Everyone was very excited about what we could achieve this term: unlike last year we’re not starting the group from scratch, plus the combination of a London demonstration and major industrial action both happening in November should prove a catalyst for the movement across the country.
It was highlighted that the national student movement is not talking about if nonviolent direct action will occur, but when, and this perspective was thoroughly endorsed by Brighton Students Against Cuts. Nationally we should expect a far larger, more coordinated stop the cuts movement than last year, and should work to ensure this happens at our local level.
We pinpointed three areas that needed to be immediately addressed: the Freshers’ Fair, the November 9th demo and the November 30th strike action.
Things are gearing up for a winter of discontent across the country. The spontaneity of last year’s student movement was inspiring, but it came at the cost of the trade unions not being able to organise institutional support quickly enough to supplement the student movement’s dynamism. This year that is certainly not the problem. Unison, Unite, the GMB and other smaller unions will be balloting their members for intended strike action on November 30th. The student movement has been quick to respond, pledging its support for the strike action at an assembly held in London last weekend. Edinburgh University is already in occupation. The twitter feeds of last year’s occupations are buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a combined trade union movement and student movement in solidarity, jointly resisting the government’s privatisation onslaught.
At Brighton, one of the many universities charging the full £9000 a year tuition fees, we will be doing everything we can to support this diverse movement. Taking last year’s successes and supplementing them with the might of Britain’s trade unions, the stage is set for the people of Britain to reclaim the public goods that have been taken from them by an elite corpocracy and put in the hands of private interest.
At last year’s AGM University of Brighton’s Students’ Union passed a motion to actively opposing the Government’s funding cuts to higher education and the University’s decision to charge £9000 a year tuition fees. Given that the Students’ Union has shown no sign of when or how this active opposition is to occur, or indeed no sign that this motion was even passed, we are concerned that our Union may be shirking its democratic responsibilities. Please contact our President, Terry Preston, and ask him what he has planned:
T: 01273 643816
Location: Students’ Union, G35, Cockcroft Building, Lewes Road, BN2 4GJ.
In solidarity and looking forward to a direct-action filled autumn term,
Brighton Students Against Cuts
We’re very pleased to announce that, during yesterday’s AGM of Brighton Students’ Union, the two motions that were put forward by Brighton Students Against Cuts were passed. This means that from now on the Students’ Union is committed to:
- supporting all future strike action by our lecturers, and
- actively opposing the Government’s funding cuts to higher education and the University’s decision to charge £9000 a year tuition fees.
Additionally, motions were passed to: boycott all Israeli goods produced on illegal settlements; to ensure that students aren’t described as ‘consumers’ and have their fundamental rights as students upheld; and to encourage the University to promote widening access to higher education.
Finally, prior to any of these motions coming under discussion students voted not in favour of continuing our affiliation with NUS for the remainder of this academic year. This means, until the start of next academic year, University of Brighton Students’ Union is an independent entity.
Please spread word of these successes to any mailing lists you have access to. We’re very proud that this academic year started with University of Brighton’s first ever occupation and ended with tangible and significant victories within our Students’ Union. Looking to next academic year, with a politicised Students’ Union and the fact that the effects of the Government’s funding cuts will start to be felt by students in their everyday lives, we’re excited to see what can be achieved in the resistance to the marketisation of higher education.
This Wednesday’s meeting (23rd) is an important one to attend if at all possible. University of Brighton University and College Union (UCU) lecturers go on strike on Thursday 24th; concrete plans for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) protest on Saturday 26th need to be laid down; and the aftermath of the Students’ Union elections needs to be discussed. There is a huge amount going on right now; we need to respond tactically if we’re to have the greatest impact. Students, lecturers, support staff and interested parties are all welcome. The more people we have attending, the more effective we can be.
- UCU lecturers are striking on Thursday 24th March in defense of their USS pension rights and job security (as well as other interlinked reasons). We need to decide how best to support them.
- The TUC ‘March for the Alternative’ demonstration on Saturday 26th March in London is set to be the biggest since the Iraq War demonstrations of 2003. Do we occupy Hyde Park, or Trafalgar Square, or somewhere else, or simply toe the line of the march?
- For those who don’t know, Tim, Jade and Calum were unsuccessful in their attempt to be elected as sabbatical officers in the Students’ Union. We can respond to this in a variety of ways; Tim has touched on a few of those ways in a recent blog post.
Add into the mix the local issue of the threat to the Big Lemon from Brighton and Hove City Buses’ most recent form of ‘competition’, and the global issue of the unfolding NATO assault on Libya, and there’s plenty that needs to be discussed. Please come along to room G7, 10-11 Pavilion Parade, at 18:30 to contribute.
Standing in Brighton’s Students’ Union elections are Tim Huzar (Union President), Calum Blundell (Vice President Academic Affairs) and Jade Taaffe (Vice President Wellbeing). Voting is open now! You can vote at studentcentral.brighton.ac.uk; click on the banner to the right of the home page when you log-on.
If you’re a Brighton student and want a strong Stop the Cuts presence in the sabbatical team, vote Tim, Calum and Jade.
I’ve just left a course committee meeting in which the representative from our library broke the news that they are looking at possible cuts to journals after being ordered to “aspire” to make 10% cuts in spending by the head of Information Services.
Lecturers in the committee were dismayed at this news. Journals are a vital resource that ensure both lecturers and students can keep abreast of developments in their academic field. Staff questioned the need for such cuts since it has not been communicated to them by management that the university is facing any kind of budget crisis. The ‘aspirational’ nature of the order suggests that Information Services, and possibly other departments, are being asked to make cuts purely for their own sake regardless of their impact.
Cuts to journals could have far-reaching implications beyond the loss of useful resources. The new funding model being brought into universities places significant emphasis on the amount and ‘quality’ (read: profitability) of research put out by each institution. This is part of the wider effort to convert the academy into a factory whose output must above all else support the demands of capital. Without access to the full breadth of current research and debate through the journals, our lecturers and research students will struggle to meet the assessment criteria for ‘relevance’ and ‘impact’ being laid down by the funding bodies, creating a vicious circle of poor funding and limited research that will impact the reputation and academic rigour of our university.
The libraries representative stressed that no cuts have actually been decided at this stage. They have simply been asked to plan for them – a deceitful sleight-of-hand that could see cuts forced on the basis that speculatively planning for them ‘just in case’ has ‘proven’ there are possible ‘savings’ (i.e. cuts) to be made. The planning has been complicated by the fact that publishers often tie the libraries into long-term contracts which would cost more to cancel than continue (the famous aircraft carrier scenario, as one lecturer put it), and also tend to bundle several publications together in one contract, so that unpopular journals cannot be dispensed with to save money without losing the more important ones in the same bundle.
George Osborne’s 3.5% increase in VAT is also hitting the library budget. Printed matter is not subject to VAT, but the electronic versions of journals are VAT rateable and this leaves libraries in a double-bind – they hadn’t budgeted for the extra expense, but they can’t avoid it because of the way publishers bundle e-journals together with the print subscriptions or as filler for the bundles.
Other possibilities being mooted to meet the savings target – which amounts to a around £4,000 – include buying in fewer copies of existing books, meaning more will be put on desk loan and 7-day loans and it will be an even worse struggle than it already is to obtain certain key titles; not duplicating titles between libraries, meaning even more inter-library loans; or simply buying fewer new titles. None of these scenarios are acceptable.
Questioned are being sent via the hierarchy at present but in the meantime we must begin to think about how to apply pressure on the University management and fight this assault on the quality of our education.