Documentaries tell the untold story of student protests

The human significance of the cuts

Dr Carlos Frade, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the School of English Sociology Politics & C. History of the University of Salford, writes for the NCAFC about the true meaning of the cuts and what is, above all, at stake in the spending review


The significance of the ‘spending review’ and the true choice we will make now, whether we want it or not.

Dr Carlos Frade

What is at stake in the spending review is not a question of so-called ‘cuts’, how massive they will be and whom will be most affected; that is a merely technical problem which takes for granted the nature and scope of the real problem. Nor is it only a question, absolutely unacceptable as this is, of the hardship which hundreds of thousands are bound to undergo. The gravest problem lies elsewhere.

The facts are plain and well known: a number of major banks lost inconceivable amounts of money while the bankers amassed and continue to amass unbelievable sums for which they pay ridiculous taxes. To avoid the banks’ collapse, governments poured in billions of public money to bail them out, thus becoming heavily indebted. But ‘financial markets’ don’t like such public deficits, so governments are quick to plan massive public spending ‘cuts’ in order to reduce the deficits and please ‘the markets’, that is, the banks and the bankers. Any mention of tax rises for the well-off is considered blasphemous, while a campaign just launched against ‘benefit scroungers‘ (seemingly a very serious thing, as it includes ‘benefit cheat hit squads‘ ) is not directed at the true scroungers and cheats responsible for the catastrophe, but is the usual ferocious campaign against the poorer and less fortunate. To add insult to injury we are told by ministers that the ‘cuts’ which will destroy hundreds of thousands of family lives and bring havoc to the whole country are ‘fair’ – as if words had gone mad and ministers had also been abandoned by the last human capacity, that of blushing with shame.

How is this possible at all? Four elements account for this situation: an oligarchy of wealth as ruling group – in truth a plutocracy; a doctrinaire and extremely contagious political ideology: managerialism; an easily recruitable executive following: a growing managerial class which occupies key positions in all institutions and at all levels through the society; and a standard set of governing tools made up of managerial indicators and above all indebtedness (compulsory debt-incurring) to which ‘all and each’ are yoked: individuals, including ever younger people such as students, institutions and entire countries.

These four elements make a totally poisonous ‘cocktail’ – poisonous for anything to do with human dignity, love for the job well done and for the public good, freedom, democracy and justice. How does it work? As any such oligarchy in history, the defining features of the current one are: tireless quest to squeeze everything out of those beneath them, parvenu disdain for learning and culture, and total impunity (the only difference with the old oligarchies being that this one is the result of a subsidised capitalism). As for those who are not part of the oligarchy, it is basically a question of unfitness for a free or political way of life, that is to say, of servitude; but the servitude is voluntary because, in reality, women and men do not mind yielding their liberty and abdicating their responsibility through servile submission, since in the process we become petty tyrants ourselves, and this is a role we seem to end up enjoying, to the point of mistaking it for the responsibility and liberty we have just surrendered.

This is the kind of human beings that the current regime demands, promotes and shapes. It requests them from the very beginning, from the cradle, as the case of university students shows: by yoking students to huge long-term debts, that is, to what governments all over the world now reject for themselves like the plague, the recent Browne’s review of HE (strangely called an ‘independent’ review despite the unmistakable belonging of its author to the aforementioned oligarchy) seeks to make sure that students will be consumers and nothing but consumers. The difficulty is that a university degree proper is not something one can just ‘buy’, for buying something is the easiest thing to do if one has money, but a degree demands effort and dedication, qualities which nobody in their right mind has ever attributed to consumers. That is why claiming that ‘students’ paying more will demand ‘more’ (Browne’s review) is sheer sophistry. ‘More’ of what? Indeed such ‘students’ will demand more easiness, more good-timeness, and will request their qualifications regardless. Pleasing and flattering angry consumers: that will be ‘teaching’, the only ‘teaching’ permitted by the managerial indicators of ‘student’ satisfaction. But it was never a question of teaching or education; rather the purpose is to transform HE into a market, that is, into yet another profit-yielding machinery to feed the oligarchy with what it cherishes most: cripple human beings.

