On Monday NHS workers went on strike. On Tuesday FE lecturers demonstrated for their right to strike. Today civil service workers are on the picket lines and right now people are protesting for social housing in Kensington and blocking Boris Johnson from entering the world’s largest housing fair.

Meanwhile students are mobilising for Free Education on their campuses. Successful motions have been passed in places from Royal Holloway to Stirling University; coaches are being booked from Birmingham to Warwick to Scotland; debates and events held in Falmouth, Plymouth, Cambridge; and supportive motions being passed in trade unions such as the UCU and the RMT.

The fight for Free Education is not an isolated one. It is part of the bigger fight against austerity, the fight for fair pay, the NHS and social housing. That is why this Saturday we will be marching together with the trade unions in London and ask you all to join us.

We will be meeting at 10:30 on Blackfriars Embankment. Look out for our massive “Free Education NOW” banner. (Facebook event here)

However, we obviously all know that this demonstration is only one step in the long struggle against austerity and for Free Education. That is why we will be meeting up after the demo from 7pm at London College 1964935_10152843698493408_9050376829880739828_nof Communication to have some fun and get to know each other better. (Facebook event here)

Finally, on Sunday there will be a meeting of the NCAFC NC to organise the next month in the run-up to the 19th of November, talk about the organisation and plan our national conference. This meeting is OPEN to all NCAFC members ! The meeting is happening at UCL (near Euston station) from 12 pm. (Facebook event here)

Have you have been convinced that London is the place to be this weekend, but don’t have anywhere to stay? Then please get in touch with us ([email protected]) and we will find some lovely students who will hook you up with a spare mattress or sofa in their living room.

Students turn out to support health workers’ picket

nhsstrikeStudents from University College London and other London campuses turned out to support members of Unison at University College Hospital on strike on Monday 13 October over pay. An activist with UCL Defend Education told NCAFC:

“Impressive numbers of nurses and supporters alike withstood horrible weather conditions to send a clear message to Cameron, Hunt and co ­ cuts to the NHS have to stop. The anger and betrayal the nurses (and midwives, on their first strike in 133 years) were feeling was clear to see in the passion and commitment with which they picketed, chanted and even marched around the hospital. With further industrial action to come in the week ahead, it’s clear hospital workers won’t give up the fight for the fair wage they so obviously deserve.”

UK student solidarity for Hong Kong democracy protests

10355001_731960050212323_5263113539912234199_n10534724_877479252262967_644358709544393374_nOn Friday 10 October, in collaboration with NUS London and the Hong Kong Overseas Alliance, NCAFC called a demonstration in solidarity with the democracy movements in Hong Kong. Around 150 students attended, in spite of police opposition to our presence. Demonstrator Amy G from UCL wrote the following report:

Day 19 of the protest in Hong Kong and the 25th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square seems a fitting time for protesters to descend on the Chinese Embassy, to demonstrate against the appalling lack of democracy Hong Kong is currently suffering under. The police presence was farcically large, with far more present than necessary to control the peaceful but passionate protest, that saw hundreds of people crying out for workers rights and civic nominations in solidarity with their Hong Kong peers. There were rousing and empowering speeches from Chinese students as well as those from the UK, denouncing the shameful behaviour of the Chinese government and encouraging the UK and the rest of the world to stand by Hong Kong. One thing was clear, workers and students worldwide will always support each other in the fight for democracy.10633691_10152319055531607_2764832572780139990_o

Report of NUS NEC: success on national demonstration, disgrace on Iraq/Kurdistan


This is a report written by a member of the NCAFC, Daniel Lemberger Cooper, who also sits on the National Executive of the National Union of Students (NUS NEC).

It does not reflect the views of NCAFC. We would encourage contributions and reports on the points raised as well as for future NEC goings-on.


