Report from NCAFC Summer Training, Edinburgh, and plans for the Autumn Term

This year’s NCAFC Summer Training at Edinburgh College was attended by around 60 student activists from institutions across the country including Edinburgh University, Edinburgh College, Aberdeen University, Kent University, Birmingham University, Royal Holloway, UCL, Swansea University, Sheffield University, Queen Mary University Belfast, Middlesex University, and London Metropolitan University.

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The weekend included a diverse range of workshops on a range of subjects including International Students activism, Campaigning around the NHS, Housing Campaigns, Working with Trade Uniosn and more.

In a plenary session on the Saturday, feedback from a range of workshops was brought together into a really exciting set of plans for the term, and year ahead, shaping NCAFC’s upcoming campaign priorities.

 

 

 

 

 

Campaign around Student Debt

  • Resolved to write to Nick Clegg, which can be seen here, demanding he reverse the plans to sell the student loan book, staged direct action on campuses around the country, and moving towards a national demo early in 2014.
  • This should include mobilising graduates as this affects them too.

National Mobilisation Around Campus Struggles

  • NCAFC resolved to back and campaign around struggles at the University of London, including the Tres Cosas campaign and the closure of ULU.
  • We also discussed mobilising around the cuts at the University of Liverpool, but since our training the campaign has won a victory on campus!
  • The attendees agreed that the unilateral closure of student unions by management is an attack that is likely to spread across the country if not stopped now.

Building Local Anti Cuts Groups

  • A number of activists from Birmingham University, UCL, ULU and Royal Holloway resolved to go away and write a hand book for ‘how to build a local anti cuts group’ for activists across the country.sidquote

Workers’ Rights/Workers’ Struggles

  • Campaigning around zero hours contracts was discussed and Mike Shaw (Edinburgh) and Liam McNulty (ULU/Unison) resolved to do further research into what can be done.
  • There was some discussion of the employability agenda being pushed in partnership between Universities and SUs, which may back up the marketisation of education. A task group resolved to go away and continue to discuss this.

General Election Strategy

  • There was a session on general election strategy over the weekend, but we’re keeping schtum on our plans until they’re more fully formed. If you’re an NCAFC member see contact details below to get involved.

NHS Campaigning

  • There was discussion around how to campaign around cuts and privatisation of the NHS, with further discussion at the NCAFC/Medsin event held at Goldsmith’s University the following week. For more information on how to get involved with this campaign, email Pete at [email protected], or check out studentsforthenhs.blogspot.com

Internal Structures/Sexism

  • There were some internal discussions over the weekend too, looking at the structures and democracy of NCAFC, and also the sexism within the student movement.
  • Some good action points came out of this. NCAFC Women are planning to hold Public Speaking Workshops just before NCAFC Conference in November, Facebook event here. We also agreed to continue discussion around sexist behaviours in student men, and how we can improve upon them and make our spaces more inclusive.
  • Our members organising web forum has now been launched, if you want to get in on the discussion, email [email protected] with your name and we’ll send you some login details (all current members should have been sent this already).

Campaigning In The Nations

  • Lots of the stuff we discussed was England-specific, which seemed a bit strange seeing as we were in Scotland! We discussed how we can apply our campaigning to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Rob Henthorn from Aberdeen raised how the biggest issue in Scotland right now is the changes in Further Education, and we need to be campaigning around that! The room asked the NCAFC Scotland committee to let us know what and how we can do to campaign around this. We also discussed the devolved issues with the NHS and how it impacts differently on different nations.

