THE FUTURE OF STUDENTS’ UNIONS – BEYOND TUITION FEES #4

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

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.

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2017: THE YEAR OF THE YOUTHQUAKE?

by Bradley Allsop

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.

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CHALLENGING MISCONCEPTIONS IN THE CAMPUS FREE SPEECH DEBATE

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by Bradley Allsop

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.

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IT’S OUR ‘YOUTHQUAKE’ – WHAT WILL WE MAKE OF IT?

by Bradley Allsop

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!”

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“MORE POWERFUL THAN LANDLORDS CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE” – THE SUSSEX RENT STRIKE

by Lewis Martin

Last week, students living in accommodation at the University of Sussex staged a rent strike, and successfully achieved their goals in the space of three days. The university has capitulated and agreed to £65,000 of compensation for the students who live in the halls due to the appalling state they are currently in.

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REFLECTIONS ON #METOO FROM A TIRED SURVIVOR

by Anonymous

Content warning: mentions sexual violence, abuse, sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse and violence 

Last week saw the hashtag #MeToo achieve viral success, following the accusations multiple women made again Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag started when actress Alyssa Milano, tweeted “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.

The next week, social media was bombarded with personal account of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, assault and domestic violence. Famous celebrities talked about their experiences and within 24 hours, Facebook reported that 4.7 million people engaged with the #MeToo hashtag with over 12 million posts and comments. Most of the media’s reaction has been positive – finally we are acknowledging that sexual violence is a pervasive problem rather than a few isolated incidents, they say.Continue Reading