Dear reader, this is a rather lengthy report, but I would urge you to stick with it. The areas I will cover are:

  1. NUS vis a vis the free education demonstration, taking place on the 19th November.
  2. Accountability of NUS Full Time Officers (FTOs)
  3. Motions debated at NUS NEC.


As was the case with the first NUS NEC meeting of the year, the most recent, and second council of the 2014/15 year was coloured by debates about international politics, chiefly in the Middle East.

Free education demonstration, 19th November

There was cause for celebration: the meeting ratified NUS’s backing of the NCAFC and other assorted organisations 19th November demonstration for free education (see here). This is very positive. This was made possible by National Conference’s policy on education funding turning – for the first time since 1996 (apart from a brief interlude in 2003-5 when the policy was ignored and not acted on) – to free education, funded by taxing the wealthy in society.

It was also made possible by the solid work of left-wingers on the NEC taking the time to organise together and convince others of the arguments for the demonstration. More of this should continue.

The NUS leadership, including Toni Pearce, Raechel Mattey, Piers Telemacque and Megan Dunn, offered their support for the demonstration early on. The reasons for the NUS leadership gifting their support seem mixed: firstly, a recognition that policy has passed, and must be adhered to; a more welcoming attitude than previous FTOs towards political action in the lead up to the general election in 2015. It must be noted that Labour students made a “non-serious” (as was described to me by a Labour students NEC member) effort to challenge the demonstration motion.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that the demonstration now commands the support of every part of the NUS structures, including each of the Nation’s Presidents – from USI, Scotland and Wales.

The challenge now will be turning this momentum into activists and students on campuses come November.

Accountability of NUS Full Time Officers’

NEC meetings begin with accountability sessions for the Full Time Officers (FTOs). In turn, each of the FTOs presents a report on their activity from the last meeting. I think a few points are worth discussion.

At NUS national conference this year, policy was passed to support the TUC ‘Britain Need’s a Pay Rise’ demonstration on the 18th October. In response to a question I posed about what exactly the union has been doing to organise and prepare for this, the National President, Toni Pearce stated that member unions will be invited to attend, and a “student-bloc” would be formed on the demonstration itself. We should make sure NUS FTOs take this up with energy.

We put questions to the FTOs about the much criticised ‘Lead and Change’ training programme. ‘Lead and Change’ is a residential training event for sabbatical officers during the summer months. It is NUS’s foremost opportunity to inculcate their way of doing things, aiming to “develop a deep understanding of community organising, power and strategy for change whilst having opportunities to put skills into practice through discussions, simulated activities and planning.” This year the running of the school was outsourced to ‘Movement for Change’, a Blairite front, funded by the tax-dodging Lord Sainsbury. James Elliott, a national committee member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) has written more. It was admitted that the decision to invite MFC was a mistake, and then it would not be done again.

Megan Dunn, Vice President Higher Education, commented on the Labour Party’s new pamphlet on higher education, ‘Robbins Rebooted’ which can be read here. She argued that the proposals, particularly around the introduction of business, were of some concern. Cumulatively, Dunn believes that the proposals amounted to little concretely. Dunn said she would be seeking a meeting with Liam Byrne, the author of the report (and former Manchester SU General Secretary) to put pressure on him for more.

Two motions debated at NUS NEC

The meeting then turned to motions submitted by NEC members. Unfortunately this part of the meeting was no feast of reason. There are two motions I want to focus on: Iraqi solidarity and Israel/PalestineI urge you to read the motions before continuing.

The “Iraqi solidarity” motion had been worked on with Roza Salih, a Strathclyde university student of Kurdish descent (she submitted an almost identical motion to the Scottish equivalent of the executive, the Scottish Executive Council, which I will post later, which, incidentally, did pass! One must ask Scottish executive members why vote for a motion in Scotland, but not in England?!).

