JUSTICE FOR CLEANERS AT KING’S COLLEGE LONDON

By KCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign

Content warning: mentions sexual harassment, homophobic abuse

This week, the KCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign released a short film revealing the struggles of migrant cleaners at King’s College London, a day before management made a recommendation to the College Council as to whether to end the outsourcing of cleaning. Through the film, cleaners speak in their own words about the violence of the outsourcing model and how mistreatment at KCL is normalised.

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FREEING EDUCATION FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #5

By Lotty Clare

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 series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

We face many challenges as students in 2018. Painfully high tuition fees along with eye-watering maintenance loans means that lower income students will leave university with over £50,000 of debt. Bafflingly, Prime Minister Theresa May only recently came to the realisation that poorer students are getting deterred from going into higher education. By contrast, the Labour Party’s promises to scrap tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants are of course a welcome relief for many prospective students – UK national students that is. Labour have seemingly barely considered the possibility of doing the same for international students. At the University of East Anglia, non-EU international students pay about £14,800 annually, on top of having to prove that they have access to thousands of pounds for living costs. If education is a right, why are we privileging wealthier international students in this way? What would Britain look like if we abolished or at least dramatically reduced fees for international students?

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A TRULY RADICAL NUS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #2

By Lewis Martin

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 series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

Over the last year the NUS has been a shadow of its former self, riddled with accusations of bullying from its President and marked by its failure to engage with the largest upswelling of campus activism this country has seen in years. It was bizarre enough that it refused to back demonstrations for Free Education last year, implying a denial that the end of tuition fees would be a benefit for students. But that pales in comparison to the extraordinary lack of NUS involvement in the recent UCU strikes. While its members joined the picket lines and entered occupation up and down the country, NUS chose to stay silent when our academic staff most needed their support. Continue Reading

REFLECTIONS FROM THE PICKET LINE

By Alex Powell

During the UCU strike over the proposed cuts to the USS pension scheme, I was on the picket line almost every day, rising early to join colleagues all over the country in standing outside university buildings and telling those who tried to enter what we were fighting for. Often, the media attempts to portray strikers as lazy, suggesting that they simply cannot be bothered to do their jobs. Other times strikers are represented as greedy, suggesting that they are already doing far better than the rest of the country and now they want more. I want to offer another perspective – direct from the picket line – charting how being on strike has strengthened my relationships with colleagues, raised morale among staff and made me a better teacher.

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BREAK UUK, WIN THE STRIKE – NATIONAL DEMO AT SUSSEX UNI

By Max Savage and Ellen Musgrove

“…in the short term I would be happy to reconstruct a social democratic compromise which aimed to decrease inequalities…I recognise that this will not remove the gross injustices inherent within capitalist structures. To reiterate, capitalism is the enemy, but neoliberalism seems to me to be worse than social democracy. Perhaps we should set our sights a little lower than capitalism and attempt to slay the neoliberal beast.”

– Adam Tickell, ‘Reflections on “Activism and the Academy”’ (1995)

Professor Tickell, once apparently an advocate of radical social reorganisation, is now Sussex University Vice Chancellor and one of neoliberalism’s torchbearers in the UK higher education sector. While it is tempting to conclude from this transformation that Tickle is a duplicitous, cowardly and parasitic individual, there is in fact a larger point to be drawn: very often our politics are not forged by our own choosing but by our position. Once you are earning an obscene salary and have turned a blind eye to staff on your campus earning under the living wage, perhaps neoliberalism isn’t so beastly after all.

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THE UCU STRIKE – A GUIDE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

By Ana Oppenheim, NUS International Students’ Campaign

What is happening?
Academic staff at over 60 universities will be going on strike for 14 working days, starting from Thursday February 22. This means many lectures will be cancelled – but even when they are not, we are encouraging students in universities that are on strike to not go to class and, if possible, not enter university buildings at all during strike days.
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WHY I AM STRIKING

by Alex Powell

As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, I hold a position that straddles the roles of student and staff, giving me a slightly unusual perspective on the UCU strike action that begins today. It is from this conflicted, complex and, at times like these, compromised position that I wish to lay out why I will be standing with colleagues from 61 other institutions around the country in joining the strike action.

