Students and Workers, Unite and Fight!
On the 27th September, the Save Our Staff student group (Manchester based) organised an Education for Sale panel event. It aimed to highlight the increased effects of marketisation in higher education. Since George Osborne announced a rise in tuition fees in 2010, to ‘bridge the gap’ in funding amongst the waves of cuts, universities have increasingly sought to sell their course to students, treating students as consumers. Education is no longer a priority amongst the crisis of capitalism!
The panel made up of students, academic staff and union representatives discussed how it is becoming increasingly clear that students in Manchester and across Britain are now entering into a ‘contractual agreement’ when they attend university. They have become consumers and lecturers service providers. Higher Education is becoming increasingly viewed as a product for sale instead of an investment in the public good. This marketplace structure and mentality has resulted in job cuts, course closures and rising tuition fees.
As expected, this has had an adverse effect on students as well as academic staff. The demand for everyone – from undergraduates to lecturers – to be ‘judged against the abstract marketised criteria’ places us under a terrible amount of a pressure, with a fragile support network. The panel were quick to point out the vastly insufficient mental health service at the University of Manchester, which we can see replicated across the country. To overcome this students and lecturers need to break with this model of education by uniting and demanding a system that places education before profit.
The discussion, hosted by Save Our Staff, spoke frankly about this culture in universities, and looked at how to combat it. It was clear that the mood in the meeting was one of non-capitulation, with everyone giving huge levels of respect to strikers, and discussing what they could do to fight on an even stronger basis when the next wave of strikes come.
In the last academic year, the UCU strikes allowed these discussions to be brought into the mainstream, and this meeting proved that despite the UCU capitulating in the last round of strikes, workers and students are still ready to fight.
During the discussion, questions of solidarity amongst different strikers were raised, looking at how the UCU could link up with non-academic strikers in universities. In SOAS, LSE, KCL and Goldsmiths there have been powerful strikes from cleaning staff. Much can be learned from the cleaner’s actions which combined student and worker fronts to defeat university management.
It is clear that in order to win these fights they must not only link up but fight to break with capitalism on a world scale. Events like the Save Our Staff meeting in Manchester, which called for student and staff joint-participation and occupations, shows a readiness to fight in both students and lecturers. Another round of strikes is likely to come, and we must continue meetings like these to keep a fighting mood intact. We must come together as students and workers across the country, and fight against marketisation in universities. The only way to do this is to fight capitalism and break with the system!
Fight the Uni Bosses! Fight capitalism!
By Chris Hesketh-Baxter, Manchester Marxists