The motion was opposed by Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Officer, for astonishing and bewildering reasons. Bouattia argued that the motion was “Islamophobic” and “pro USA intervention” – (see Aaron Kiely, a fellow NUS NEC member’s, tweet during the meeting as reflective of the position). The motion then fell as large numbers of NEC members either abstained or voted against (including the bulk of the political Left on NEC). I think this says a lot about the current state of the student movement.

(I must also put on record that after only a single round of speeches, Toni Pearce moved the debate on. This was wrong: there was no opportunity to respond to Bouattia’s allegations. I had my hand up to speak in response, but was not called.)

Let us look at Bouattia’s arguments: is the motion anti-Muslim or pro US intervention?

The motion was partly written by a Kurdish student activist, and presented by the International students’ officer, Shreya Paudel. I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism.


The US occupation, and its aftermath, has been an utter disaster for the people of Iraq. Resulting governments, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, have been authoritarian and carried out virulent Shia sectarianism. A civil war in the mid 2000s killed 34,000 civilians. Today there are 1.6 million refugees.

The dynamics in 2014 are complex. ISIS, who have grown out of Al-Qaeda, have seized huge swathes of the country; there is a new, shaky, shia-sectarian government; and a Kurdish regional government, whose self determination I believe we should support.

The ultra-Islamist group ISIS is a threat to all the people of Iraq. It is repressing and persecuting minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and Sunni Muslim Arabs. On the 29th June it declared a “caliphate” (a religious dictatorship). It has carried out rape and other forms of sexual violence are being used as weapons against women in IS-occupied areas.

These developments have been exacerbated and driven by US policy deliberately fostering sectarianism.

The situation is desperate.

In this situation, it is fundamental that the political Left, trade union and student organisations, like NUS, show our solidarity with the Iraqi people, in particular the hard-pressed student, workers and women’s organisations, and those fighting for democracy and equality.

It is unclear whether Western forces (which congregated in Paris the day before the NEC meeting, on the 15th of September, to announce a “game plan” to defeat ISIS) will send boots onto the ground in Iraq. We know already that French aircrafts have begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq; and that US aid has assisted the Kurds and Yazidis. However it is unlikely they will want a re-run of a war that even they believe to have been a colossal failure. It may be more likely that the USA assists established forces from afar to defeat ISIS.

However, the motion cannot be clearer in saying that such forces cannot be relied upon to deliver democratic change in Iraq: “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.” If one were to believe it is not sufficiently clear or that the motion is not worded strongly enough, fine: make an amendment to the motion; or seek to take parts to remove or strengthen a particular aspect. Instead, the whole motion – which calls for solidarity with oppressed forces in Iraq – was argued as wrong. This is a grave shame!

It is also true – and Left-wingers should think this over – that the Kurds and Yazidi’s thus far would not have been able to survive if it had not been for aid from the Americans. Calling simply for an end to this intervention is the same as calling for the defeat of the Peshmerga forces by ISIS. The policy is based on a negative criteria – opposing the US and UK – instead of positive critera – solidarity with the oppressed.

Perhaps this is what Bouattia meant when saying that the motion is pro-intervention? Such a suggestion is arrived at only when one’s “analysis” becomes an issue of principle: that even within limited parameters, that to suggest that imperialism is not the only problem is somehow to “support” imperialism. This is the basis of “Stalinist” politics on international questions: that one considers forces that oppose the US as either progressive or, at worst, not the real issue -no matter how barbaric and reactionary and fascistic that force is. This is not a useful or effective way of looking at the world.

The debate

Two interrelated issues struck me about this debate.

Firstly, there is a stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement. This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad. Of course this idea is not applied consistently (and could not possibly be) – eg the majority of the NEC has not accepted current and former Black Students’ Officers’ defence of Julian Assange or the SWP. But I think it was a factor here, perhaps because people see or claim to see debate on the Middle East as something that the BSO should somehow have veto power over, regardless of the issues and the arguments made.

