Student section writer
Bradley is a PhD student at the University of Lincoln focusing on youth political engagement and serves as the Postgraduate Officer at the Students’ Union there. He has been involved in fossil fuel divestment activism and campaigns concerning campus democracy
(12.07.18) – Beyond Tuition Fees #11 – Much to Learn, More to Do
with Rowan Gavin
There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.
Students’ Unions are meant to defend students’ rights, fighting with and for them during their time at university and beyond. However, modern SUs are often dominated by corporate thinking, consumer culture and cosy collusion with university management. Radical, grassroots democracy is often muted or discouraged, channelled instead into more temperate, gradual and piecemeal avenues by Unions centralised in their functioning and timid in their approach.
It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this new series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.
Politics is in a very different place than a few years ago. Radical change feels possible, tangible, close. The Labour Party’s pledge to scrap tuition fees is one of many signs of this – welcome, and necessary to salvage higher education from the marketised juggernaut it has become. But just abolishing fees is not enough to fix all of higher education’s problems.
(21.02.18) – 2017: The Year of the Youthquake?
Youth voter turnout has long been a topic of debate, controversy and worry in British politics. Always below the national average, it has plunged even more than other age-groups’ dovetailing turnout in recent decades, sparking expressions of concern (although comparatively little policy change) from political parties. This seemed to have changed last June, with sites such as Yougov and NME reporting large increases in the youth vote for the 2017 general election, with the figures suggesting the largest rise in youth turnout in British political history.
Over the last 8 years, higher education in the UK has been subject to some of the largest and most invasive reforms in its history, guided by a deliberate, neoliberal project with the aim of crafting a marketised sector. This has set a new bar for invasive reforms that is now extending into the murky realms of the ‘free speech’ debate, with recently departed universities minister Jo Johnson proposing the illogical and frankly dangerous step of imposing fines on universities whose students’ unions fail to support free speech on campus.
(27.12.17) – It’s Our ‘Youthquake’ – What Will We Make Of It?
Young people can’t catch a break. On the one hand, we’re scolded and ridiculed for our apparent lack of engagement with traditional political institutions, which is generally assumed to be a result of our ‘laziness’ or ‘apathy’, with our disillusionment and distrust with politicians that have continually failed us apparently precluding our ‘right to complain’. On the other hand, when we do engage politically, in those rare moments when we do seek to take an active role in our futures, we’re painted as thuggish, fragile or naïve. In short, the message we continually get is: “engage – but not like that!”
CW: mentions sexual harassment
A teacake and a portable phone charger. Unlikely objects to trigger a tirade against the state of academic practices in the UK, but here you are, about to read one anyway.
So far we’ve looked at setting your goals, raising awareness, building your team and improving group cohesion, as well as how to engage with the media and escalate tactics in the face of opposition. In this final instalment we’ll explore the deeper and more existential issues facing your campaign: training up a new wave of activists to ensure your group lives on when original members leave, the challenges implicit in spreading activism throughout your campus, and what role activism really plays in the grand scheme of things.
(17.08.17) – Igniting Student Activism #2 – Escalation
The first article in this series looked at early steps of any campaign: doing your research, setting your goals, getting the message out there and beginning to grow your movement. This time we’ll be taking a look at some of the issues that occur as you begin to develop as a group.
(28.07.17) – Igniting Student Activism #1 – First Steps
with Calum Watts
Rarely in our lifetimes has there been a more exciting time for young people to engage in politics. Change is in the air and nowhere else offers more opportunities to engage in this conversation, to learn valuable skills and to help shape society than university campuses. This series of articles seeks to offer some guidance for those aiming to ignite student activism at their institutions. Drawing on our experiences as campaigners we hope to highlight some common challenges and give you some advice on how to combat them.
(06.07.17) – Reviving Campus Activism – A Roadmap
We live in turbulent times. The political establishment has been rocked again and again this last year. The government is embattled in a way it hasn’t been for 7 years and that rarest of things in British politics, change, is peeking its head above the parapet.
What’s more, for the first time in my lifetime, it seems my generation is willing to be an active participant in all this. June’s election saw the highest rise in youth turnout in British political history – it reached its highest absolute level since 1992. It falls to those of us already engaged to fan this flame and help it spread beyond the ballot box, building the political courage and competencies of our fellows. Nowhere offers a better opportunity for us to do this than on university campuses.
For the third time in a year an earthquake has rocked the political establishment, upsetting polls, pundits and precedent alike. Yet this time, unlike the division and isolation of Brexit, or the utter horror of Trump, we instead have hope. Snatching insurgence from the jaws of implosion, Labour and the broader left have risen to the edge of power. Yet whilst the election result was an excellent start, surviving the challenges our society faces will require much more. We need to build a movement which aims for nothing less than a complete transformation of our society. It is crucial now that we do not succumb to hubris or allow ourselves to be absorbed by the internal Conservative party debates – we need to use the time granted by their division to plan, organise and mobilise the movement that will transform Britain.
(20.05.17) – The UK Postgraduate Crisis Must End
Postgraduate study and research is a vital part of the higher education sector and yet in the UK it is in crisis, riddled by multiple, endemic problems.
Firstly, there are systemic problems with postgraduate study in terms of who even gets through the door. Research has shown that, graduates who are women, from certain ethnic minority groups or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to go on to study at postgraduate level. This is a social injustice in itself, and raises serious questions about the cultures and systems that exist within both academia and society more generally, but it is also to the detriment of academia: academia thrives on diversity.
Students have been at the forefront of progressive politics and change throughout the centuries. We were engaged in the 1848 revolutions that shook Europe, and front and centre of a wave of radical protest that shook the world in 1968. We played a part in challenging apartheid in South Africa and the continued Israeli abuse of the Palestinian people. Most recently we are leading the way on fossil fuel divestment.
(21.04.17) – Taking On The Spectre That Haunts Higher Education
We’ve all seen the headlines – tripled tuition fees, retroactive changes to the student loan book, the nefarious uses of the National Student Survey. Often treated as isolated issues, these policies are in reality the foot soldiers in a war being waged to undermine the very foundations of our universities, twisting them from hallowed halls of challenge and transformation into bland centres for corporate training and indoctrination. This spectre haunts academics, senior managers and even Students’ Unions alike, forcing them all to dance to the mantra of the market, to the profit agenda. This spectre’s name is capitalism.