Corbyn must go further with education policies

Corbyn picket lineNCAFC welcomes the education policies set out by Jeremy Corbyn in his ‘A Better Future for Young People’ announcement and elsewhere. Policies such as abolishingfurther and higher education fees; reinstating grants, Education Maintenance Allowance and Disabled Students’ Allowance; universal free childcare; putting free schools and academies back under local democratic control; and a decently-funded lifelong learning National Education Service would all be significant gains.

We believe that we can and must go further. The following policies would build on what Corbyn has already announced, and we call on him to adopt these too:

Free Education for International Students

Include international students in free education policy, regardless of nationality or migrant status. Reverse all attacks on international students and repeal the attacks on student visas since 2010.

Cops Off Campus

Abolish ‘Prevent’ and obtain a legal ban on police entering college and university campuses without the permission of workers’ and students’ unions.

A Diverse and Free Curriculum

Ensure a broader, more diverse curriculum by enabling full academic freedom in educational institutions. Repeal the consumerist measures of performance in education, such as the Research Excellence Framework and the National Student Survey. Review assessment in education; stop the use of examinations, which are burdensome and narrowly focussed and which drill and divisively rank students. Instead, move towards an education system focussed on exploration and development.

Universal Living Grants

Abolish means-tested grants. Provide grants that are enough to live on to all students, regardless of background, paid for through taxing the rich.

Democratic Education and Limiting Pay Inequality

Implement a 5:1 pay ratio across the whole education sector. Enable decisions in Further Education and Higher Education institutions to be made by democratically elected representatives of workers and students. In students’ unions, this would partly mean leaving behind the charity status framework and the 1994 Education Act. Instead, create a settlement for students’ unions which lifts existing barriers to democratic practice and guarantees political autonomy.

We are in Credit! Free Knowledge Against Austerity – Call for a European Mobilisation

The NCAFC is republishing this Europe-wide student statement. The original multi-lingual statement can be found here.

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Today, 2nd August 2015, we met in Riot Village with delegations from the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Denmark and also from Italy, in order to share experiences, analysis and programs regardings the common condition of students in Europe.

During the discussion we have analysed the effects of European strategies about the building of the so called ‘knowledge economy’ in schools and universities:

– on access to knowledge, more and more based on criteria of the socio-economic background because of the attack on welfare systems;

– on the rearticulation of schools’ and universities’ internal governance. These educational spaces are experiencing the closure of the spaces of participation for students and workers and a growing influence, both direct and indirect, by private companies;

– on the mutations of the forms of teaching methods and evaluation as a result of the transformation of the social role of knowledge, which is more and more subordinated to short-term private interests so losing its capacity of transformation of reality.

Many of these processes are strengthening with the European economic and financial crisis. The governance of austerity and the blackmail of debt have highlighted inequalities also concerning access to education and to its capability of guaranteeing a future of dignity to each and every of us. Today, from the first time after World War II, our generation lives material conditions which are poorer than the ones the previous generation experienced. We are convinced that education plays a crucial role in this process and that our struggle in schools and universities is capable of inverting this process.

We cannot forget the crisis has an effect on the whole society. Those governing us are constantly repeating the mantra that we must repay the debt through less rights, less resources for education and welfare, less democracy. We want to say that today, after five years of cuts and attacks on education and rights, we are more than ever in credit of democracy, of rights, of resources. Our aim is to extend the greek ‘OXI’, which was pronounced with the referendum, on a european scale: we have not only to stand in solidarity; we want to connect the struggles because austerity affects our lives too and the debt’s blackmail can be broken by rebuilding positive power dynamics in opposition of european elites.

For this reason we believe that it is fundamental to imagine and practice a European mobilisation together during the upcoming months, which could maybe start from the shared experience of the International Students Day on the 17th November. We open this proposal starting from our students’ condition and from our generation, as well as from our struggles which developed in recent months. We believe this perspective can be extended to all those who believe that austerity is not the solution and instead that there is an alternative that we want to start practicing. We need to stop the actual policies to give space to democracy and the possibility of a dignified future for all.