Combined with this, there seems to be a low level of political education and even engagement and interest in the NEC. Some appear not to research issues, work out what they think, engage and take ideas forward. Instead, some are not very interested and vote on basis of who they want to ally with on NEC. In other words, many people who voted against didn’t to care about is happening in Iraq.

Positive Solidarity 

Another motion I believe deserves some discussion was on solidarity with an organisation, Workers’ Advice Centre/WAC-Ma’an, that organises Jewish and Arab workers in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This was voted down by both the Left and Right on NEC, for different reasons.

At the last NEC policy was passed favouring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy (BDS) – which I voted against. Policy was also passed favouring a two states settlement for the region, which I proposed.

For the Right on NEC (the “Right” on NEC are not Conservative party members but are certainly on the “Right” of debates on the NEC), the possibility of giving a tiny sum of our national union’s money to anyone – whether that is a student attacked by the police on a demonstration, or striking college workers, is unthinkable. We must challenge this! According to NUS estimates at national conference, there is a cumulative £4 million expenditure for 2014/15. Offering our resources to those that share our morals is important and potentially highly useful.

Unfortunately, this argument was also pursued by the Left-winger opposing the motion. Left-wingers: this is not something we should be in the business of doing. If left-wingers disagree with a motion, they should argue it on those grounds, not on the basis the right-wing argument that NUS “doesn’t have enough money”.

WAC Maan was established in the 1990s. It is one of the rays of hope in a bleak situation in Israel/Palestine. It’s an independent, grassroots trade union centre which organises in sectors and industries often neglected by the mainstream trade unions.

It shows that organisation and politics that unite Jewish and Arab workers on the basis of internationalism, anti-racism, opposition to the occupation, and basic class solidarity, are possible.

Currently WAC Maan are set to enforce the first collective agreement against bosses in the West Bank, in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim, at the Zafarty Garage. This is precedent setting. It is also important as it is forcing the courts to look at how Israeli employers manipulate entry permits as a way of getting rid of militants.

If workers across the occupied territories were organised, they would be able to exert considerable influence over the Israeli government, and over the future of the occupied territories.

To conclude: there are clearly disagreements amongst the NEC, and political Left, about international politics. I hope we can continue to have those discussions openly and frankly. I would certainly encourage those on the NEC to write down their opinions on the subject, particularly if they disagree.

I will continue to write reports of NUS NEC activities, and can be contacted on: [email protected]


International students win at UAL

Non-Brits, like myself, have to jump through many hoops in order to get their student visa sorted. Acquiring an unconditional offer from the desired university, having a healthy bank account or scholarship, passing one of the few acceptable English tests, paying noticeable sums of money for the visa process and convincing UK Home Office case workers that the intention of applying for the visa is to genuinely study in the United Kingdom, are only a few of many steps that need to be taken for an international student to end up in the UK. Of course for someone like me, from a country like Iran, where the British embassy is closed, this process becomes significantly longer and more costly as the British embassies across the globe keep hold of the applicant’s passports while they process their application, restricting their ability to travel throughout the unspecified processing period which can exceed a month.


Even after all these steps are taken and the visa has been granted, depending on nationality, there will be more obstacles on the way. It can range from being questioned by plain-clothed Home Office agents during the wait for the connecting flight in Bahrain about your father’s occupation, all the way to being held at a London airport for your passport’s authenticity to be confirmed. If not from a Commonwealth country, you would only have 7 days to register with the police after arriving in the UK. If you are unlucky enough to live in London, there is only one place where all non-Commonwealth temporary migrants can go to do this. Where some have queued for hours on end just so they don’t miss their seven-day deadline. Throughout your stay, if you change address, change jobs, change course or university, change your marital status or get a new visa, you would have 7 days to report the change to the police. Forgetting to do so can result in fines of up to £5,000 and six months imprisonment.


