As many of you will know this last week it was A-level results day, the day of the year when prospective students get results that determine in many ways their futures, will they be going to university? Will they will be straddled with a lifetime of student debt? Will university even be worth it?
What many prospective students do not realise is that universities are not always the beacons of academic pursuits we hope them to be, but instead businesses that see students merely as consumers and increasingly see academic staff as workers to exploit for profit. The commodification of higher education can be seen with the massive rises in tuition fees in recent years and the recent end to student grants in favour of loans. Many of the poorest are being priced out of university once again showing that meritocracy does not exist in capitalist society.
A good example of recent trends in higher education is the vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester Paul Boyle’s recent announcement (May 29th) in a message to staff of a proposal to the local council to increase the university´s operating surplus to £9 million a year. This will be via the closure of the Vaughn centre of lifelong learning and university library bookshop along with 150 redundancies across many departments (originally as voluntary severance packages but later updated to compulsory redundancy).
These changes are sure to lead to a drop in teaching standards that many new prospective students won’t be aware of and is a blatant attack on teaching in the university. The proposed plan under the guise of “institutional transformation” is aimed to avoid a supposed looming financial crisis in the university by reducing staffing costs by £2.5 million (4.5% of staffing costs) however the LUCU strongly and rightly rejects the senior managements view of a looming financial crisis for reasons outlined sensibly and clearly here: http://www2.le.ac.uk/institution/unions/ucu/documents/response-to-financial-crisis
Following a unanimous vote of no confidence in the vice chancellor by the LUCU at an EGM meeting a letter was sent to Paul Boyle on 19th July asking for a withdrawal of the unnecessary compulsory redundancies by the end of July, the only reply being the senior managements continued total refusal to do so.
We must stand in solidarity with the LUCU against such cuts and attacks on academia and education in Leicester and elsewhere. Feel free to sign and support their petition against the proposed plans here: http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/no-cuts-no-confidence-at-university-of-leicester/ There is also a petition for saving the Vaughn centre here: https://www.change.org/p/the-university-of-leicester-save-the-vaughan-centre-for-lifelong-learning and a Facebook campaign for the continued fight to protect the Vaughn centre here: https://www.facebook.com/savevaughan/ which could do with our support to protect this important resource for many students at the university.
And finally here is an article in the local Leicester mercury newspaper http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/vaughan-centre-lifelong-learning-close-staff/story-29378170-detail/story.html#ixzz4B4OmQeH9 concerning the closing of the much loved Vaughn centre. All of this shows the importance of the Vaughn centre in the university and why we can’t sit still and let it be closed unnecessarily. This fight is part of the national fight against cuts and privatisation in education, and our fight against the capitalist system that forces these things upon us.
by Jonathan Lees, Leicester Marxists