% threshold that makes the data unusable.

The goal of the NSS boycott is leverage. By disrupting a mechanism that is crucial to both the future implementation of the TEF, and the current management of the HE market through league tables and disciplining workers, departments and institutions, we gain power. Instead of coming to the negotiating table empty-handed, hoping (as some student union bureaucrats naively seem to do) to convince an implacably opposed and powerful enemy with a few nice words, we say this to the government and university managers: until our demands are heard and satisfied, you will not be permitted to continue with business as usual.

And our political strategy, including the boycott and many other activities, has indeed begun to win concessions. Many amendments were passed in the House of Lords, and though the Commons reversed many of them, we retained a number, including a tightening of regulations on new private universities, and a delay in the link between the TEF and tuition fees until 2020.

What Parliament does, the streets can undo

But these compromises are not enough. Fees are still set to rise (if only with inflation), the TEF is still coming, and measures to ease and accelerate privatisation will be put into place.

However, the story is not over. Everything the government does, we have the power to resist and reverse. History is littered with failed right-wing initiatives, passed but then withdrawn in the face of protest, direct action and industrial action. Famously, Thatcher’s poll tax was scrapped after enormous numbers refused to pay it and marched in militant demonstrations across the country, making it impossible to implement.

We can and will reverse the higher education reforms by continuing and stepping up our campaign. The NSS boycott begun this year must – as the vote at NUS conference last year mandated – continue until the reforms are dead. To make the 2018 boycott bigger, we should be preparing now, in particular assessing our local campaigns to learn from what worked well, and convincing and signing-up next year’s boycotters as far in advance as possible.

We also need protest and direct action, locally and nationally. Actions should be part of a coherent drive to add to the pressure, win hearts and minds to join the campaign, mobilise and organise activists, put the issue on the public agenda, and issue a show of force to our institutions and the government. We need discussions with education workers, whose trade unions supported our boycott enthusiastically, to see how we can cooperate and how their industrial muscle might be brought to bear on the issue.

And our movement and NUS need to organise all this under the banner of an unequivocal political demand. No fudging and no tinkering round the edges – let’s be crystal clear that we won’t settle for less than the complete reversal of the reforms.

Vision

The campaign also needs to offer a convincing, concrete alternative that can inspire and win people to the cause. We’re not simply asking for the old status quo back and we shouldn’t pretend it was good enough. Instead we want to revolutionise education and build a democratically-run, free-to-access, cradle-to-grave National Education Service, open to everyone and serving people not profit. And we will fund this and other social measures by taxing the rich and taking over the banks. So please keep contributing to NCAFC’s big debate to build our vision of what that would look like.

The General Election

Finally, the results of the upcoming General Election will have a massive impact. As well as the smaller parties on the left, now the Labour leadership supports free education too. We want opposition parties to pledge that they will reverse the reforms and build the free and democratic education system we are demanding. If Labour or a Labour-led coalition forms the next government on such pledges, that will be excellent but even then we can’t sit back and rely on leaders to solve our problems for us. They’ll face resistance and pressure to compromise, and we’ll need to stay active to demonstrate support and generate pressure in the opposite direction for the Left to follow through on its promises. And if the election results in a Tory government or a Tory-led coalition, we won’t give up. So either way, protest and direct action will be needed.

Educate, agitate, organise!

We have a big battle ahead of us, but it’s one we can win. So let’s get out there and educate, agitate, organise – keep spreading the word about what is happening, raising our demands and arguing to convince people of our cause, and getting democratically organised for discussion and action. That means both in local groups from campus Free Education campaigns to Labour Clubs, and on the national level – come to NCAFC’s Summer Conference to discuss and decide our next steps.

See you on the streets to reverse the reforms!

NCAFC endorses Malia Bouattia for NUS President

Malia BouattiaLast year, we recommended a vote for Malia Bouattia who ran and won against the incumbent Megan Dunn, becoming the first woman of colour to serve as NUS National President. Bouattia ran on an explicitly leftwing platform, promising to campaign for free education and against Prevent, to defend international students and support liberation campaigns. Unlike a lot of sabbs who say the right things but do little to put them into practice in office, Bouattia has proven that her commitment to activism and radical left politics is genuine.

She’s been supporting rent strikes, consistently advocating for the rights of all migrants, and creating stronger links between NUS and UCU. She introduced free regional networks to reach out to students on the ground and invited grassroots activists (from groups including Black Lives Matter and Movement for Justice) to be keynote speakers at her events. She has also been a vocal advocate of the NSS boycott and one of the loudest voices against the marketisation of Higher Education – not tinkering around the edges but opposing the Tory HE reforms as a whole and talking about free and liberated education as the alternative.

Throughout her presidency, Bouattia has faced a smear campaign, from the rightwing of NUS and in the national press. Some of this has been motivated by opposition to her politics but some of it has been, quite simply, racist – influenced by the fact that she is Muslim, and a woman of colour.

While Bouattia has in many ways steered NUS, in the right direction, it will take much more than one President to truly transform it into the powerful, fighting union we need it to be. We need an NUS that is democratic, militant, and that confronts government in the streets. NUS must further develop its links with grassroots groups in the UK and internationally; it must open up its training to grassroots activists; and the leadership must make itself open and accountable to NUS’ grassroots. We also need an NUS left which organises openly and democratically, rather than organising behind closed doors and assigning positions of authority by patronage – as it is unfortunately often the case.

Any result other than Bouattia being re-elected would mean a significant shift to the right in NUS. The small steps that have been made this year – towards the grassroots, and towards confrontation with government – would be completely rolled back. We have no doubt that NUS would become less confrontational and less political. That’s why we’re urging our supporters to vote for Malia Bouattia again, as well as for our candidates: Ana Oppenheim for VP Higher Education, Jenny Killin for VP Welfare and Hansika Jethnani for Block of 15.