The student has now arrived in Britain, registered with the police, enrolled on their course and hopefully has managed to find a place to live. This student would be naïve to think the draconian measures put in place to scrutinise every aspect of their life is now behind them. Thanks to the Home Office revoking the ‘Highly Trusted Sponsorship’ status of London Metropolitan University in 2012 in a heartbeat, which almost led to the deportation of 2,000 students , now many universities go above and beyond the Home Office’s requirements for attendance monitoring ‘just to be on the safe side’.


After the London Met chaos, my institution, University of the Arts London (UAL), resulted to a weekly sign-in policy for all international students during term time, which amounted to over 30 contact points throughout the year. This, of course, was well beyond the Home Office’s requirement of 10 contact points per year. However, it was not as draconian as fingerprinting students in Sunderland and Ulster or having three sign-in points per week at Coventry.


At University of the Arts London’s Students’ Union (SUARTS), with the support of our international students, we ran a campaign, putting pressure on the institution to change its attendance monitoring policy. We were persistent and had a clear vision of what we had in mind. Today, I am proud to say, we have achieved what we were asking for, for over a year! UAL no longer requires international students to sign-in on a weekly basis.


After jumping through so many hoops to get into the country and feeling unwelcome by governmental policies and attitudes such as the scrapping of the post-study work visa without prior notice, the last thing an international student expects, is to be treated with suspicion by their university. Treating international students as if they are on parole is simply unacceptable.


Let’s be clear, the battle is far from over. As I write this, at least 47 colleges and universities across the UK have been revoked of their Highly Trusted Sponsorship, leaving tens, if not hundreds of thousands of international students without a qualification, a refund or any other protection or compensation. We are still being denied the right to work in the UK for a couple of years after we graduate to gain experience. We are still not allowed to do freelance work or make money from our athletic talents. Most importantly, we are now, perhaps more than any other time in modern Britain, facing Xenophobia and Racism as immigrant bashing has become the norm within mainstream politics.


There is a lot of work to be done but I believe small successes like this is what help us keep going. For us at UAL, this will be an important first step to ensure our international students don’t feel isolated, unwelcome and under surveillance. I hope in the near future no student is made to believe they are not welcome in this country.


Mostafa Rajaai

Culture and Diversity Officer


NUS supports National Demo as Students Prepare for Autumn of Rebellion

Unity-is-strength-NUS-bannerThe NUS today confirmed its support for the National Demonstration for Free Education on November 19. The demonstration has been called by a coalition of student activists, including the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the Young Greens and the Student Assembly Against Austerity. The support of the NUS will mean an increased national mobilisation from across the country, and it is predicted that thousands of students from across the country will descend on London to join the demonstration.

The demonstration will take place under the banner of ‘Free Education: No fees. No cuts. No debt’, marching once more through Central London and marks an escalation of opposition to the government’s programme of fees and privatisation in education and will provide a spark for further action. It will follow a week of direct action throughout the country, putting the debate over education funding at the top of the agenda in the run up to the General Election.

James Elliott, NCAFC National Committee said: “It is great that the NUS has followed the mandate of conference to campaign for free education. We know that free education is not won just by passing policy, but by taking concrete action on the streets and in our communities and colleges. I am glad that the NUS has caught up with the students it represents who have already been working hard to build the demonstration.”

Barbara Ntumy, NUS Women’s Committee said: “We need to send a clear message that education is not and should never be for sale. We need free education so everyone can access it not matter their background or circumstances. “

Kirsty Haigh, NUS Scotland Vice President Communities, said: “This demonstration is going to be the single biggest action in the fight for free education this year and so it’s excellent that the NUS are going to help us make it even bigger. Not only are the government not listening to our demands, but are trying to enact the opposite by lifting the fee cap. It’s clear the boardroom isn’t working so it’s time we take to the streets.”

NUS NEC to vote on motion for free education demonstration on Tuesday, 16th September – What You Can Do!

london-student-protests-300x200-1On Tuesday, 16th September, NUS’s National Executive (NEC) are set to vote on whether to offer support for the NCAFC and other student groups National Demonstration, taking place on the 19th November, 2014.