 

Contact details for each of the upcoming campaigns – get in touch and we’ll add you to the discussion:

Student Debt: [email protected]

University of London campaign[email protected]/[email protected]

Building Local Anti Cuts Groups[email protected]bham.ac.uk (Hattie Craig)

General Election: [email protected]

NHS Campaigning[email protected] (Pete Campbell)

Zero Hours Contracts: [email protected]

Employability: [email protected] (Emma Brownbill)/[email protected]

NCAFC Women: [email protected]

FE in Scotland[email protected]

NCAFC Calls Mobilisation Over Debt: Organise in your area now!

demo

In June, the government announced plans to sell off student debt to private companies. Because there is so much student debt, it is unprofitable to own, so to sweeten the deal, the government is considering upping the repayment rates. This would be the equivalent of a huge and retroactive stealth hike in tuition fees, all in the name of an exclusive, market model of education.

In an open letter, we have explicitly targeted the LibDems and demanded that they rule it out: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/13/nick-clegg-universities-direct-action

NCAFC is calling for national and localised action against the sell-off of the student loan book. On top of direct action, NCAFC will seek to create a new coalition of social movements and trade unions to fight the sale of the student loan book by mobilising students, workers and graduates.

What can you do?
• Call an organising meeting on your campus around October 1st, the day when our deadline for assurances runs out. NCAFC London has already organised one here:http://www.facebook.com/events/168905169966158/
• Plan embarrassing stunts and disruptive direct against your local politicians – Lib Dems and others – if they fail to declare that they are against the debt sale and the Lobbying Bill
• Tell the companies who fund the Lib Dems to stop funding them
• Make sure that you and any organisation you are involved in joins the new coalition against the loan book sale. NCAFC will be calling a meeting in the coming weeks

The Facebook event for this mobilisation is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/212736578888544/

Whatever you get up to, please let us know so we can publicise it, by emailing the NCAFC national committee on [email protected], same goes for if you need help or resources!

PRESS RELEASE: NCAFC Launches Major Campaign Against The Debt Selloff

london-student-protest

For press inquiries call 07964791663, 07703114546 or 07540248868

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts has launched a major new campaign against moves to make every student since 1998 pay more for their student loans. In June, the government announced plans to sell off student debt to private companies. Because there is so much student debt, it is unprofitable to own, so to sweeten the deal, the government is considering upping the repayment rates. This would be the equivalent of a huge and retroactive stealth hike in tuition fees, all in the name of an exclusive, market model of education.

In an open letter to the Liberal Democrats published on the Guardian website on the eve of their Party conference, NCAFC is demanding that the party rule out the sale of the loan book and withdraw its support for the controversial ‘gagging bill’. We have set a deadline of October 1st to receive assurances, and if we do not hear back, we will support a campaign of embarrassment and disruption aimed at any company or political party complicit in the privatisation of student debt.

On top of direct action, NCAFC will seek to create a new coalition of social movements and trade unions to fight the sale of the student loan book by mobilising students, workers and graduates.

Dear Nick,

In 2010, you were the darling of the student vote: you seemed to many to represent a new politics. What a difference three years make. Tomorrow, the Liberal Democrats will begin their annual conference in Glasgow – and, having ignored and trampled on it for years, you will be asking your members to ditch their support for free higher education. If the Liberal Democrats do not now rule out attempts to raise the rate of repayment on student loans, we will mobilise against them.

The damage that the coalition has done to education since it came to power in 2010 is unparalleled. With an electoral mandate to do precisely the opposite, and in just three years, you have tripled home undergraduate fees, and made Britain’s worst-ever cut to public university funding. We are witnessing the transformation of a public service into a luxury: fees for postgraduate and international students are hitting £30,000 for some courses; and student accommodation regularly costs more than many students get in loans. And when protest threatened your position, you stood back while police beat students off the streets and threatened us with rubber bullets.

In spring 2012, and under pressure from student mobilisations, your government withdrew the higher education bill and then, with no parliamentary mandate or scrutiny, proceeded to implement the higher education white paper anyway. Across the country, your policies have resulted in cuts to bursaries, sweeping course cuts – especially in universities with a higher proportion of working class students – and relentless attacks on staff through privatisation and outsourcing. Last week, the University and Colleges Union (UCU) reported that half of universities are now using zero-hours contracts for lecturers.