We can thus see the true alternative the so-called ‘cuts’ place before us, here and now: either to consecrate a situation of servitude whereby a country governed like a herd of cattle continues to feed the oligarchy with its daughters and sons, or to show the resoluteness of able and responsible women and men to, both collectively and individually, stand up against this infinite injustice and start to define our own fate. Only hardship without dignity and pride should be feared. This is the choice: want it or not, we will choose, and it will be the result of that choice what we will bequeath to those coming after us.

CSR and Browne Review – a fundamental attack on education

by Simon Hardy and Mark Boothroyd

The coalition government is launching a wide-ranging and devastating attack on Higher Education in this country. Despite Chancellor George Osborne claim that universities are “jewels in our economic crown”, his actions speak louder than his words. By slashing the teaching budget by up to 80 percent and doubling tuition fees to £7000 a year minimum the government is sending a clear message that university will be the privilege of the rich – an increasingly elitist institution barring entry to poorer students.

The proposed funding cuts of around £2.9 billion will primarily rip the heart out of humanities courses. The government says that the cuts can be paid for with increases in tuition fees to make up some of the difference. The reality is that many universities lower down the league tables will find it hard to attract students if they have to pay such huge fees, leading to reductions in student numbers, sackings of lecturing and support staff and possible closures of campuses or even whole universities.

This comes on top of the Browne review, published just before the CSR they combine into a pincer manoeuvre that, if implemented in the majority of universities, will see the effective neoliberalisation of our higher education system.  Almost overnight universities will be transformed from public institutions educating people for the benefit of society, to private institutions educating people for the needs of business. We are today faced with a distorted debate whereby the Browne proposal to uncap fees is counter posed to doubling the fees, which suddenly seems “reasonable”.

The reality is that none of this is reasonable. In fact what is particularly outraging many people is the sheer unfairness of the proposals. The government’s “banking levy” will raise only £2 billion from the banks, in contrast to the £900 billion bailout in 2008-2009, they plan on cutting corporation tax from 28 to 24 percent over the next four years, boardroom pay went up by an astonishing 55 percent last year, Trident is still being renewed and yet universities are facing closure and many tens of thousands of potential students will be unable to access the kind of education that their parents or even older brothers and sisters did.

Alongside this are cuts to Further Education, with a proposed £1.1 billion (25 percent) cut from the FE budget as well, this will have a terrible impact on adult learners and younger students in a sector which has already faced years of funding cuts.

In this environment education is increasingly viewed simply in business terms – how can it make you a better earner? How much will your skills contribute to business? How can research grants from business boost university coffers? But it is wrong to reduce education as a whole to the benefits of capitalism or the earning power of individuals. Society as a whole benefits from a well-educated population, the more surgeons, philosophers, historians, artists, engineers and media studies students the better!

NCAFC makes the simple argument that the rich should be taxed to pay for our education system – if it is business that benefits so much from graduates knowledge then business can pay more for education through general taxation. Fees force individuals and families to shoulder the cost of education, while business gets the benefits of that education effectively for free, and a graduate tax simply transfers this burden to the rest of the students working-life, again allowing business to benefit with no cost to themselves.

A free education for every student is not expensive, the higher education budget is at present £8 billion per year, with £1.3 billion coming from fees. In comparison this year alone bankers received £7 billion in bonuses. Confiscating this amount would pay for free education for every person in Britain, and that’s without any rise in taxes on the richest 10% of society, whose combined wealth is five times the cost of the entire deficit.

That is why organisations like the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts exists, to co-ordinate student and academic staff resistance to these cuts and lead a struggle to stop the implementation of the Browne review. This can be done. On the continent mass movements of students and workers have stopped cuts and fees in education in France, Greece and Germany. By staging walkouts, occupations, strikes and blockades of roads and railways students and workers have forced the governments of Europe to back down. We must do the same here (November 10 and 24 are good places to start!), not only our education but the education of all future generations of young people depends on it.