If you want to encourage NEC members to vote for the motion, we would encourage you to do the following:

  • Write to NUS NEC members directly using our model letter.
  • Tweet at the NUS NEC hashtag #NUSNEC to express your support for the motion, or post on your other social media platforms.

For more information, email: [email protected] or 07840136728

Free education motion for NUS NEC

The following motion – which calls for the National Union of Students to support the national demonstration that NCAFC and other organisations have called for the 19th November – is being put to the NUS National Executive (NEC) on the 16th September.

If you would like more information or would like to support the motion, contact [email protected]

Fighting for free education and decent jobs for all

NEC believes

1. National Conference 2014 voted by a substantial majority, after a long and passionate debate, to “oppose and campaign against all methods of charging students for education – including tuition fees and a ‘graduate tax’ which is nothing more than a euphemism for ‘student debt’.” It voted “to make the case for free education and demand that free, accessible, quality education, and decent wages, public services and benefits, are funded by:

a. Ending tax evasion and avoidance and cracking down on tax havens

b. Imposing serious taxes on the incomes, inheritance and capital gains of the rich

c. Taking the banks, and their wealth, under democratic control”

2. National conference voted to campaign around the slogan “Fund decent jobs for all”, by fighting for “expanded public services to create socially useful, secure, well-paid jobs”, with associated demands around job security and the Living Wage.

3. Since National Conference, a coalition of student groups & campaigns have come together to call a national demo on November 19th under the banner of ‘Free education: no fees, no cuts, no debt.’

NEC further believes

1. With a year until the general election, there are clear opportunities to make substantial gains for students, if we put out a clear message and mobilise the movement

2. Based on policy passed by conference, we should be campaigning for a free, well-funded education system at every level and the creation of secure jobs with decent rights and a living wage. These policies entail a radical redistribution of wealth and power by taxation of the rich and big business.

NEC resolves

1. To affirm that NUS will campaign on these themes over the next year, using slogans such as “Fund free education – tax the rich” and “Fund decent jobs for all – tax the rich” when we march with the TUC on October 18th.

2. To formally endorse the national demonstration on November 19 and encourage unions to mobilise for it, and to advise the demonstration organisers on necessary safety measures to put in place

3. To also emphasise how cuts, unemployment and debt hit the most oppressed hardest, and the liberation aspect of these policies.

4. To issue a press release setting out support for the demonstration and the politics in this motion.

5. To support a ‘student bloc’ at the demonstration of the Tory party conference and a lobby at Labour Party conference around these themes.

Proposed: Daniel Lemberger Cooper

Seconded: Megan Dunn, Clifford Fleming, James Elliot, Kirsty Haigh, Maddy Kirkman, Abdi-aziz Suleiman, Dario Celaschi, Sai Englehert, Zekarias Negussue, Malia Bouattia, Vonnie Sandlan, Shreya Paudel, Gordon Maloney, Shakira Martin.

Getting academic staff behind the campaign for free education

This article was originally given as a workshop by Luke Martell, an academic at Sussex University at NCAFC’s summer training.


How can academic and other staff at universities be mobilised behind the campaign for free education? There are ways we can appeal to their sectional or instrumental interest. There are principled reasons we can appeal to also, but members of NCAFC know these.

And sometimes you need more than this when it comes to staff.
Free universities

But first of all, if you’re having a campaign about free education, it’s a chance to think about free universities. These are in a third sector, not state or marketised, autonomous and co-operatively run. They provide education for the sake of education, not education to make money. They’re free as in autonomous, but also in that they don’t charge fees. The most prominent example in Britain is the Social Science Centre in Lincoln that is a sort of free university. The Free University Brighton is trying to set up a degree that will cost nothing, and be taught in the evenings by academics in their own time.