 

Because of your actions, university education in Britain is becoming an even more volatile, multi-tiered sector. Being a student is a precarious, money-driven, and often simply inaccessible experience. In your relentless quest for power, you have pushed an ideologically driven agenda of marketisation at the expense not only of the ideal of accessible universal education, but at the practical expense of institutional stability, academic integrity and human dignity.

Just as it seemed that it couldn’t get any worse, Danny Alexander announced that the government will sell off the student loan book in 2015. Student debt is a very unattractive prospect for investors, as there is so much of it that it will never be repaid – so in order to make it profitable, the government may end up changing the conditions on already existing student loans. Not content with attacking current and future generations, you have decided to pursue a policy that would attack every student since 1998.

The Liberal Democrats have now backed the transparency of lobbying, non-Party campaigning, and trade union administration bill, which is being roundly denounced by almost every third sector body and trade union as a sinister attempt to gag independent organisations in campaigning around political parties in election periods. Disgracefully, you are hiding behind restrictive and authoritarian legislation in order to avoid being held accountable for your years of betrayal.

We have no interest in stroking your ego, playing party politics, or getting you votes. Every major political party is now complicit in fees and privatisation in universities, and if there was only one impact of the growth of the student movement in the past few years, it has been that your betrayal of education and your fire sale of public services will be written on your political gravestone in 2015. The Lib Dems have lost 35% of their membership since 2010, and are running at an annual deficit of £411,000.

We demand a written guarantee that you will block the sale of student debt and rule out any detrimental changes to loan repayments; and we demand that you withdraw your support for the lobbying bill. If we do not receive assurances to this effect by 1 October , we will support direct action in the autumn term targeted against any company or political party complicit in the privatisation of the loan book.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will now build a broad coalition of activist groups, trade unions and social movements to mobilise students, workers and graduates against the sale of the student loan book, with the aim of building action nationally in early 2014.

USI Congress 2013 – Report from Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

NCAFC are republishing this statement and report from USI Congress, by Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

[Read more…]

NCAFC blog for NUS conference 2013

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts will be very active at the National Union of Students conference 2013 (8-10 April, Sheffield) – fighting for policy, supporting candidates, organising meetings and making new links and contacts. We will be seeking to change NUS’s direction as part of our wider fight for a democratic, mass-mobilising, campaigning student movement. [Read more…]

Make NUS Fight! Statement on the National Union of Students Conference 2013

To add your name to this statement, email [email protected] or ring 07840 136 728

We the undersigned are fighting for this year’s National Union of Students conference to dramatically change NUS’s direction.

The anti-privatisation struggle at Sussex University, including the magnificent demonstration on 25 March, once again shows the student movement’s huge potential. But at the moment NUS is not helping to fulfil that potential.

No organisation, even the most grassroots-based, democratic and militant, can generate mass movements at will. But a national student union could act to educate, organise and mobilise its members so that struggles are more likely and that when they happen, they can win – as took place with CLASSE in Quebec.

NUS is not the only possible framework for national student coordination. Nonetheless, it is important. Many thousands of students across the country look to it; the vast majority of student unions are affiliated; and the national union has financial and human resources which could be used more effectively to massively boost the movement.

At this year’s NUS conference, we will be supporting activist left candidates for the National Executive Council. This year a larger number of activist, left-wing SU officers have been elected – we want to carry that through into the national union, to win a new NUS leadership. We will also be fighting to change NUS policy and pushing for left wing policies passed this year and in previous years to be carried out.

We oppose all cuts to services, jobs and benefits. We demand the cancellation of student debt, free education and living grants for all students, in higher and further education. We demand taxation of the rich and expropriation of the banks – which were bailed out at our expense, but continue to function to make profits and generate inequality – to fund decent education and services for all. Instead of just “celebrating the public value of education”, we want a fight against privatisation and for a public, democratically run education system. We want NUS to campaign seriously on student housing and in defence of the NHS.

