ACADEMIC FREEDOM OR INSTITUTIONALISED TRANSPHOBIA?

By Lewis Martin

Once again, an array of academics have signed a letter complaining about the increased efforts by universities to recognise and support Trans* and Non-Binary students on their campuses. Their reasons for doing so aren’t worth exploring, as they are based on the same logic, or lack thereof, as many transphobes about the realities of gender, sex and identity. The problem we should focus on is that the academics who have signed this letter, and the ones before it, hide behind the claim of ‘Academic Freedom’ in order to try and justify their views.Continue Reading

ECONOMIES OF RECOGNITION

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by Liv Barnett

Academics are often accused of failing to make their research matter to audiences other than themselves. Anthropologists are particularly criticized for writing theories and ethnographies that not only go unread by non-anthropologists, but are also too inaccessible to those they may be writing about. Here I hope to try and explain a central aspect of my PhD research in Papua New Guinea and share some of the ways it has got me thinking about politics and economics in the UK.

The stereotyped anthropologist gets criticized for using the experiences of a usually colonised ‘other’ for their own project of producing knowledge that counters the taken for granted understandings people have of humanity or society in ‘the West’, which are presumed to be universal to human nature. This is a legitimate argument which has to be taken seriously. Therefore, I self-consciously use some of my observations in Papua New Guinea (enabled by the generosity of those who I lived with in PNG) and the ideas of European/western social theorists.

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FUCK FUTURE FINANCE – THE FRIGHTENING REALITY OF PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS

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By Lewis Martin

CW: mentions suicide.

Sometimes targeted adverts reveal to you more than you wanted to know. I’ve recently been experiencing facebook ads for Future Finance, a company that offers loans of up to £40,000 to students, with an interest rate of 17.45% APR for all the time that you’re studying. To put that in perspective, if you borrowed £7000 over 5 years, you’d have repaid a stonking £11,223 by the time you’ve paid it off. This eye watering example reveals both the current state of Higher Education financing and a frightening future that is increasingly intruding on the present.

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ANOTHER HIGHER EDUCATION IS ALREADY HERE – BEYOND TUITION FEES #8

By Sarah Amsler

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.

‘The university’ is a fertile space within which to practice radical imagining and world-making today. I do not mean that actually-existing universities, in the UK or elsewhere, necessarily provide space for such work. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that the spaces for critique and creative thinking in higher education have shrunk as forces of commodity fetishism, privatisation, competition and authoritarian modes of control have permeated university governance. Continue Reading

WHAT ARE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITIES MADE OF? – BEYOND TUITION FEES #6

By Ellen Musgrove and Max Savage

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.

At any demonstration concerning the anti-marketisation or -commodification of education and the university you will hear the phrase “We are not consumers – we are a community.” The motive behind this message is a good one, bearing positive and uplifting implications for the demonstrators. However, to those outside the demo space, be they apathetic students passing by or workers who may not have the freedom to stop and participate as readily as an academic might, calling ourselves a community means very little in a practical sense.

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HIGHER EDUCATION IN A POST-FEES WORLD – BEYOND TUITION FEES #1

By Bradley Allsop and Calum Watt

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.

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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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AN OPEN LETTER TO VICE CHANCELLOR DAVID RICHARDSON AND THE UEA EXECUTIVE

We the undersigned are writing to complain about the mistreatment of the university’s staff, and the fact that their mistreatment has led to such a major impact on our education. We wholeheartedly believe that the staff are the greatest asset to the university. The fact that they have been forced to take strike action shines a harsh light on the lack of care UEA’s executive and you, our Vice Chancellor, have for university staff.Continue Reading

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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THE FATAL FLAW IN ECONOMICS FUNDING

by REFunding Economics

As the old saying goes, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’. This week, a coalition of economics students, academics and campaigners gathered to get inside the piper-paying process – the funding of economics research – to create an economics fit for the real world.

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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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WEEKENDS MATTER – WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN ACADEMIA

by Alex Powell

From the outside, it may appear that students and academics have pretty comfortable lives. We can largely work how and when we want. I frequently lie in past 10am and often come back home after just a 6-hour working day. But despite appearances, this doesn’t mean that we have it super easy. As I am finding more and more, maintaining a good work-life balance can be a real struggle – a struggle that academics and students around the world are all too familiar with.

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TRADING FREEDOMS – THE OFFICE FOR STUDENTS PROPOSALS

by Lewis Martin

CW: mentions transphobia

Universities must bring back freedom of speech!’ That was the premise of various headlines surrounding Jo Johnson’s announcement last week of proposed powers for the Office for Students (OfS). One of those proposals is that universities and student unions that don’t conform to Johnson and the OfS’ concept of ‘freedom of speech’ could receive sanctions in the form of fines. While the powers of OfS are still only at the consultation stage, this announcement gives us a rather concerning insight into the plans and aims that Johnson has for the newly formed office.

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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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THE RIGHT ARE RUNNING SCARED – A RESPONSE TO TOM WELSH

by Lewis Martin

In the midst of right-wing confusion about Jeremy Corbyn’s continuing support amongst the young, following a supposed u-turn on his flagship policy to scrap student debt, Tom Welsh of the Telegraph has unveiled a new thesis: the left will continue its resurgence so long as too many go to university*. His argument is as ridiculous as the title makes it sound, and his article is full of claims that are absurd, patronising and completely unsupported.

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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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REVIVING CAMPUS ACTIVISM – A ROADMAP

by Bradley Allsop

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.

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ENOUGH PESSIMISM ABOUT HE – A RESPONSE TO JIM DICKINSON

by Lewis Martin

In a recent article for the Guardian, UEA SU CEO Jim Dickinson wrote about universities’ failure to produce anything satisfactory for its students, as well as the lack of transparency around how tuition fees are spent. Helpful though it is to point out the issues faced by the student movement, Dickinson fails to offer any type of remedy for them at any point, suggesting that cynical resignation is the only possible response.

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TAKING ON THE SPECTRE THAT HAUNTS HIGHER EDUCATION

By Bradley Allsop

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.

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ONLINE DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Faizal Nor Izham

One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.

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SURVEILLANCE & TOLERANCE: HOW YOUR GOVERNMENT IS CONTROLLING YOUR MIND

by Gunnar Eigener

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens,
as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone
.” – David Cameron

Ever since Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and The Guardian’s revelations about state surveillance and data gathering were largely greeted with indifference by the public, governments across the globe have continued to find ways to watch and obtain information about their citizens. Yet increasingly it is the actions taken by these governments in response to healthy criticism and protest and the sinister erosion of human rights that should strike a worrying chord in each and every person.Continue Reading