07
May
09

Universities cutting courses nationwide

As the campaign to save Linguistics at Sussex picks up pace, it is important that we take time to examine a wider picture, in which students and staff are facing cuts and closures in Higher Education throughout the country. Far from being an isolated incident, the closure of the Linguistics course is part of a national trend, where university managements pleading poverty have claimed that cuts will have to be made in order to ‘balance the books’. This has led to courses considered ‘non profitable’ being axed and the failure of Vice Chancellors to meet the pay demands of unions such as UCU (the lecturers’ union) despite finding the cash for their own hefty wage increases. Department closures and service cuts have already been announced at Liverpool, Bangor and Reading universities as well as hundreds of redundancies at London Metropolitan and Gloucestershire.

But students and staff are asking, ‘Where has all the money gone?’ If the VC can add 9% to his already large salary, why can ordinary lecturers not have 8%? Students and staff at Sussex and elsewhere are beginning to organise a fight back, and are sending a message to university managements and the New Labour government that workers and young people must not be forced to pay for this crisis of capitalism. At London Met student campaigners, UCU and local trade unions have called a march for jobs and education on 23rd May and large demonstrations have already taken place at Liverpool University. Bangor University students have forced their VC to agree to publicly debate proposed £5 million cuts and students are planning further action. Cut backs to Further Education in Wales have also been fought with student and trade union protests, forcing the Welsh Assembly to increase funding.

UCU is also balloting its members for strike action to combat job losses and demand decent wage increases. The National Union of Students (NUS) has disgracefully refused to support such action with the NUS president stating “Given the effects of the current economic climate on the graduate jobs market, students need industrial action by university staff like a hole in the head”. Of course students will have concerns over how such action might affect them over exam time, however, unless unions take action now, students will be sitting exams for courses which will no longer exist in a few months time.

The need for a national campaign of students and education workers calling for an end to cuts, closures, privatisation and demanding free education has never been greater. With an NUS leadership which is now little more than a tool of New Labour, allowing the government to carry out attacks on the conditions of students and workers, it is up to ordinary students to build campaigns on our own campuses and to build links with students and workers across Britain fighting for better education for all.

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