There have been other free universities in the UK and globally. Some have arisen out of campaigns, like the occupation movement. There was Tent City University outside St Paul’s, that was a sort of free university. The Bank of Ideas occupation of a disused UBS office in London set off a series of offerings of education for free.
Engaging staff in the campaign for free education

But the NCAFC campaign is about free education at conventional public universities. There are ways it can engage staff in the campaign. One is around consumerist student surveys like the NSS that feed into league tables, and internal forms of student feedback. These are starting to have implications for staff. At Surrey managers are proposing putting staff into capability procedures if they fail to get high enough grades in student evaluations. In theory, capability procedures are a way of helping staff who have a problem doing their job. But they can be used by managers to dismiss staff. We should have student feedback for democratic and accountability reasons. But this is a misuse of it and an insufficent basis on which to judge staff’s teaching. The campaign can engage staff by arguing for free education as an alternative to this consumerism and managerialism being used against them.

We can appeal to staff by talking about the unfree university’s diversion of expenditure from academic teaching. There’s been an expansion of spending on marketing at UK universities, especially since £9k fees were introduced. The money for this has to come from somewhere. At for-profit universities in the USA more is spent on marketing and recruitment than student support. Money’s being diverted into ‘wow factor’ buildings to look great to visiting parents and applicants, less designed for students and staff that work in them.

The campaign for free education can draw attention to the implications of outsourcing for academic staff, being done to free up money for the consumer university. This is happening in areas like estates, security and catering. Academics often don’t see the meaning for them. They can be reluctant to get involved in campaigns against outsourcing because they view them as an issue for unions like Unison, Unite or the GMB. But academic staff should be involved in these out of concern for fellow staff and students. If that fails they should be involved by seeing other outsourcings as a precursor for the hiving off to for-profits of their own areas.

Academic support like IT and libraries will be outsourced and so will academic areas. Universities will increase online distance learning. It will be done by private IT firms taking work which could be done by in-house IT workers, and by casualised tutors, maybe sought through agencies. The for-profit International Study Group which provides foundation courses for international students is trying to muscle into first year undergraduate teaching.

Workers suffer from outsourcing in terms of pay and conditions. But perhaps where they suffer most is through changes to their pensions. These aren’t protected by TUPE processes for transferring workers to new employers. Making the link between unfree universities and worsening pensions is worth doing this year because the big campaign for UCU at pre-92 universities will be around new proposals for USS pensions.

We can point out to staff how unfree universities are altering the structure of education. One big change that has gone under the radar is the widespread closure of adult education at universities. Money is going into areas of growth, in terms of student income.

We can point out how staff in other areas stand to lose if theirs is contracted. There’s an argument I don’t like much because it’s about international competiveness. I don’t think global divisions is a principle we should adhere to. But if we have to to mobilise some staff, we can point out how higher fees will be leading to applicants going to overseas universities, for instance in the Netherlands and other continental locations, where high quality higher education is offered at much lower cost.

All these things I’ve talked about are driven by marketised fee-charging education and affect academic and other staff. There is less pressure for these at free tax-funded universities.
Staff and student action

A good factor in recent years has been combined staff and student action. I agree student and staff union reps should meet collectively regularly, and students should be on joint union committees. I’ve been impressed with students taking action on selfless campaigns for low-paid workers. In the past the student movement has often been focused on student and educational issues. And I agree it’s important that students take action on their own campuses as much as through national organisations and demos.

Staff can take industrial action, but students can take direct action. This is dangerous for staff, although it’s also dangerous for students, as we’ve seen in disciplinary procedures. Students can occupy and we’ve seen road-blocks by students on staff strike days.