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UCU STRIKE TO PROTECT PENSIONS

The much-reported Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) strike in protest of cynical changes to university staff pension arrangements begins next week. The UEA branch of UCU and UEA Students’ Union have produced this statement for The Norwich Radical, to offer an introduction to the issues surrounding the strike. The Radical encourages all students, in Norwich and elsewhere, to stand in solidarity with the strikers by not attending classes on the dates of the strikes, and by sharing their message with your peers.

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HIGHER EDUCATION’S EXPANSION PROBLEM

by Alex Powell

The number of students starting at UK universities has increased dramatically in recent years, despite a slight fall recorded this year, and is set to go on increasing as universities increase their intake. The government has heralded this as an example of the increasing availability of higher education to students coming from working class communities. However, we have to ask what impact the increase in student numbers is having on the quality of education provided by universities.

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NO, YOU’RE NOT A FRAUD – IMPOSTER SYNDROME IN HE

by Alex Powell

Recently I’ve started teaching as part of my PhD, and through doing so I‘ve been learning a few things myself. The most striking thing I have noticed is how skewed and extreme expectations are for people in various academic roles. Why do we assume that a lecturer in any given subject should know everything there is to know about that subject off the top of their head?

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SHIFTING THE SPOTLIGHT IN THE VC PAY DEBATE

by Lewis Martin

Throughout the summer the debate around vice chancellor pay has continued to play out. Government and media figures have joined students in their long standing expression of outrage at absurd rates of pay, whilst the VCs themselves have come out to defended their salaries, some with a remarkable lack of self-awareness. Oxford VC Louise Richardson recently joined the fray with this startlingly uncaring remark: “My own salary is £350,000. That’s a very high salary compared to our academics who I think are, junior academics especially, very lowly paid.”

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SAIL AWAY, PROFESSOR HOLMES. YOU WON’T BE MISSED.

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by Rowan Gavin

As the farce of university bosses’ salaries has finally entered mainstream debate this year, I’ve often found myself wishing that the kind of people who are comfortable taking pay rises six times larger than their average member of staff, and who don’t see a problem in sitting on the committees that decide their salary, would just piss off out of our universities altogether. So when I read the FT’s interview* with Bolton Uni VC Prof George Holmes the other day, I’ll admit I was a little surprised to read his proposal for a method of achieving just that.

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SHAKING UP HIGHER ED – TEF’S SILVER LINING

By Alex Powell

Late last month, we saw the release of the first batch of Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results. The TEF has been the subject of significant student opposition, with a Save the Student survey suggesting that as many as 76% of students oppose the implementation of the TEF. I was an opponent of it myself, particularly of links made between TEF scores and the ability of institutions to raise their tuition fees, though this plan has been postponed until 2020.

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JO JOHNSON IS RIGHT FOR ONCE – SOUTHAMPTON UNI SHOULD BE ASHAMED

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by Lewis Martin

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I agree with Jo Johnson. A couple of weeks ago the Tory Universities Minister told university leaders and Vice Chancellors that they needed to “stop ratcheting up pay”. This was a reaction to the news that the VC at Southampton University has received a £125,000 pay rise in the space of 5 years.

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WILL UEA DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR PHD ASSOCIATE TUTORS?

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by Maddie Colledge, UEA SU Postgraduate Education Officer

Following a steady drip of complaints to the SU in recent years, the Postgraduate Committee have this year steered me to focus my efforts on launching research into the experience of our PhD Associate Tutors (ATs). We already knew some of the issues that our ATs face and had brought them to the University’s attention, but in light of little change since then, it seemed a full review was needed. Following the publication of that review, I’d like to share our findings with you as well as our plans for the future (the full report can be found here).

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QUICKER ISN’T BETTER – PROFIT BEFORE HEALTH IN TWO YEAR DEGREES

By Lewis Martin

Last week the government announced plans to allow students to complete an undergraduate degree within two years instead of the usual three. To facilitate this fast-track system, universities will be permitted to charge £13,000 a year in tuition fees for these courses. As many have already noted, it’s easy to see what this announcement really is: another step in the marketisation of higher education. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt described it as ‘another misguided attempt to allow for-profit colleges access to UK higher education.’ The government have become less and less tactless when it comes to putting profit before the education of students.

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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT PERFECTIONISM

By Alex Powell

Perfectionism may seem like a fringe issue – a few of us are self-proclaimed perfectionists, but that’s just a personality trait, right? Maybe not. Issues of perfectionism have had a dramatic impact on my studies, and I have seen it increasingly manifested amongst the students around me. It is a key indicator of many other issues which students face in the modern university environment.

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