Oxford Protest Videos

Students hold sit-in at Browne Review VC’s office

Birmingham students took over their Vice Chancellor’s office by holding a sit in on Friday.

Vice Chancellor Professor Eastwood sat on the panel of Lord Browne’s review in to higher education funding which suggested removing government funding from arts and humanities subjects, and completely removing the cap on tuition fees.

John Bowman spoke to student Ed Bauer about the action.
[Read more…]

24 November – walkout against fees and cuts!

Students in Europe walk out – we should do it here

Now supported by:
Leeds University Against Cuts

Sussex University Against Cuts

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

Motion to be tabled at the Take Back Education conference 31 Oct.

Make the walkout happen

Walkouts have been one of the major ways school and college students in Britain have traditionally shown their discontent.

They took place at hundreds of schools and colleges against the Iraq war in 2003, against “third world” debt in 2005, and several colleges walked out against cuts and privatisation in 2009-10, including the Dover Christ Church Academy this month.

University students haven’t staged a walkout for a while in Britain. But last year we did manage an impressive wave of occupations against the attacks on Gaza, and many universities occupied lecture theatres and even management offices against cuts.

Now, with the very nature of further and higher education under threat school students, college students and university students need to fight together. This isn’t just phrasemongering – if we are to defeat the proposals of the Browne Review we need to build a mass movement like the current general strikes in France.

That’s why a school, college and uni walkout out is a vital first step for us to take, demonstrating our unity in action.

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT

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Organise a time

First off, we need to find and talk to the small groups of students in our school/college/university who are most in favour of walking out.

Agree what time you will meet up on the morning of 24 November, BEFORE the official walkout time of 11am – 10am is probably a good time, at school, 8.30am might be better.

This will allow you to catch students on their way into school/college/uni and get them to join the protest on the day itself.

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Spread the word

Use email, facebook, texts, phone calls to advertise the time AND PLACE of your protest. But it may be wise to set up an anonymous email address and facebook profile so you don’t end up getting personally victimised.

If at any point you are asked who has organised the protest, say it “has been organised collectively by lots of students together”
You should organise some leafletings by downloading our walkout leaflet, writing on the details of your local meet-up point. Take it to your local cornershop for photocopying, cut them up and hand it out to as many students as possible.

If you go to school, you should be discreet about doing this, don’t hand them out openly next to the entrance of your school or you will get in trouble. But as long as you are not on school property, you have a democratic right to hand out leaflets.

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Coordinate

In towns and cities where colleges, schools and universities are close together, we want the protests to converge.

In the weeks before the walkout, contact us if you need help finding the people organising walkouts at other schools/colleges/unis in your area.

In particular, we would like to see university students planning to march around their campus, bursting into lecture theatres and spreading the word.

Then they should march to the next school/college/uni, picking up local protests, so the demonstration gets larger and larger. This is called a “flying picket”.

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On the day

Make sure you turn up to your initial meeting point (which should be in a highly visible location) with placards, whistles, and good chants. We will list some suggestions below

Grab students planning to go into their lessons, and persuade them to join your protest.

After creating lots of noise and pulling in lots of students it is time to take to the streets! Don’t be afraid to block traffic if you have enough people and most importantly:

AS SOON AS YOU WALK OUT SEND TEXTS TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES TELLING THEM YOU’VE WALKED OUT AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO THE SAME.

When you’ve linked up and converged with other walkouts in your area march around your local town and city.

You can finish up with speeches, a meeting on how to continue the struggle, or even occupying a building at the local university if uni students agree this is possible.

As soon as you can, send short reports and photographs of your demonstration to us.

Chants

“Education is a right! When they say cut, we say fight!”
“When they say cut back, we say fight back!”
“What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!”
“When they cut back our education, we go into occupation”

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Slogans for placards

“F*ck fees”
“Education is a right”
“Down with Browne!”
“Keep big oil out of education”
“There are some things money can’t buy, but for education there’s Mastercard”

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Postering to advertise the walkout

(not recommended)

This is illegal. Apparently people prepared to take this risk generally do it as follows: it is possible to put up posters with details of a meeting coming up to try and get more people to it. A3 sized posters stand out. Making the image simple, and if the posters have a few words on them then it is a good idea to make them stand out. People often print the posters on A4 then blow it up on the photocopier later.