The students from the international meeting ἐπιστήμη
Rete della Conoscenza
Link Coordinamento Universitario
Unione Degli Studenti
Syriza’s Youth
Union Nationale Lycéenne
Aktion Kritischer Schüler_Innen (AKS)
De Nieuwe Universiteit Amsterdam
National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts
DGS – Danske Gymnasieelevers Sammenslutning

At this link you can find Blockupy’s call for a European OXI: http://bit.ly/1JZyFSq

WTF is Going On? Nationwide Meetings

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Students are now facing an attack on education that is just as severe as the introduction of 9k tuition fees in 2010.

But this time, the issues aren’t quite so obvious. Instead of one big headline, the government plans, announced in the 2015 budget, are attacking education from every angle – the conversion of grants to loans for the poorest students, the change of student debt repayment conditions, the introduction of new teaching metrics, cuts that will lead to the destruction of elements of FE, and more.

As student activists, we obviously plan on fighting the government.

But unless thousands and thousands of previously apolitical students understand what is going on, we will never win. We need to broaden our movement, get them on board, and take on George Osborne together.

Which is why the NCAFC fully supports our affiliates the Young Greens in their call for a nationwide series of public meetings, titled: ‘WTF is going on? The Fight for Education’.

We are calling on local activists and NCAFC members to get involved in these meetings, help organise existing events and set them up where they don’t exist. Building local coalitions of left-wing supporters of the Greens, Labour, Left Unity, of all parties and of none; and of Free Education activists, worker activists, climate activists and liberation activists; and involving them all in the job of explaining the issues to students: this is the only way to get the message out.

There is a lot of work to be done. We need to speak to literally thousands of students on every campus if we want to maximise our mobilisation.

We are planning to distribute thousands of 20 page pamphlets containing in detail policy details – titled ‘Their Education and Ours’ – over the next few months and in these public meetings. We also aim to get speakers to as many events as possible, work with local activist groups, help provide leaflets and fliers to spread information about the November 4th national demonstration and more – with the aim of building the level of political consciousness within the student population as quickly as possible. These meetings are just the start.

Post on the Facebook group or all-member Loomio if you need to get in touch.

NCAFC opposes the #LabourPurge!

2H5BLvn0_400x400Over the last few days, many NCAFC members have had their membership applications to the Labour Party rejected.

These are young people who agree with Corbyn’s position on free education, the reintroduction of Education Maintenance Allowance, and more. They are politically active – and were excited about getting the chance fight alongside a Labour party that values them. But party HQ wants to put a stop to that.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are seeing a purge of Corbyn supporters.

Not only is it monumentally stupid to be actively fighting against an influx of excited, politically active young members, it also totally discredits internal party democracy. The fact that this campaign to root out left wing Labour voters has been called ‘Operation Ice Pick’ within party HQ can only emphasise its Stalinist aspect.

NCAFC condemns these rejections as the undemocratic last gasp of a Labour establishment desperately trying to suppress a surge in left wing politics. We also want to reiterate our support for the Corbyn campaign, and look forwards to the victory party in Trafalgar square.

If you have been rejected, don’t take it lying down! Ring up party HQ to argue your case, lodge an appeal, tweet on #LabourPurge, attend your ward meeting in September, like this facebook page and watch out for more co-ordinated ‘anti purge’ campaigns as they emerge.

Fighting for Free Speech: The Student Strike at the Film and Television Institute of India

IMG_3804by Daniel Rawnsley

At the time of writing students at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, Maharashtra, have entered their 64th day of strike action. Students are protesting the appointment of five new members to the FTII Society, from which the academic and administrative governing bodies of the institute are formed. These appointees are Gajendra Chauhan, Narendra Pathak, Anagha Ghaisas, Rahul Solapurkar and Shailesh Gupta.

IMG_3812The students argue that the appointments are political in nature, that the appointees have done nothing that commends them to lead the FTII in terms of their contributions to film and television and that the appointees have close ties to the ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its ideological handler organisation the fascistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The appointments appear, instead, to be part of the BJP/RSS project of ‘Saffronisation’; bending cultural and political life in to a narrow framework of Hindu nationalism.

