On Saturday 28 March, student activists from around the country will march and rally in Birmingham – where Labour higher education spokesperson Liam Byrne has his parliamentary seat – to demand the Labour Party commits to free education. [Read more…]
NCAFC activists are are organising a series of direct action workshops all over the country. The next dates and locations include:
21/1 – Teeside University
22/1 – Newcastle University, University of Falmouth
23/1 – Durham University, University of Exeter
25/1 – Aberdeen University
27/1 – University of Kent
02/2 – Nottingham University
If you would like to organise a direct action workshop with NCAFC activists in your city or at your University, then email us at: [email protected]
The strategy of occupations in the context of universities and colleges has a long and successful tradition within student movements all over the world. It is about reclaiming space and changing the power structures within the University, and about politicising those inside and outside the occupation.
Most successful have been long-term occupations over the period of several days, weeks if not months. In 2010, one occupation lasted over a year! But successful occupations require much more preparation than simply going and sitting in a room for a few hours. That is why we have put the guide below together. The list is certainly not complete, which is why we a number of NCAFC members are travelling around the country in the next weeks to give direct action workshops. Email us if you are interested in organising a workshop on your campus: [email protected]
1. Making the decision
The first step is to have a discussion within your group about having the occupation in the first place. This might seem very obvious, but it is important that most people support the occupation and its aims. At this stage you want to make the decision about whether to occupy overnight, what your demands or the general political aims of the action are, and what you hope to achieve. While it is important that this isn’t just the project of one person, don’t be too worried if there aren’t 50 people in the room at this stage. It doesn’t take more than a core of 5-10 people to organise a successful occupation as long as more people join eventually.
2. Finding the right target
Once the decision to do an overnight occupation has been made, it is important to find the right target for the occupation. The general rule is to find a place that minimally affects students and lecturers and instead disrupts the day to day business of the cooperate parts of the University and the University management; but you also want a building that is visable and preferably in the heart of your campus. There may well be a specific building connected to your demands, such as the Vice Chancellor’s office/corridor (if you’re protesting pay ratios).
Other important factors are toilets inside the occupied space (an absolute must – your management is almost definetly not going to allow you to access toilets outside your occupation after a few hours); a way of getting food into the occupation (windows are perfectly fine as long as it’s possible to throw a rope to the floor;) and preferably a way of getting people in and out of the occupation (doors, windows, lifts). Finally you need to be able to lock the whole area in a way that makes it impossible for someone to come in from the outside without breaking in (see next point).
3. Materials and Locking
Locking up an area successfully for an occupation requires a mix of creativity, preciseness and luck. It is important that you try and lock at every single door and make a plan for how to lock or barricade it. In an ideal scenario a door will open inwards and have two handles so that you can simply lock it with a D-Lock or in some cases even a normal bike lock. But otherwise you will have to think a bit outside of the box. Materials you could use include wood, fences, rope, bikes, inner tubes, zip tiers, brackets, bread cages and also materials that you find inside the occupied space.
4. Getting the numbers
While you can often occupy a space with a handful of people, this isn’t really the desired outcome. You want to try and convince as many members of your group to get involved. The best way to do that is making a spreadsheet with everyone’s name on it and then calling them up one after another. A lot of them might not have any experience with occupations, so it’s your task on the phone to convince them to give it a try (while not misleading anyone about any potential risks).
5. Getting in
The first 15 minutes of the occupation are crucial. This is what decides if you can successfully establish the occupation or not. So make sure that you have a very clear plan and that everyone knows their role in it. Also don’t make it too complicated: often the best way of starting an occupation is just storming a space with the whole group rather than splitting up and playing cat & mouse with the security. Also choose a time of the day when there aren’t many people inside the space (very early or very late in the day) and have a few people ready to talk to any members of staff that you come across in the space and to convince them to leave.
6. Outside working group
Soon you will understand why, but your outside working group is as, if not more, important than the occupation itself. They are the ones who tell everyone on campus that you are in occupation: it is their job to flyer students, doorknock in halls, do chalking, organise public meetings and demonstrations – all with the aim to raise awareness of the occupation within the student community and get as many new people involved as possible.
One of the biggest problems with longterm occupations is that the inside group eventually gets tired or has to go to lectures, and so finding new people to join the occupation is vital. Other tasks that can be shared between the outside and the inside group is press and social media work. Here the rule is: go wild! Contact everyone and every paper that you can think of. Press and media attention is one of your biggest weapons against the University during an occupation. This is also an area that NCAFC can help you during your occupation.
