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.

Continue Reading

NORWICH GRAFFITI: ART OR VANDALISM?

by Joe Rutter

Graffiti: the obstinate, acne-covered teenager of the Arts. It wants to be noticed, to be valued, but at the same time shirks acceptance, awkwardly lurking in the shadows of society, preferring nocturnal thrills and bricked-wall canvases to sober gallery exhibits. And Street Art divides opinion like no other medium. Depending on where you stand – you might be an anarchistic advocate or an unimpressed traditionalist – graffiti can dazzle or disgust. But whether you think it’s the scourge of the city or a vibrant channel of urban expression, graffiti is finding itself a home in Norwich. Should it stay?Continue Reading

REVIEW: THE CIRCLE, BY DAVE EGGERS

by Eli Lambe

Dave Eggers’ The Circle, both the book and the recent feature-length adaptation, is a dystopia formed around a Facebook/Apple/Google/Amazon-esque corporation, one which hosts and shares almost every aspect of its users lives. The novel does a remarkable job of capturing the subtle ways in which this model is marketed to us, how this format of data-as-product is often shrouded in apparently progressive buzzwords – community, accountability, transparency, participation – whilst the company which operates under this model does so under the same values as every other corporate entity.

There is a veneer of progressivity and respectability that companies adopt in order to retain and gain customers – like Facebook making it easier to harass trans people, or implementing guidelines that protect white men but not black children, and at the same time, for one month of the year, patchily providing a rainbow “pride” react to the users who liked lgbt@facebook. Perhaps not as extreme as Eggers writes in The Circle, but eerily close enough: “Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal.”Continue Reading

BRAINSTUCK ARGUMENTS

by Eli Lambe

How can you have anxiety and whatever
and read aloud to rooms.
How do you flinch at loud noises and not stares?
Speaker, the mind is unintelligible
and this unwell mind doubly so.
I do not hyperventilate this performance,
or rarely,
is this performing the cause.Continue Reading

BOARDS, BORES, AND THE EROSION OF LOCAL DEMOCRACY

1

by Olivia Hanks

I had the dubious privilege of being in the public gallery for the first meeting of the re-established Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) earlier this week. This board, made up of councillors from Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland, is tasked with developing a strategic document, the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP), which will dictate where housing, roads and other infrastructure will be built in the area over the next 20 years.

The meeting, which was scheduled to last from 3.30 until 5pm, finished at 4.10 with very little discussion having taken place. You might have thought that, having been successfully taken to the High Court for failing to consider alternative options during the creation of the GNLP’s predecessor the Joint Core Strategy (JCS — I promise that’s the last obscure abbreviation), the board would be asking itself a lot more questions this time around. Although it was admittedly a more or less introductory meeting, agreeing the board’s terms of reference and the next steps, there was an opportunity for comments, which was taken up by only three members.

This matters because these dozen men — and shockingly, they are all men; all white; none under 50 or so — are shaping the future of Norwich and the surrounding area. It matters because sometimes it is hard to spot the moment for intervention until it has already passed.Continue Reading

THE LIES WE LOVE TO HEAR

by Gunnar Eigener

Content warning: mentions xenophobia

“Then what is the answer? Not to be deluded by dreams
To know that great civilisations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.”

–Robinson Jeffers, ‘The Answer’

The EU referendum result is the beginning of the UK’s divorce from the mainland. In Austria, the recent election results were declared void and must be re-run, giving the far-right Freedom Party another chance at victory. Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom are exploiting every moment of Brexit to force referendums of their own. It seems we have learnt nothing from the past as we hurtle towards far-right governments, high-unemployment and less financial security. Meanwhile in the US, Donald Trump had to delete a tweet deemed anti-Semitic.

These are just some of the recent events that continue to expose the deep flaws within Western societies but none more so than the ease with which politicians are able to con the public into believing blatant untruths and the ability of the public to turn, literally overnight, into unpleasant, frothing-at-the-mouth racist, xenophobic animals. In the case of the UK, these two flaws are actioned by a minority of people, yet seem to encompass the behaviour of the entire country — a perception enabled by another deep flaw, the media.Continue Reading

REFERENDUMS: THE LOWEST FORM OF DEMOCRACY

3

by Olivia Hanks

It’s a view that has been voiced more and more often in recent weeks, as the EU referendum campaign descends ever further into hyberbole and hysteria: we don’t want this referendum. We didn’t ask for it. For the sake of appeasing a few Tory backbenchers who were putting pressure on the prime minister, the British public has been forced into a decision we are not properly equipped to make.

This is not to disparage that public — it would be the same anywhere. Asking millions of people a simple binary question is not a good way to make complex decisions. We elect politicians based on a vision they set out for us, and we expect them to then use their time, knowledge and access to professional expertise to implement it as best they can. Referendums allow politicians to duck tricky questions during election campaigns: instead of taking a position on difficult issues, they can declare rousingly to the people that “this will be your decision” — which might sound very appealing. After all, who doesn’t enjoy being asked what they think?Continue Reading