The students have faced down threats of violence from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP), the youth wing of RSS and have confronted intimidation from a new interim director of the institute who has threatened to rusticate students, conduct final assessments that would force students to leave campus and sack staff who carry out vital work supporting students film projects on the pretence that, in the context of the strike they are not currently needed.IMG_3817

The students have met their opponents by building solidarity with other institutions, including a similar strike in Pondicherry and making links with trade unions in Pune that can support university workers. In this activity the students are building on a strong legacy of student-worker solidarity at FTII.

In an India where dissidents face intimidation and violence from RSS organisations, where books and films risk being banned for going against the government’s narrow Hindu nationalism and where activists face being branded as ‘anti-nationalist’ and ‘Naxalites’ (Maoist guerrillas) the FTII students are standing up as a beacon for free speech.

 

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Job losses and privatisation at the University of Manchester

university-place1By Jess Patterson, University of Manchester UCU Exec & NCAFC Postgrad Research rep, originally posted on the Fighting Against Casualisation in Education site.

Currently in Manchester the three campus Unions, UCU, Unite and Unison, are mobilising to take action against management over the announcement of hundreds of potential compulsory redundancies. After a huge cross-union meeting on Tuesday the 11th of August, this is the situation as it currently stands.

A basic summary

The University of Manchester is in the process of making a growing number of staff redundant – over 250 workers have been told that they are ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy, on statutory terms. At the same time, the University is attempting unilaterally to push through a change in the Redeployment Policy (the system whereby eligible staff, whose jobs are being altered, can apply for vacancies elsewhere in the university) so that in future people will no longer be able to remain on the Register until an alternative position can be found for them. Instead anyone who has been on the Register for three months will face compulsory redundancy.

The situation in Manchester has several complicated factors, including questions of trade union procedure and quality impact assessments, with the disproportionate effect of the changes on BME and disabled members of staff being of particular concern. It also has some interesting implications for the prospects of increased out-sourcing and the casualisation of academic work. The aggressive erosion of job security that the restructuring plan represents will make it much easier for the University to get rid of unwanted members of staff whenever such cost-saving initiatives demand it.

Is there a Dispute?

Bizarrely, despite UCU’s insistence and several huge cross-union meetings, the University itself is refusing to recognise this as an official dispute, on the basis that any redundancy made would be ‘in line with existing University policies and processes’. The University has even announced that the consultation process is now concluded, while UCU has released a statement that it does not consider any meaningful consultation to have taken place.

This position ignores the fact that the willingness to use compulsory redundancies and the proposed changes to Redeployment represent a dramatic change in the University’s approach. In the past Manchester has always ruled out compulsory redundancies in an effort to reduce costs or achieve organisational change, even when the University has been going through significant financial challenges or large-scale restructuring such as the merger with UMIST in 2004. Such a measure has always been regarded inappropriate to a University setting, on the basis that the resulting atmosphere would damage the culture of a higher education institution; in particular, collegiality, academic freedom and job security.

So far the University has not shown any willingness to consult or negotiate meaningfully with the Trade Unions. In fact in several instances UMUCU was only informed of major decisions affecting their members after they had been made. In one particularly telling incident Union reps were only given 38 minutes notice of a major change of circumstances prior to an “informal” meeting with management. Before the meeting, due to take place at 11am, Trade Unions received notification at 10.22am, that 219 IT staff were now at risk (with 68 redundancies ultimately being sought), and were informed that the scheduled “informal” meeting would in fact mark the start of formal collective consultations. They were also informed that the announcement would be made to IT staff at a meeting later the same day at 3pm.

UCU thus holds that this rapid escalation of the dispute constitutes a breach of the Recognition and Procedure agreements between the Union and the University, amounting in essence to the de facto de-recognition of the campus Trade Unions. No doubt this unprecedented level of hostility is linked to the general threat to Trade Union activity, proposed by Sajid Javid’s Trade Union Bill. As campaigns such at The ‘Right to Strike’ have been highlighting, such a climate has created a situation in which the power of union activity seems almost inevitably diminished. In Manchester, the timing of the threat seems to further prompt cynicism as to the university’s motives.