We demand one hundred percent support for struggles like Sussex. We want a year-long campaign of demonstrations, protests, direct action and occupations, coordinated with workers’ struggles, to push back cuts, privatisation and fees and go on the offensive. We want a real campaign to help FE students organise and mobilise. We support building a ‘Take Back Your Campus’ campaign for the right to organise and protest, and for democracy in how our institutions are run.

Instead of relying on the Labour Party leadership and the Lib Dems, NUS should be fighting to overthrow the Coalition and working with the trade unions and the left to impose radical demands on the next Labour government.

We stand in solidarity with workers on our campuses and beyond. We support the fight for a Living Wage and a Living Minimum Wage. We want to organise students who work. We demand tough measures including links with the Workers’ Rights Consortium to ensure workers producing university/college merchandise have union rights. We want the anti-union laws abolished so workers can fight for their rights.

We want NUS to take strong stands for migrants’ rights, against immigration controls, for a woman’s right to choose and against racism and fascism.

Last but not least, we support the many motions that have been submitted to expand NUS democracy. We want resources moved from bureaucracy to democracy and campaigning. We support increasing the size and length of conference. We oppose the proposal attacking student unions’ and Liberation Campaigns’ rights to submit as many motions as they want, within the word limit. We also support a fight for more democracy in student unions, and for NUS to side clearly with sabbs victimised by SU management for political campaigning.

Please sign and circulate this statement!

James McAsh, NCAFC NC, Edinburgh University President, NUS VP UD Candidate
Rosie Huzzard, NCAFC NC, Sheffield College, NUS VP Welfare & Block of 15 Candidate, PCS DWP Sheffield Young Members Officer
Thais Yanez, NCAFC NC, Birkbeck College, NUS Block of 15 Candidate
Daniel Lemberger-Cooper, NCAFC NC, ULU Vice President
Hona-Luisa Cohen-Fuentes, NCAFC Womens Committee, Edinburgh University External Council
Edward Maltby, NCAFC NC
Beth Redmond, NCAFC NC, Liverpool John Moores University
Jack Saffery-Rowe, NCAFC LGBTQ Rep (open place), Royal Holloway SU LGBT Officer-elect
Ben Towse, UCL Union Postgraduate Students’ Officer & UCL UCU Branch Executive Committee (pc)
Rob Henthorn, NCAFC Scotland Committee, Aberdeen University
Oli Rushby, Trustee, Royal Holloway Students’ Union
Jamie Green, SURHUL Vice President & NUS Delegate
Roshni Joshi, NUC NEC & NCAFC NC
Omar Raii, UCL Union NUS Delegate & Halls Representative
Michael Segalov, Sussex Against Privatisation
Kelly Parry, Vice President Edinburgh College Students’ Association, NUS Scotland SEC (priority campaign convener), NCAFC member
Gary Paterson, Scottish Executive Committee (Communities Campaign Convener) Elect, NUS Scotland & University Strathclyde Students Association.
Alannah Ainslie, NCAFC Womens committee, Aberdeen University.
Lani Baird, President Aberdeen College, NCAFC Scotland LGBTQ Rep (intersectional), FE Rep NUS Scotland & UK LGBT committee 2011-13, FE Rep NUS UK Womens’ Committee 2013-14
Alex Peters-Day, LSESU general secretary
Esther Townsend, NCAFC Women’s Committee & University of East London)

Swansea versus the National Front: a win, but not a flawless victory

Campaign Against Fees & Cuts Cymru

Four hundred anti-fascists faced down fewer than sixty supporters of the neo-fascist, extreme-right National Front on Saturday March 10th as the NF gathered in the cosmopolitan port city to celebrate “White Pride World Wide”, in a demonstration and counter-demonstration both contained by a strongly-biased South Wales Police. [Read more…]

NCAFC Solidarity Action With PCS Union Budget Day Strike

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is encouraging students to get involved in the national strike of PCS Trade Union members on Wednesday 20th March (Budget Day), as hundreds of thousands of Civil Service members take action against Government attacks.