7. Inside the occupation
During the occupation it is important that people don’t get bored and that you create an inclusive and social environment. Give people things to do and divide tasks up: from writing blog posts, to press, to social media, to door shifts, to contacting the University management, to making fun videos – there is a lot of things that need doing. Also try to make it a fun environment by playing group games, watching films, helping each other with uni work. If someone has specific requirements try to be as sensitive and accommodating as possible and also make sure that there is a quiet space within the occupation where people can chill out or do work. In regards to food, you will be surprised how many people will be willing to help you out who might not want to go into occupation.
8. The reaction of the University
The University can react in different ways: it a) negotiate with you and give in to some demands, b) completely ignore you and let you stay there, or c) try to repress you and get you out as soon as possible. The important thing is in all three scenarios that you remember why you are there in the first place and to stick to your principles, but also to take care of each other and consider what repercussions the group can deal with.
Your best defence against repression and the university being heavy handed is publicity and support among students – so mobilise and agitate on campus, and get the word out to the press! Also make sure that you have a camera with at all time to capture any aggressive behaviour of the University.
This is also where other groups and NCAFC might be able to help. If you’re served with an injunction or possession order, or just want some general help, pick up the phone.
9. How to end the occupation
The best way to end an occupation is obviously to achieve your demands. However, sometimes you also run out of energy or you get forcibly removed through court injunctions or even police. In all three scenarios you want to make sure that your occupation ends with a bang!
If you are leaving of “free will” try to have a big crowd outside celebrating the occupation and if you know that you will be forced to leave try and also have people outside to monitor the universities and police behaviour and ensure your security. Finally, also make sure that you talk to students on campus, and the wider public, about the occupation and what it has achieved – and tell them about the next thing that they can get involved with.
Contact: 02076797219, 07989 235 178, 07821 731 481
Yesterday, Labour Party Higher Education Liam Byrne was quoted in the Sunday Times as willing to replace tuition fees with a graduate tax. This system would mean that all those who go to university , pay an extra portion of tax on top of that which they would normally pay, instead of receiving a student loan.
In a climate where nearly half of graduates will never pay off the entire amount that they owe, the Labour Party views a graduate tax as a more sustainable way of funding the Higher Education system, along with its proposed move to 6K fees.
The system of a graduate tax, however, has faced criticism from campaigning organisations, who argue that the current job market means it is more and more unlikely that those who graduate are higher earners, and that the prospect of an extra tax specifically for graduates, could deter future applicants as much as tuition fees. Furthermore, as a user contribution graduate tax deters from the message of education as a public service, which the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts argues should be publicly funded by progressive taxation.
Hattie Craig, National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts National Committee, said: “In a year where the student movement has reignited the fight for free education, Labour is cynically latching on to the clear want for a different funding system. However, it is not the funding system that we are asking for: we will not stop until we win free education, funded not by a graduate tax but by progressive taxation.”
Deborah Hermanns, NCAFC NC, said: “This move away from the current tuition fee regime shows that pressure from below really is working – we have to continue to fight for the education system we want to see. We will be marching for free education in Birmingham, the home territory of Liam Byrne, on March 28 and we hope he will listen to our demand for an education system which is truly free and funded by progressive taxation.”
Hannah Sketchley, NCAFC NC, said: “Labour is clearly just trying to woo the student voters, and this move shows that students can drive the education agenda. However, we can’t let ourselves be wooed by this one promise – Labour are still promoting an austerity agenda and slashing benefits, especially for the under 25s. ”
Over the past year and a half, students up and down the country have been organising occupations, demonstrations, pickets and other direct actions, and on November 19th over 10,000 students marched on the streets of London calling for a free, just and democratic education for all.
NCAFC women now calls on self-defining women and non-binary students to come together on March 6, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day, and participate in a mass occupation in support of the demands of this national movement of students and, in doing so, make an intervention into the campaign. We need to recognise our fight for free education as gendered, and our demands as gendered. A movement towards equal and democratic universities, FE colleges, sixth forms and schools will benefit women most, as it is women, compared to men, who are faced with inequality, discrimination, and the highest levels of poverty both as students and as workers.
> As fee-paying students, in a country with some of the highest fees in the world, women are paying more and more every year, for courses and resources facing cut after cut. We do so with a promise of economic freedom, when in reality the job market is systemically designed to discriminate against us, and keep up in low-paid, low-skilled work, relative to our male colleagues.
> Lowering living costs for students through living grants, bursaries, decreased halls fees would also benefit women most as it women who disproportionately bear the financial burden (among other burdens) of being carers and/or lone-parents (for example).
> In our campaigns to defend education workers, we also primarily fight on the side of women. Across the board men tend to be over-paid paid senior managers, as well as professors and senior lecturers, while women are far more likely to be researching staff and support staff. In most cases women are the first to be made redundant, the first to have their hours and contracts hacked, and the most likely to be paid less than subsistence-level wages.
