Over the past year or so, Goldsmiths University has been another victim of the crisis of education’s marketisation.
A restructuring scheme was made in a backroom deal with Lloyds and NatWest banks, and was outsourced to a multinational consultancy firm.
A series of loans were issued by these banks on the basis that mass redundancies would take place. Additionally, the university’s main building was to be provided as collateral if repayments could not be made.
As a response to this gutting of the university, Goldsmiths staff – represented by the UCU – launched a period of strike action in November and December last year.
Now, with the university’s senior management team (SMT) refusing to meet the union’s demands to abandon planned job losses, another period of strike action has been launched.
Members of the Goldsmiths Marxist Society have been visiting the picket lines; standing in solidarity with these striking university workers and UCU members.
Activists and lecturers have given impassioned speeches, whilst students and other individuals have come along to offer words of solidarity and defend the workers.
One speaker pointed out similarities with other areas of the public sector – citing the dismal pay that many NHS staff receive, even after working to the point of collapse on the frontline throughout the pandemic.
The atmosphere on the picket lines has been one of hope and genuine optimism.
— Franca (@FrancaMarquardt) February 7, 2022
Although this is the second time that staff have had to strike this academic year, they are not demoralised. Instead, UCU members have stressed how those making the cuts did not expect such a forceful response.
As another speaker noted, management have made efforts to isolate the departments from one another; but they have clearly underestimated the staff’s potential to organise.
Turnout on the picket line has been good, with a significant number of students present in support, and an enormous anger towards those responsible for the cuts. As one student stated: “As a student, and just as a human being, nothing has caused me more distress and uncertainty than the cuts that the SMT are pushing for.”
There has also been an emphasis on the strike’s importance nationally, with speakers emphasising that the model of higher education being rolled out at Goldsmiths will be replicated by university bosses across the country if these attacks are not resisted.
Lizzie Dickson, Goldsmiths Marxists