Civil Servants in PCS who are overwhelmingly low paid, have had their pay frozen for the past four years, which is the equivalent of a 20% pay cut over that time. In addition, pension contributions have increased, the pensionable age has been raised to 68, and recruitment freezes in many Departments has meant huge understaffing and resulting pressure on existing workers.

The Government is also attempting to remove or erode a raft of terms and conditions for civil service workers (those who work in services such as Tax Offices, Jobcentres, the Home Office, the courts, and many more) that have been fought for and won by the unions over the years, including leave entitlements, sick pay, ability to job share, childcare provision, promotions, and attendance management (i.e. disciplinary procedures over sick absence). For more information on the campaign, please see the PCS website.

The NCAFC supports the PCS strike and the plans it has for upcoming further action including a walkout on the 5th April. NCAFC is encouraging its members to organise solidarity visits from universities, schools and colleges to local picket lines. If you aren’t sure where your local picket line might be, please post a comment below or on our Facebook event and we’ll do our best to find out for you.

There are also Budget Day rallies in many towns and cities. Find out about your local rally here.

We are asking NCAFC activists to sign this statement to show their support. Write your name below and we’ll add you in.

Next Wednesday members of the PCS union which represents 250,000 civil servants and commercial sector workers will be taking industrial action.

They are demanding a 5% pay rise to compensate for the real-term pay cut of the same amount over the past 5 years of civil service pay freezes, an end to the attacks on public-sector pensions and Terms & Conditions and for increased investment in the welfare state.

The government claim they have to continue to cut civil servants’ salaries and pensions in the same way they’re cutting welfare, healthcare and education to pay for the deficit. As student activists we’ve heard this story before and we won’t fall for it.

When they make tax cuts for millionaires, refuse to clamp down on corporate tax evasion and relish in making the top richest people in the country richer to the tune of billions of pounds a year then it’s clear to us that there is the money, but that their priority is to make sure the wrong people get it!

As with previous disputes, the NCAFC extends its solidarity to the strikers on Wednesday and supports the continued campaign PCS members plan to wage against the government’s austerity agenda. We believe that the this agenda, under the guise of ‘tough choices’, represents an attack on working-class people and students the likes of which we have not seen before for a long time. Part of the reason they can get away with what they are doing is down to the fractious and weak reality of the workers movement, and the unambitious and sometimes cynical nature of labour and student movement leaders.

We urge local students anti-cuts groups to visit their local picket-lines (Jobcentres, tax offices, local DVLA sites etc.) and if you are a student in or around London to attend the strike rally 12 noon–2pm at Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Bring banners, placards and noise.

Michael Chessum, President of University of London Union, NCAFC NC and NUS NEC
Rosie Huzzard, Sheffield College, PCS DWP Sheffield Branch Young Members Officer and NCAFC NC
Matthew Reuben, Royal Hollway, NCAFC NC
Thais Yanez, Birkbeck, NCAFC NC LGBTQ Officer, Trans* Place
Hannah Webb UCLU Community Officer, UCLU External Affairs and Campaigns Officer elect
Max Crema, Edinburgh University Students’ Association Vice President Services
Edmund Schluessel, NUS Wales NEC
James McAsh Edinburgh University Students’ Association President
Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores University, NCAFC NC
Arianna Tassinari, NUS International Students Committee
Liam McNulty, Unison Higher Education, London Young Labour Campaigns Organiser (pc)

Conference Details

As conference fast approaches, find out all the info you’ll need below!

Time

Conference will start prompt at 11am on Saturday December 8th please be on time we have a lot to discuss. It will end at 4pm Sunday 9th, conference can’t be extended beyond that time as people coming from long distances need time to travel home.

