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 (againstfeesandcuts@gmail.com) 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

Motion to support Free education national demo at NUS NEC, 4th August

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 4th August.

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.

NUS and free education: learning from history

freeedUnderstanding the history of NUS when it comes to free education may be helpful in building a campaign. [Read more...]

Save politics at Northumbria!

northumbriaThis was originally posted on the Defend Education Northumbria facebook page, here.

 

Northumbria University is set to end its Politics degree with last admissions in 2015. Some of the reasons provided for this decision include a lack of interest and poor National Student Survey results. What will replace this course is yet to be decided, however it looks likely to be courses based around narrow interests (such as International Relations or International Development).

 

There’s a number of reasons students should oppose the proposed change:

1. There has been no staff or student consultation over these decisions.

2. One of Northumbria management’s aims for the next twenty years is to become a “business focused university.” This aim is likely to influence any future Politics course. Students may well find themselves having to learn about political institutions and structures rather than being encouraged to discuss and debate political ideas.

 

3. One of the reasons for the decreasing number of Politics students in recent years is that Northumbria has increased its entrance grades to 320 UCAS points (ABB). However, instead of recognising this fact, the university seems set on increasing entrance grades even further.

 

4. The Politics department is put at risk as a result of these changes. The University seems to have no intention of replacing staff that leave, meaning our department may shrink over the next few years.

 

5. The decision is a consequence of the further shift towards commercialisation as the University moves towards becoming a corporate money making organisation. Closing down courses which do not bring in enough students (and, in effect, money) is in practice leaving our curriculum open to market forces rather than educational needs.

 

The closing down of Politics is not beneficial to the staff, students and potential students of the future. We believe that instead of cutting political studies the University management should work with staff and students to improve the existing course. The University should also lower entry requirements and base admission on a passion for the topic rather than academic achievement.

 

Follow the campaign to Save Politics at Northumbria here: https://www.facebook.com/savepoliticsatnorthumbria

The government has just criminalised us

This blog post was originally published on the NUS website, here.

 

Hello. My name is Shreya and I’m the new NUS International Students’ Officer. I come from Nepal and will be graduating in (BA) International Political Studies from Middlesex University in a couple of weeks.
I wanted my first blog to be proactive and positive. I wanted to introduce myself properly, and tell you about all the things we’ll be campaigning on this year. But that will have to wait.
The government has just criminalised international students, and we need to talk about that.
As many of us have heard, the immigration minister, James Brokenshire, has announced that the government has suspended the Highly Trusted Status of Glyndwr University, and taken action against University of West London and Bedfordshire University so they can not recruit any international students. 57 private colleges have also had their license to sponsor international students suspended.
The government’s rationale for doing this is that these organisations are relying upon questionable English language testing systems and hence there have been 48,000 ‘fraudulent students’ who passed the test without sitting for it.
These institutions will not be able to recruit international students until further notice, and some may lose the right to teach the students they have. What does this mean for international students who are already studying in these institutions? Fortunately, most will be allowed to continue their studies for now.
In the meantime these institutions have to answer tough questions to the government about their activities, but who is asking the government the same tough questions about their activities?
The UK government has created a story using rhetoric and misdirection to paint a picture that international students are the criminals in this case, despite a criminal investigation which is looking at ETS, a company that the government specially licensed as a trusted provider of English tests for UK visas, one of only 5 in the world.
It is also looking at Agents who may have worked with ETS testing centres to sell fraudulent tests. The same Agents the UK government has failed to regulate effectively for years, and agents like them who have swindled vulnerable international students out of thousands of pounds already in the past 12 months.
Far more international students come to the UK each year and put their savings and hopes on the UK education system to attain world class qualification and for a better future, but who stood up for them in Parliament on Tuesday last week? Certainly not the government or the Labour party.
Most people would look at a scandal of this size and think that something must be wrong with the system for not picking up that a trusted centre for English testing could be the home of fraud on this level. The government’s system for protecting genuine international students and the UK visa system from these criminal activities is broken. To hide this broken system actively scapegoats immigrants.
The problem is systemic. The government stopped funding universities and colleges as it used to in 2010, along with the rise to £9000 fees for UK students and the institutions started to depend on international students as much of their financial life-blood.
We contribute £8 billion to the British economy every year, and so much of that goes to educational institutions.
For instance, let’s take Glyndwr University, one of those with its license suspended. £10 million of its £44 million income in 2012/13 came entirely from international students. In order to create courses and opportunities for local students the institution jumped through the many hoops the Home Office demanded only for the Home Office to then suspend the rights of the university to educate international students, because the government not the university missed a major criminal gang operating in their visa system.
But does this systemic failure reach people’s TV screens and radios?
On the contrary, the media is littered with headlines criminalizing international students like, “45,000 immigrants ‘cheated English tests’”, actively putting the blame on international students.

So what will NUS do?
We have decided to set up a task force which will consist of myself and the students’ union representatives of the affected institutions.
We will come up with a plan to carry out an intervention in the highest level of the government, while recognising that this comes at a time when immigrants are being targeted immensely in British politics.
We will be in touch with students from the affected institutions and will be constantly informing you about our actions.
We will also continue to strengthen and push for students’ unions to be active in representing international students. Whether this is supporting students unions to push for more involvement in this side of their university or college, or supporting students unions to exist in institutions which focus on international students. Students unions are vital in all institutions, private or public and the international student voice needs to be strong, when so many institutions just see them as a revenue source. It is time we stood up for students in these private colleges, who often have no voice. They need to also be full partners in their education, ensuring their courses are high quality and standing up to shoddy practices.
It’s a shame that my first blog post has to be reactive rather than proactive, but please accept a cordial ‘hello’ for now. I look forward to telling you more about our wider work in the international students’ campaign in the coming weeks.
But this is what we need to concentrate on right now. As we move towards a general election, we cannot allow international students to be criminalized in this way. And we won’t.

11 and 12 June: Defend Lambeth College! Defend education!

Lambeth collegeUCU members at Lambeth College are on indefinite strike against attacks on their terms and conditions. On 11 and 12 June, Unison members (support staff) will also join the strike. Below are details of the rallies they are holding, and other information on how you can support the strike. [Read more...]