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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SOMETHING STINKS IN THE OFFICE FOR STUDENTS (AND IT’S NOT JUST TOBY YOUNG)

by Lewis Martin

This week, the government took the turn of the year as an opportunity to quietly announce the makeup of the board of the Office for Students (OfS), the new higher education ‘market regulator’ set to replace the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Naturally, it didn’t go unnoticed, and much has been said about the selection of Toby Young, infamous Tory party supporter. His appointment and the makeup of the rest of the board shows the absurdity at the heart of the body Jo Johnson has created, and why it will struggle to be taken seriously.

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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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TRADE SECRETS #3 – CAN FREE TRADE BRING WORLD PEACE?

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.)

‘World peace’ is a staple for utopian theorists, science fiction writers, and beauty pageant winners. Sadly, an end to all international conflict still seems like a very distant dream. However, when it comes to war, for the last 60 years there has most definitely been an elephant in the room. Why are we all getting on so well?

Of course this is to say nothing of civil wars, hybrid wars, and grassroots violence, all of which remain (sadly) rife. But when it comes to wars between states, especially between great powers, we are living in the most peaceful era in recorded history. This is even more impressive considering that many were worried a third world war would immediately follow the second. So what’s going on?Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #2 – THE STATE AND THE MARKET. WE ARE BEING LIED TO.

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here: How to Hunt the Stag: Power, Blackmail and Exploitation)

Let’s suppose I am the editor of a brilliant and highly successful politics and arts magazine (ahem). My magazine is so utterly brilliant that I believe it’s time to break into an international market. I’m aiming big – I want to sell my magazine in China. However, all manner of obstacles lie in my way. Firstly, there is the physical distance – my magazines have to reach the other side of the world. Next, I would need to alter the magazine to comply with Chinese laws and regulations (which could be completely unrecognisable, even if they weren’t written in a different language). Then I require the local infrastructure to advertise my product, a shop to sell it from, and local workers to operate this shop. Each of these steps will also require a translator, as will the translation of my magazine itself. I also need the Chinese State not to have any subsidies for local magazines that price me out of the market, nor quotas which restrict my sales. Finally, even once all this has been achieved, cultural differences may render my once gripping magazine totally uninteresting to locals.

In short, my magazine isn’t going to sell many Chinese copies any time soon.Continue Reading

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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DO WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY?

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by Richard Worth

Depending on how you feel, questioning whether we live in a democracy is either incredibly stupid or incredibly scary. In a democracy, every member who is eligible helps to decide how they are governed. Essentially everyone has the same voting power, the same level of influence over government, and the same means of expressing that influence.

But in reality this is an idealised version of democracy. In truth, we admit that there simply isn’t time for us to all have a say in every matter that affects us. Instead we elect officials who more or less represent what we want; accepting that they may stand for a few policies that we don’t agree with but we take the rough with the smooth. After all, the nature of democracy means one doesn’t get their choice every time. It’s the nation’s consensus.Continue Reading