On International Women’s Day, when typical feminist campaigns tell us to celebrate strong women of the past, the Guardian has double-page pull-outs with Thatcher’s face on them and, forerunners in the war against women, like Theresa May, tell us how far we have come because of feminism, we want to forge a radical space for women and non-binary students to introduce a radical, feminist perspective to the free education movement, counter to the prevailing neoliberal doctrine.
We want this to be empowering, because direct action and organising together as women and non-binary folk, is empowering. When we say ‘our priority is the welfare and safety of women’, we mean is it our priority to organise radical campaigns that fight for a future without debt, a future with good working conditions, and a future where education is free, and every woman can be educated for the sake of education, and the sake of the public good. Only then, can women be safe, and their welfare be protected.
We want to foster the fusion of women’s groups – Fem Socs, Women’s Associations etc. – and those groups organising for democratic, public universities and free education. We want to bridge a divide between ‘women’s issues’ and ‘education issues’, because they are one and the same.
We want action. Our universities are facing a crisis, where ideologies of marketisation, neoliberalism and austerity reign, and where corrupt and greedy managements extort huge sums of money from students and workers. We believe in a public, democratic university; but that only by foregrounding the plight of women, and other marginalised groups, will we be able to create the equality in our universities that we really seek, and that we really need.
Join us on International Women’s Day.
For more information on plan and location, and what you can do contact NCAFC women via: 07891714146, 07749263622 and [email protected]
Click attending on the facebook event here!
There will be a planning meeting in London on February 8th.
Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts who came up with the idea behind the current wave of actions on pay inequality explain where the idea came from and the rationale behind it.
The protests over Vice Chancellor’s salaries were designed to coincide with the day when their annual pay would have overtaken the pay of the lowest paid full-time staff. What we found most immediately shocking was how early in the year this actually occurs. In some cases, it is so early in the year that many students have yet to return from their Christmas break.
The initial intention was for a tongue-in-cheek celebration for the Vice Chancellor, the reason being to create a demonstration with a positive, non-intimidatory atmosphere to attract students who may be new to the campaign and new to activism in general. It was also hoped that the staff on campus would appreciate some cake, music and gentle mocking of the Vice Chancellor on their lunch-break.
The aim of the action is to raise awareness of the ridiculous pay disparity between the highest and lowest paid staff, pressure the university management to reassess the current situation and to embarrass the Vice Chancellor as much as possible. We hope that more education bosses realise that they can’t get away with accepting six-figure salaries and pay increases of significantly more than other staff.
While Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts have been very proactive in promoting the actions, credit must be given to the member of University of Bath UCU who devised the original idea.We are very excited to see that these protests are taking place nationwide and are looking forward to seeing what comes next. Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts stand in solidarity with all students and staff who will participating in these actions. We believe the sharing of ideas between groups is imperative for the progression of the movement.
For more information contact: 020 7679 7219, 07989 235 178, 07538835330
Students are taking action nationwide to demand fair pay and in universities. From today they will be marking their Vice Chancellor’s pay days, marking the days when those at the top of their universities will have earned as much as the lowest paid workers on campus, who are usually outsourced cleaners.
The actions begin today, when Oxford Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton will have earned as much as the lowest paid worker on campus will have in a year. They will continue throughout January, with the University of Birmingham taking action on January 13, Warwick taking action on January 15, UCL on January 19 and Royal Holloway on January 21, among others.
They are demanding a 5:1 pay ratio at all universities, colleges and schools, with all in-house and outsourced workers paid at least the Living Wage, action to close the gender and racial pay gaps and democratic structures in educational institutions which put workers, students and local communities in control of our universities, colleges and schools, including on issues such as pay.
Helena Dunnett-Orridge, NCAFC National Committee, said “I recently graduated from the University of Birmingham where the Vice Chancellor David Eastwood is one of the highest paid in the country, despite us having had to fight last year to win a living wage for cleaners. The fight for fair pay is also a fight for the rights of women and migrant workers who are almost always disproportionately affected.”
James Elliott, Oxford Defend Education, said: “The equal pay day at Oxford is so early it falls outside of our term time! By lunchtime today our Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton will have earned as much as Oxford’s lowest paid full time staff have in a calendar year. With these actions, we are responding to the grossly unequal distribution of wealth on our campuses. This is all part of the fight for a democratic university, run by students and workers for the wider community.”
Hope Worsdale, Warwick for Free Education, said: “The newly knighted Nigel Thrift has overseen some of the grossest brutalities against his students and their rights to protest. We find it obscene that he is rewarded so highly for this, especially given his credentials as a supposedly left wing academic, and demand no more than a five to one pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid workers.”
