We’re all too familiar with the education cuts and increased fees introduced by the government. Those of us already in education are lucky to have missed out on £9,000 a year fees. But for our teaching staff, for your lecturers and tutors, the effects will be felt much sooner. They are painfully aware that they or their colleagues may not have jobs within a year or two, and those who are lucky enough to stay face reduced pensions and cuts in real terms to their wages. For these reasons, the University and College Union (UCU) which represents many of our lecturers is this month holding a nationwide ballot on whether to take strike action.
The result won’t be known for some weeks yet. Until then, foremost on lecturer’s minds will be the impact of a strike on us, their students. Be under no illusion: causing us to lose valuable teaching time is a drastic, last resort action they would not choose to do lightly.
We believe it’s important that all students understand why the staff might do this. Some of you will be thinking, “how dare our tutors go on strike and risk damaging my education for their own benefit?” We would just ask you to think for a moment about what your education actually is and what your staff are here for. Do you want your university to be a sausage factory where disinterested staff go through the motions with you for three years and dish out flimsy, dubious degrees? Or did you choose Brighton because you wanted a collegiate atmosphere where the staff are passionate and engaged, and will expect you to challenge them as much as they challenge you? The superb atmosphere of learning we enjoy at Brighton only exists because we have excellent teaching staff who feel valued, respected and adequately paid for their contribution to society. Reduced teaching budgets, cutting pay and conditions, and especially the indignity of living in fear for their jobs, will inevitably mean fewer and less motivated lecturers are available to teach us. An assault on their pay and conditions is therefore an assault on the quality of your education.
As students committed to quality education we believe it’s crucial that lecturers can count on the understanding and support of their students if push comes to shove. Student support helped striking lecturers at Sussex overturn compulsory redundancies and ultimately save jobs last year. We urge you to think about this over the next few weeks until the vote is announced, and to be ready to back your staff if they do vote to strike. Because without our lecturers, there is no university.
Keep an eye on the blog for future announcements regarding student and staff solidarity actions.