People who flypost get a small bucket and a paste brush (this can be quite expensive, so you could just use a normal paint brush) a bottle of tap water, a packet of wall paper paste and a plastic bag to carry it all in.

Because flyposting is illegal and the cops and security can give you a hard time if they catch you doing it, flyposting teams have minimum three people in them: one to paste, one to stick up the posters, one or more to keep look out.

Of course, we are not recommending this!

Reviewing the Browne Review

by Ben Ramanauskas, University of Westminster, article also on Smoke Magazine

Lord Browne recently published his Report on the future of higher education in the UK. It does not make pleasant reading. Browne recommends lifting the cap on tuition fees, allowing universities to charge as much money as they like. There are already reports that Oxford, Cambridge and various universities in London could charge anywhere from £12,000- £30,000 per year.

This introduction of variable tuition fees proposed by Browne will have a devastating impact on young people in Britain and on society as a whole. It will lead to elite universities competing with each other on who can milk their student ‘cash cows’ the most. This will result in attendance at these prestigious universities becoming the preserve of the wealthiest in society. Although these universities are currently dominated by students from public schools and wealthy families, students from state schools and less affluent backgrounds are still able to attend. An increase in tuition fees as advocated by Browne will surely result in students from deprived socio-economic backgrounds being deterred from applying.

Furthermore, as the students from public schools and the new academies leave home to start at one of these elite institutions, poorer students will be starting a very different life. Presumably the vision of Browne and the Government is that these students from the failing, structurally unsafe state schools, many of whom are highly intelligent, will start at underfunded colleges studying in cramped classrooms and under-resourced libraries for degrees which the Government deems ‘socially useful’. Although, of course, there is always the job centre.

Furthermore, Browne proposes shifting the responsibility for payment from the tax payer, to the student. This is hardly surprising considering Universities Minister David Willetts’ recent remark that ‘students are a burden on the tax payer’. Not only are Willetts’ comments insulting, they are also factually wrong. This is because an educated work force is essential for the economy.

These recommendations are hardly surprising considering who was on the Browne Committee and in the current Cabinet. The Cabinet consists predominantly of very wealthy, public school educated men. Whilst the Browne review did not include a single student or NUS representative and only one academic on its panel. In addition, the Review was headed by a man whose only link with universities is that he studied at Cambridge several decades ago. His only qualification appears to be that he is good friends with Lord Mandelson. Also, not only is he unelected, he was also forced to resign from his job as head of BP after allegations about his private life and misuse of company funds were made public. The people deciding the fate of universities in the UK are millionaires who received a free education; how could they ever be considered qualified to propose changes to university funding?

Of course the Con-Dem Government will argue that this disgraceful treatment of students is necessary to reduce the deficit. However, let us not forget why the deficit is so large; it is because of the bankers, many of whom went to elite universities themselves, having to be bailed out by the tax payer to the tune of approximately £1,000 Billion. The Government appears to be intent on placing the burden of reducing the deficit on the shoulders of the country’s most ambitious and intelligent young people.

Introducing variable tuition fees will be an extraordinary act of self harm by the Government. It will result in millions of young people being condemned to a life of misery by the ConDem Government. Also, it would be morally reprehensible for Liberal Democrat MPs to vote to increase tuition fees. The Liberal Democrats were elected on a mandate to abolish tuition fees and are now planning on not only reneging on that promise, but doing the exact opposite. Any action by the Liberal Democrats to raise tuition fees will be a betrayal of the students who voted for them.

The Liberal Democrats need to ignore the Browne Review and instead listen to their conscience. They should then inform their new best friends in the Conservative party that they will not renege on their promise to students, and will not vote to increase tuition fees.

