By Sean Meleady
Norwich may call itself a ‘fine city’, but this isn’t always the case for renters. Despite some positive stories, such as the Goldsmith Street social housing project, many tenants find life in the city tough.
The world is on the brink. A shattered environment, gargantuan inequality, a burgeoning mental health crisis, fascism openly spreading across Europe, public services at breaking point… but also the possibility of more radical and progressive change than we’ve seen in decades. Higher education specifically also faces two radically different paths ahead of it: continued marketisation, eroding academic integrity, burdening a generation with enormous debt, crushing academics under enormous workloads, increasingly insecure employment and workplace stress – or publicly funded higher education that opens up space to imagine and create a different sort of campus.
by Jonathan Lee
“New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarm” says arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.
The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.
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. In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green have brought together perspectives from across the sector to explore the possibilities of post-fees HE. In the final instalment, the series editors summarise the visions for the next chapter of UK HE that the series has laid out.
There is more energy, debate and innovation on the left now than there has been for decades. Capitalism’s multiple crises, and the inability of its defenders to respond to them, are beginning to translate into tangible political opportunity. This series sought to capture the essence of some of this historical moment and direct it towards thinking about what we want our university campuses to look like, beyond the staple progressive policy of scrapping tuition fees. A project in unashamedly utopian thinking, it recognised the very real possibility that free tuition might be a reality in the near future, and sought to explore how this requires the left to think practically about what comes after and where our energy should be focused next.
It goes without saying that the current wage situation in the UK is not good. Following the disastrous speculation on the banks’ behalf that led to the recession, real wages for UK workers fell by 10.4% from 2007-2015, a decline only matched by Greece. Even worse has been the combination of this wage drop with the continued pay gap between employees and the people who employ them: as of 2015, the salary of a UK CEO was nearly 130 times that of the average UK worker’s salary.
The reason why this is a concern, why we should be worried about falling wages, surely is obvious.
Yesterday, on the 8th anniversary of the deportation of 9 SOAS cleaners, students of SOAS began an occupation of the Directorate on the Main Building first floor. We are taking direct action in resistance to the planned shut down of the refectory and outrageous threats made by management to the livelihoods of members of our community. We stand in solidarity with the catering staff, and all the exploited workers of SOAS, in their fight for dignity and respect.
by Rowan Gavin
One of the biggest and most poorly kept secrets in higher education – that many teaching staff are employed under terms more often associated with a Sports Direct factory – has been breaking into mainstream media attention lately. To get an inside perspective on this casualisation of teaching work, and an idea of the scale and nature of the problem both locally and nationally, I spoke to three members of teaching staff who have worked on casual contracts in English universities in recent years. Two were employed at UEA, and one at Warwick University, where they are a part of the campaign group Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC).
By Robyn Banks
“Exposure doesn’t pay rent”- it’s something we’ve likely all heard before, whether you’re a business looking to save money on photography, asking a friend for a favour or simply scrolling through Tumblr. The line “We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure!” has become the bane of every artist’s life, and it’s understandable why. There has never been a sector of the workforce who have been asked so frequently to work for free as the creative sector. However, I don’t believe there has ever been such an individually vocal sector of the UKs exploited workforce, either.
by Elliot Folan
Last month, it was revealed that UEA plans to raise accommodation fees for university students by up to 9%. Students have already come forward to say that they would not have been able to afford the new prices, and the students’ union has raised questions about accessibility and affordability. Yet the second big story of the fee rise is an issue of democracy. It was reported – and the university declined to deny – that student union officers were told they would not be consulted on the fee rise, and that the university had no intention of consulting them at all. In other words, on an issue that is of material concern to thousands of new and continuing students on our campus, management felt it necessary to completely ignore and override the wishes of our elected representatives.
Such contempt for democratic procedure is standard practice at UEA, and they speak to a wider problem of opaque decision making and lack of accountability on our campus and in the university system generally. There are three more examples of such undemocratic decisions.