Travel

Travel can be subsidised on request we want NCAFC to open all we don’t want lack of funds to block your participation please Email [email protected]

Arrival

If your arriving on Friday night make sure you call Edd Bauer 07988056867 to arrange accommodation that meets your access needs. If you are arriving Friday there will be a meal at 17:30 for all and we will be going on a small social in the evening with local anti cuts activists.

Location

If your arriving Saturday come straight to the University of Birmingham Guild of students. After arriving at Birmingham New Street Station, get the train from new street too “University” station, which will bring you to the University of Birmingham campus.

The Guild of Students is located on the far side of campus and is well sign posted from the train station, simply start heading towards the clock-tower. At the clock-tower carry on heading straight past Physics and you will arrive at the Guild. Conference is starting in the Council chambers on the second floor above the Spar.

After the end of the first day their will be a social and a party in the evening at 990 Pershore road. However first you will be able to drop off your baggage at your accommodation if you have specific access needs please call ahead to make arrangements with either Edd Bauer 07988056867 or Claire Lister NCAFC disabled students rep 07772165246.

Accommodation

Will be provided free however to varying degree of comfort beds are available to those who need them. Please bring your own sleeping bags and pillows if possible. You don’t have to book ahead for accommodation you can simply turn up on the day and request it.

Motions

If you have anything you want discussed, email your motion [email protected] by 5pm December 5th. We are asking people to submit motions from their groups either their local campaigns groups such as “Defend Education Birmingham” or their political parties. We hope this method means that conference politics will be easier to navigate for newcomers and the debate is more open and honest about who is proposing what and why. Secondly we hope it means that only well-thought-out motions will be submitted, which will make for a more streamlined motions process.

Access

Please email [email protected] or call ahead Edd Bauer 07988056867 or Claire Lister NCAFC disabled students rep 07772165246. with any access requirements in advance of conference, we may not be able guarantee access requirements are met on the day of conference, so in advance would be great.

Save democracy at Bolton Uni! Demo this Monday

Bolton University Student Union has called for an emergency demo to defend its right to exist. The university management have unconstitutionally suspended the union’s President, with no democratic input from students, and have taken over running of the organisation themselves.

Assemble at 5pm on Monday 11th June at The University of Bolton, Deane Road, BL3 5AB. Click here for the facebook group. 

Below is a list of demands that the demonstration has been called over. For more background, check out this report

 

Our demands

  • We are calling for the immediate removal of the Universities governor (known as the Cheif Operating Officer) that is currently running the Students’ Union! As a result of this undemocratic action, the suspension of our elected president has unconstitutionally been enforced, so student cases are hidden away and not dealt with!!
  • Students elected the President! only the student should have the right to remove their President!
  • We are calling for the recent HR report to be circulated to all trustees and not just kept amongst the Externals. Trustees should all be equal! currently some external trustees have more say over student trustees.
  • We are calling for the immediate withdrawal of the intimidating security guards that have been put outside/ inside our Union by the University which is stoping students from wanting to enter the Students Union.
  • We want good governance to be practiced at the SU by seeking assistance from NUS, neighbouring Unions and without any interference from the University because SU’s are meant to be run by students for students, not run or controlled by the University.
  • We demand for our right to carry out student union campaigns without interference from the University such as Student rights campaigns etc.
  • We demand a good time frame on student complaints to be established via good policy development.
  • We want more funding for student activities and more resources to be injected in academic facilities such as computers and a more accessible library.
  • We want all areas of the University to be made accessible to students with disabilities.
  • We want to establish policies that protect international students during their time at UoB, so the University delivers exactly what they have promised.
  • We want more funding injected in sports and societies.
  • We demand the University to become more internationalised so overseas students are not isolated due to the lack of the institutes cultural awareness.
  • We demand elected officers to be able to carry out their individual duties without being penalised by the University for helping students the best they can.
  • We demand the Union to be run as members request and the Union to caters for the majority.
  • We demand direct contact with our elected officers so communication channels to be restored immediately.
  • We demand for more support and better treatment for our part-time and mature students!