London and South Regional Meeting Minutes (13 October 2010)

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Minutes (13 October 2010)

SOAS activists take the streets

SOAS activists are once more in the move.

After a general activists meeting last Monday and a smaller, education activists caucus on the 12th, SOAS students have now start3ed  a (temporarily named) SOAS Anti-Cuts group.

Similarly to actions taken all across the country, SOAS students have taken the campus to protest against the issuing of the Browne Review, this Tuesday.

Spreading the message through leafleting and talking to fellow students during lunch breaks, SOAS activists hope to not only raise awareness about the consequences of the imminent privatization of Higher Education, but also to establish a solid network of students within SOAS willing to campaign for free-education and against the cuts.

With a nice little stall in front of the main building as centre stage to all action, many were the ones that stopped by, exchanged ideas and left their contact details for future action.

Big things seem to be brewing so watch this space!

Battle plan for action against Browne review

Action Against Browne Review
National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Southern region meeting

Passed 13 Oct 2010

A historic attack on students

The Browne Review, which was expected to raise the cap on tuition fees has gone even further than many realised – completely abolishing the cap altogether.

Whilst it is not yet law, cabinet ministers including Lib Dem Vince Cable have said they agree with the findings of the report and intend to implement it. They will likely reproduce it in some form in the Comprehensive Spending Review with a view to the bill coming into being in the next budget.

This is in direct contradiction to their key manifesto pledge, to abolish tuition fees. It even contradicts their plans for a ‘graduate tax’, which they supported after the election. Most even signed a special NUS pledge to say they would vote against any rise in fees.

Some Lib Dems MPs have said they will rebel against their party whips – the sell-out will also anger party members. The rise in tuition fees will leave weak points exposed in the Lib Dems and therefore the coalition. The

Lib Dems are therefore a key target for protest, actions etc.
This is also a likely reason why the review was announced in secret and released well after its completion.

We will protest at the Lib Dem HQ in Westminster at 4pm on Oct 25.

Killing universal education

The review is an historic attack on education in several ways:
It will make higher education simply unaffordable for huge numbers of working class, and lower-middle class people.

It will create a market between universities – some will charge extortionate fees and become playgrounds for the rich. The others left behind will become increasingly badly funded, vocationally based, or will close.

As such this is also a huge attack on the idea of learning for the sake of learning and expanding working class culture. University will become a place where the ‘haves’ study to get well-paid jobs in finance and business related degrees.

Subjects such as art, philosophy and politics – the humanities – will become increasingly drained of resources as students scramble to find courses that can realistically provide them with a job that will pay off a debt worth tens of thousands.

Fightback

The Browne review will have angered millions of students – those already concerned about debt at the universities – and those in FE colleges and school who want to go to university. It will also further radicalise intellectual and university teachers concerned about the wider damage to education and culture.

In this environment, a mass movement can take place – so the action we now take has to be swift and radical.

Thankfully, there are already key actions organised nationally and in London, which can draw in huge numbers of students.

October 20

The march against the Comprehensive Spending Review. A student march will take place at 4pm, from ULU. We should argue for meet up points at every university in London take friends and political contacts to ULU from there.

We will use the demonstration as an opportunity to advertise the “free education” bloc on the demonstration on 10 November.

Halls canvassing and stalls should be organised next week to build for the Comprehensive Spending Review demo.

November 10

This is the big joint NUS and UCU demonstration. Again feeder marches should be organised. In the run up to the demonstration we will organise postering in key areas of London, advertising the “free education” meet-up point.

We will also build this demonstration with canvassing and leaftings, and we should fight for local anti-cuts groups to support the “free education” bloc

Walkout!

We will call a national walk-out and protest that can be publicised on both the 20 Oct and the NUS free education bloc on 10 Nov.

A good date for this would be in the last weeks of November.

The NCAFC will organise regional meetings through which the walkout can be organised, drawing in as many students as possible – we will put particular emphasis on school on college students who will suffer worse from Browne’s review. University students where possible should ‘adopt’ a school or college to build for the walkout.