Re-structuring and the threat of encroaching casualisation

Such moves also represent a risk to academic workers, with the increased threat of out-sourcing. In the past, when Schools have been closed or restructured, academic staff have been accommodated into new structures and have generally been allowed to pursue their research interests. In future, re-structuring schemes such as the model currently being imposed in IT could be applied to academic departments, with the same result of compulsory redundancies. As in the case of Trade Union disputes, such a prospect is made more likely by the current political climate. Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson’s, proposed TEF (Teaching in Excellence Framework) and its accompanying metrics of graduate earnings makes the threat to certain departments seem all the more imminent. Just like in some cases following the assessment of the REF (Research in Excellence framework) management may target staff whose research is not within arbitrary ‘priority’ areas, or which is currently unfashionable, or, in the case of the TEF, whose students simply do not go on to high-earning careers. These changes make a move in that direction both more feasible and more likely.

Another potential threat is the increased and very likely use of out-sourcing in the case of re-structures like this one. In a cross-union meeting this week, staff from other areas of the University explained how the end result of similar re-shuffles had been the increasing use of agency staff to plug the gaps where staff, now made redundant, would have been working. This seems a very likely outcome in the case of IT, where 68 redundancies is the stated target, without sign of a significant reduce in work-load. Moreover, the disproportionate targeting of mid-career, middle-aged staff, suggests an increasing separation between senior posts and agency-covered work.

This is the sort of work-force pattern that schemes like Warwick’s Teach Higher out-sourcing model proposed, which separated permanent staff and researchers for agency employed teaching staff, on a much lower wage. Thus, although not necessarily apparent at first, such changes do represent a considerable threat to early-career researchers and teachers. Unlike staff employed on a permanent or ‘core-funding’ basis, those on fixed term contracts or contracts based on fixed-term funding are already in a precarious position. In that sense these changes may not immediately threaten them. However, this is also precisely the group aspiring to attain those mid-career posts that are currently being erased. These sorts of changes are aimed at undermining long-term job-security and in effect threaten all those ‘more secure’ permanent positions with the University that already casualised workers are demanding.

What’s going to happen next?

The cross-union meeting concluded that it was now time for staff and students to collectively put pressure on the University to take the dispute and the need for negotiation seriously. There will be several days of action, both leading up to and during Welcome week. The Unions are also currently conducting a survey to test the appetite for industrial action, with the likelihood of calling for action short of a strike, unless management significantly changes its stance.

Grass-roots organisations, such as FACE have been quick to notice the wider ramifications of such changes, hence the effective response of the local campaign group ‘hourly paid at Warwick’ against Teach Higher. Recent developments at Manchester, however, demonstrate how this fight is far from over. Those concerned with the marketisation of Higher Education and its damaging effects on the labour force, ought to watch the developments at this Russell-group university closely. There is increasing evidence that similar things are happening in different ways across different campuses. It is, therefore, essential that we are able to view these various attacks as inter-connected. By linking activists across the country we can go some way to achieving this.

 

Why I might not be attending NUS National Conference 2016

nusby Alasdair Clark, Vice President Education at Fife College Students’ Association

After two years of making the annual trip to Liverpool for NUSNational Conference, I’ve left feeling exhausted and been unable to go back to work after it. If this is the effect on me as someone who has no access needs, I know that we’re further shutting out those who do.

But for two years I’ve also sat and listened to DPC speech after DPC speech telling me conference is inaccessible and that we “must do something about it now”, and I’m told this isn’t new. So what has been done?

Well in truth, I’m not sure anything has been. This year, it’s been decided that National Conference will be held in Brighton – I understand well the need for NUS to keep the costs of these events as low as possible whilst finding hotels and venues for a huge amount of delegates and meeting as many access needs as is humanly possible, but I absolutely refuse to believe that the only place they could find this year was Brighton. The very bottom of the United Kingdom.