At the same time staff need to be more imaginative about action. Some will disagree about this, but one day strikes have limits. Managers look out their windows on strike days and see a quieter campus. The day after it’s back to business as usual. Unions need to find more disruptive forms of action. NCAFC can play a role in persuading likeminded staff to look for more effective methods.
For free education

Free education, or maybe we should call it collectively funded education, is less prone to the problems for staff that I’ve mentioned. It’s possible. Look at Germany where the remaining states that charged fees, which weren’t that high anyway, are now stopping this. Free education is cheaper. We now know that the system of loans and defaults will be more expensive than the free education that came before. In an election year it’s worth bringing up again that there was no democratic mandate for increasing fees to £9k. The Conservatives won a minority of seats and formed a government by allying with a party who stood against increases in fees. Free education involves more community. There are less divisions than you get with outsourcing where workers are employed by different companies rather than just one, and where inequalities grow between senior managers whose salaries are inflated and low-paid outsourced workers who have their pay and pensions cut.

The campaign for free education is also a chance to rethink what we mean by free education. It’s taken to mean the tax-funded higher education up to 1997 when New Labour first introduced fees. That free education is what we’re fighting to get back. But this was also a higher education system that was inegalitarian and undemocratic. The campaign is not just a chance, rightly, to defend free education but also to rethink what we think it should be.

NCAFC Summer Training Agenda released

11785On the last weekend of August, NCAFC will be holdings it’s annual summer training event in Brighton, at Sussex University.

The event is FREE and if you cannot get your SU to fund your travel and then unable to do so yourself but still wish to attend then please get in touch ( and we can talk about subsidies. 

Register by emailing [email protected]om with your name, email address, phone number, your institution and whether you need accommodation for the 29th/30th/31st of August.

Students, officers and activists are invited to come and take part in workshops, discussion and debates focused on every aspect of the student movement. It will be a space for officers and activists to learn from each other, cover the major issues that are coming up in the year ahead, make plans, and get to know each other and have fun.

For four years, NCAFC has been at the heart of organising a democratic, campaigning, political student movement, and those years have seen a magnificent rise in student activism in response to the government’s cuts. Time and time again, however, we have seen grassroots activists leading the way and NUS following. As we approach a new academic year, it’s vital that we equip ourselves with the ideas and skills for the challenges ahead.

Come and meet other student union officers and activists from across the country and discuss how we build a student movement.

This year’s event will have a special focus on the upcoming Free-Education campaign. There will also be a meeting of the National Committee of NCAFC on the Monday following the training weekend, which all NCAFC members are welcome to attend.

August training agenda

FRIDAY (29/8/14)

7:00 – “meet and greet”, location: tba

SATURDAY (30/8/14)

10:45 – Registration
11:00 – Opening Plenary: What do we want the Free Education movement to look like?
12:00 – Small groups: introductions
12:30 – Access break
12:45 – Liberation Caucus 1
13:45 – Lecture: Education policy since 2010: where are we in the run-up to the General Election?
14:15 – lunch
15:00 – Workshop slot A: mobilizing (for the Free Education Campaign)
1. Getting other actors involved in the campaign (school, FE)
2. Getting other actors involved in the campaign (trade unions)
3. Mobilising your campus and setting up local activist groups
16:00 – Liberation caucus 2
16:30 – Access break
16:45 – Plenary: A brief history of student unionism: what are SUs for?
17:15 – Workshop slot B: student unions
1. Student Union commercial services
2. Student Union democracy
18:15 – Access break
18:30 – Liberation caucus 3
19:00 – Social

SUNDAY (31/8/14)

11:00 – Plenary: Liberation and class politics
12:00 – Liberation caucus 4
12:30 – Access break
12:45 – Workshop slot C: Other campaigns for the next year
1. Radical liberation campaigns and radicalising liberation societies/associations/forums
2. Housings and NHS campaigns (45min for each)
3. Living Wage and Workers’ rights campaigns
14:15 – Lunch
15:00 – Action Planning for Autumn in little groups
1. 15 minutes plenary to decide which things need planning (i.e. days of action)
2. Separate into those groups
16:30 – Access break
16:45 – Closing session
17:15 – FINISH

MONDAY (1/9/14)

10 am – 5pm: National Committee meeting