UNITED IN THE FACE OF CRISIS – THE STUDENT LEFT NETWORK

By Bradley Allsop

Make no mistake – higher education in the UK is in crisis. After decades of uncertain policy and three successive Tory-led governments with a clear desire to marketise and corporatise our campuses, we’re left with a generation burdened with debt, with an explosion in mental health issues among students, with universities bereft of democracy and increasingly fuelled by precarious labour, with Students’ Unions that are often little more than marketing arms of their universities, and with continuing inequalities in educational attainment. The passionate learning, debate and inquiry that should be the soul of education has become little more than a thin veneer pasted over profiteering and corporate-style expansion.

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RATS TO RICHES

by David Breakspear

CW: suicide

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time!”. In terms of reform and progress within our penal system, the proverb is about as much use as eating soup with a fork. For a start, how would you know?

Unfortunately, we do need prisons. Ever since Eve – reportedly – ate the forbidden fruit from the garden of Eden, crime has been in existence in human narratives. Crime, either directly or indirectly, affects us all; victims of crime or the family/loved ones/friends of the victim, perpetrator of crime, or, yet again, the family/friends/loved ones of the perpetrators. You may even pay higher insurance premiums due to crime. Crime affects all, therefore, crime is the responsibility of all, especially the prison system.Continue Reading

THE GREATEST PRICE OF AUSTERITY? PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE

by Edward Grierson

As a child, I always looked forward to a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. An hour’s journey to Edinburgh was always a small price worth paying if it meant passing a wet weekend or day out from the holiday among dinosaurs, dioramas, steam trains and robots that could spell your name. Since then the museum has undergone countless changes, but whenever I return, I can always be certain to discover something new.

However, those trips to the museum were much more than just a fun day out. I can confidently say that they were a major formative influence for me, particularly in inspiring my love of nature. Without the influence of the National Museum of Scotland, I would not be who I am today. I can also confidently say I’m not the only one. I speak for countless others whose interests, whatever they are, were inspired by visiting trips to a museum.Continue Reading

EXAMS SHOULD BE ABOLISHED – HERE’S WHY

By Dan Davison

Examinations are woven into the fabric of student life. From the ‘Key Stage’ National Curriculum assessments I sat in childhood through to the tests I took as a Master’s student, every stage of my education has known the familiar cycle of revision, testing, marking and grading. It was not until I became a precariously employed university tutor that I realised how dangerously uncritical we are of that cycle. By this point it seems so natural to make people sit exams at various points in their lives that it scarcely occurs to the public consciousness that students and teachers might be better off without such a regimented approach to learning.

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EDUCATION AS EMANCIPATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #7

By Michael Kyriacou

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 traditional arguments for ‘free education’ focus on reducing the upfront price of university courses to zero. Rather than HE being a commodity to be traded on the open market, it becomes a good paid for by the government. This kind of argument rests on a contradiction: we cannot solve the commodification of HE by continuing to assert the existence of HE as commodity, even a nationalised one. Abolishing tuition fees is undoubtedly a good thing, but to move beyond their legacy we must understand HE as devoid not only of its price but also its status as a commodity. We need to explore the potential for HE grounded not in classification or institution but in the fundamental equality of intelligences – HE without the degree.

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BOOZING BY THE BOOK

by Kelvin Smith 

In more than fifty years I have rarely been to a publishing event (a book launch, company celebration, party of any kind) that did not focus on the availability and consumption of alcoholic drinks. Likewise, the academic world nearly always includes ‘drinks’ or ‘wine’ on the announcement of seminars, conferences and academic celebrations.

As someone who has a long history of enjoying alcohol and a more recent period of several years’ total abstention, I wonder if alcohol doesn’t have a significant bearing on the current debates on inclusivity in both publishing and in universities. Both publishers and academics are now exploring what it would mean to be more inclusive – of different classes, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, languages, genders and political views. But I have yet to hear or read much about the role alcohol plays in limiting inclusion and acceptance. Perhaps it’s time to look at this.Continue Reading

THOUGHTS FROM THE FRONTLINE OF MARKETISATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #3

By Maddie Colledge, UEA SU Postgraduate Education Officer

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.

CW: Mentions suicide

It’s common for arguments in favour of free education to be dismissed as abstract or utopian, and for students who promote it to be belittled as naïve. I fear that in our attempts to try to portray the significance of free education, we have fallen into a trap where the concept has become so expansive and broad, and the term so overused, that it has lost all meaning. We need to move away from talking about ‘free’ education, and towards articulating a vision more explicitly centred on ‘state-funded’ education or ‘public’ education. For me, the description ‘free’ makes the concept feel distanced from the viable possibility of education funded through public taxation, and does us no favours in making it reality.

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