This piece could be about cost, and believe me this weighs massively on my mind. We already pay thousands to be a part of NUS and the prospect of paying another few thousand pounds to take part in its democracy isn’t one that is all that appealing – especially when we’ve seen examples already this year where that democracy can be over ridden by the National President – but there is something much more important we need to start seriously talking about beyond tired old platitudes from election candidates and NUS Officers.

Brighton is a 16 hour round train trip from my home in Fife, which is relatively central in Scotland – it’s a 22 hour round trip from Aberdeen – this coupled with 3 days of conference will be absolutely draining. I’m worried that for Scottish delegates it will just be too much, and many will just not come.

Conference itself already breaks the EU Working Time Directive, with the majority of the ‘breaks’ disguised as Fringe sessions you already have to choose between eating and resting or missing out on important sessions for the majority of the conference. The working time directive also includes travelling time, this huge increase in delegates travel time will further break this law – and let’s be clear it is a law and employers can be prosecuted for allowing, or forcing, employees to work for extended periods over it. That’s why I would never ask our unions staff to attend. If we heard that our institutions were abusing staff like this we’d quite rightly have something to say and we’d be doing something about it. So where is the anger at NUS?

However, as a sabbatical I don’t just have myself to think about. The majority of our delegation is made up of students, people who give up a week of their Easter Break to come and take part in NUS. We tell them it’s really important, and we tell them how much we value their engagement with their Union and with NUS. We thank them by putting them into a situation which is dangerous to their health and then send them back to complete their final exams the week after. This isn’t fair of us, and it’s time we done something about it.

It is probably too late to change the location this year. So I hope that within the governance review we get to talk about how we do conference, and next year we see it extended or split into two sessions throughout the year. I understand there are pros and cons to each of those but let’s stop kidding ourselves that what we have just now is ideal.

NUS Conference needs to be as central in the UK as possible, and NUS needs to start putting delegate’s health over cost, and unless I see a solution to these issues proposed – I’ll be suggesting my union doesn’t attend in 2016.

@alasdair_clark

#SaveKelechi – prevent persecution

kelechi

A statement from NCAFC International Student’s Caucus.

On Tuesday August 11th, there will be a rally in front of the home office against the the deportation of Kelechi, an international student from Nigeria.She is askingfor asylum for studying as a post graduate, as she fears that her condition- she is in a wheelchair and has mental health issues- would make her sidelined and excluded from the society. But, the government of the UK have refused. The fact that the government does not grant asylum for a student who, in addition to suffering from disabilities, was an outstanding volunteer in her community and was involved with the Black students campaign at NUS.

This shows that the government see more and more students, especially international students to be seen as only that; students paying to study and not a human being. This is disgusting. The NCAFC condemn the refusal of granting the asylum as we feel that a student is a student and a human being, and we stand for education for all from any countries. Students must not be discriminated by some artificial limitation and distinction. The government should not forget that international students who studied there have developed bonds, and sending them away as soon as they have finished the course is detrimental to their livelihood. As well as free education, we demand the abolition of borders, as we believe that every one has a right to study in the UK.

We, the NCAFC demand that the government grant asylum to Kelechi, in order to protect from abuse she could faced in Nigeria and we call on everyone who can to be in front of the Home office at 8:30 am on Tuesday 11th August to support Kelechi.

Burnham & Cooper: putting tuition fees in fancy dress


Andy-BurnhamBy Beth Redmond and Luke Neal

As the last month of the Labour leadership contest approaches, those of us watching with baited breath finally got to see some Actual Policies about education being announced this week.

Liz Kendall pledged to “end inequality from birth” by extending early years education. Jeremy Corbyn announced he could make higher education free by increasing corporation tax by 0.5%. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, not wanting to stray too far from the middle of the road, announced that they would abolish tuition fees—in favour of a graduate tax.

It’s good that the work the student movement has done over the past 5 years, combined with Corbyn’s (so far) successful campaign and leftward-drag on the leadership election, is having some sort of influence over what the other candidates are saying. That Burnham and Cooper feel the need to disguise their policy and frame it as “abolishing tuition fees” is indicative of the good work of the student movement.