1. For more information on Nigel Thrift and brutality at Warwick see: http://anticuts.com/2014/12/03/press-release-free-education-action-nationwide-as-police-brutally-evict-warwick-occupation/
Warwick University students are demonstrating on 12 January in support of their arrested comrades. Please support them.
2.30pm, Monday 12 January
Coventry Central Police Station [Read more…]
The NCAFC National Committee are looking for three people to fill the role of the Secretariat.
What is the Secretariat?
The Secretariat are elected by the NC and exist to both facilitate the work of the NC and run NCAFC’s democratic events. This means that they organise NCAFC Conference, act as returning officers, and support the NC through the administration of meetings. The Secretariat sit on the NC but don’t have a vote. They are allowed to be full political agents in meetings and in public (as long as they’re not chairing). These roles are crucial to making NCAFC’s democratic processes happen effectively
What do I need to know?
• A working understanding of NCAFC’s democratic structures
• A strong understanding of NCAFC’s debate procedures
• Strong organisational skills
• Free time
• Experience of having sat on boards or committees (excluding society and sports club committees)
Who can do this?
You must be a member of NCAFC but cannot currently hold a position on the NC.
If you’re interested in running please email [email protected] with at most a 200 word statement, by Sunday the 18th January at 6pm, on why you’d be good for the job and a ballot of the NC will be conducted online.
You can also email [email protected] with any questions about the role.
During recent struggles, NUS yet once again failed to stand up for students’ interests or fight effectively. The success of the national demonstration for free education shows that we can organise independently of NUS as student activists when necessary. But that’s no reason to abandon our national union to bureaucrats and careerists. We need to fight to transform it, as one part of building student organisation and transforming our movement.
Our national conference voted to endorse the following NCAFC members in NUS – read more about them below:
- BETH REDMOND (City & Islington College) for National President
- BARNABY RAINE (Oxford University) for Vice-President Union Development
- HATTIE CRAIG (Birmingham University) for Vice-President Higher Education
We also hope to support candidates for the other three full-time NUS leadership positions (VP Welfare, VP Society & Citizenship, VP Further Education), and will be discussing these contests at the next meeting of our National Committee 10-11 January, so please get in touch if you wish to propose a candidate: [email protected].
We will be standing candidates for the part-time “Block of 15” section and other positions on the NUS National Executive too. More information soon. If you are going to NUS conference, or would like to come and help out, get in touch: [email protected].
BETH REDMOND for National President
Beth says: “We need to transform our student movement from bottom to top. Repeatedly over the last five years British students have been willing to fight – against tuition fees and cuts to education, against police brutality, in solidarity with campus workers, against climate change and on many other issues. But we’ve been let down by our so-called leaders. NUS’s absurd antics over the demo show the blind alley it is stuck in. We need to transform our student unions into political, campaigning organisations. And NUS too – we can’t rely on it, but we shouldn’t abandon it to the hacks. Above all what the student movement needs, at every level, is people willing to stand up for themselves and others, people willing to fight for their ideas and principles whether they’re popular or not.”
BARNABY RAINE for Vice-President Union Development
Barnaby says: “NUS should serve the student movement, not stifle it. The Vice-President Union Development did nothing to stop ULU, a successful student union, being shut down. I am running to fight that right-wing bureaucratic culture. An effective student movement needs much more than a few left-wingers passing good policy on the NUS NEC. It needs lively, democratic campaigns on every campus. I will campaign for the Greek and Latin American model where police are banned from entering campuses, and start by implementing the legal fund for victimised activists passed by NUS conference but never implemented by the bureaucracy. By the end of my year as NUS VP UD, ideally I would like to have abolished the state, class and capital. I will settle for free education as a compromise.”
HATTIE CRAIG for Vice-President Higher Education
Hattie says: “The NUS should be calling national demonstrations, waves of occupations, student strikes, offering training and support to activists who want to take part in direct action, be at the forefront of opposing all repression and taking part in the movement, standing side by side with students in the streets. We need full time officers who have the guts to call for the action necessary to bring the government to their knees and will practice what they preach: putting themselves on the front line with student activists instead of leaving it to others to put their careers, futures and bodies in dangers. I will not just call for free education in my blog, I will call for it on the streets with tens of thousands of others. I will be in the occupations, in the police stations, in the courts with you every step of the way until we win free education.”
The following speech was given in the opening plenary at NCAFC conference in Manchester in December – by Beth Redmond, one of the lead organisers of the 19 November national demo for free education and the left candidate for President of NUS. [Read more…]