Dressing up moderate policies with a left-wing headline in a bid to steal votes from Corbyn, whose ideas are dominating the leadership election, is nothing new for Burnham. Only a few days ago he announced that he is in favour of re-nationalising the railways, but take a closer look and you will see that he just wants to lift the ban on public providers bidding to compete with private companies running the rails.

A graduate tax isn’t good enough; it’s essentially a rebranding of tuition fees. Burnham claims he wants to “lift the millstone of debt” from students, but is actually proposing a very similar form of funding, namely through decades of deductions from graduate wages. While a graduate tax pushes the headline of a fee into the background, it still depends on the idea that individuals who receive the financial benefit of a degree should pay for the privilege. So what seems like a step forward—taxation rather than loans and debts—actually relies on the same logic: of education as an individual investment in a competitive market. Unless it is a tax to fund HE on wealth itself (as Corbyn is proposing a form of), this represents little progress.

The details of the policy are typically unclear; it is highly unlikely that Burnham and Cooper’s version of “abolishing tuition fees” would apply to students coming to Britain from outside the EU.

Such mild reforms will do little to undo the damage the market is inflicting upon colleges and universities. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will continue to challenge the rule of the market and fight for free education, funded by taxing big businesses and the rich. We will be encouraging students to vote for Jeremy Corbyn — the only candidate in the Labour leadership election to put our interests on the agenda.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Students Call National Demonstration as Osborne Slashes Maintenance Grant

 

Contact: 07989235178, 07919425137

 

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has called a national demonstration for November 4 under the slogans “Free Education & Living Grants for all: no barriers, no borders, no business!”

 

The announcement of the key demands comes as the first all-Conservative budget is read in Parliament today, bringing with it the slashing of maintenance grants for those from the poorest backgrounds.  The maintenance grant system currently offers £3,387 a year to students in England and Wales from families with annual household incomes of £25,000 or less, and decreases exponentially as household income rises.  Osborne will propose to replace this with an increased loan system.

 

The NCAFC is calling for non-means-tested living grants, a system which would mean that all students, regardless of household income, receive non-repayable grants to fund their living costs whilst studying.  This would be funded by taxing the rich and expropriation of the banks.

 

The demonstration will also demand an end to the scapegoating and deportation of international students and the defence of migrants’ rights and an end to the marketisation of education.

 

Raquel Palmeira, NCAFC LGBTQ Rep, said: “The Conservative government is destroying the education system as we know it, and replacing it with a fully marketised system which will take teenagers at one end and simply turn out people ready for jobs at the others.  We demand an education system free from the market, and one which is truly accessible to all – not only those who can afford it, and we will be taking to the streets in our hundreds of thousands to win this”

 

Tom Robinson, UCL Union Welfare & International Officer, said: “Students from lower income families are also those most put off by the notion of leaving education with a mountain of debt. We know that an overwhelming majority of students will never pay back their student debt; by its own logic the system of 9k fees has failed and it is utterly nonsensical that Osborne is planning to load students with more debt rather than admit this.”

 

Hope Worsdale, Warwick For Free Education and NCAFC National Committee, said: “This demonstration will provide a springboard for a new level of resistance. We have had successes in the past – such as on the student loan book sell-off and the HE Bill, which was dropped in 2012 – and we intend to fight for every inch of the education system and the wider welfare state. As this government makes sustained attacks on the working class, we will in turn show sustained resistance through direct action, strikes and occupations”

 

James Elliott, NUS Disabled Students’ Committee, said: “This budget forms part of an ideological attack on the working class.  While Osborne scraps maintenance grants, he also raises the threshold for inheritance tax to one million pounds – meaning that even fewer people will end up paying it.  It is clear that this budget serves only the interests of the rich.”

 

NOTES:

  1. The Facebook event for the demonstration: https://www.facebook.com/events/1449378505377525/
  2. More information on the demands of the demonstration; http://anticuts.com/2015/07/08/free-education-living-grants-for-all-no-barriers-no-borders-no-business/