The repercussions of the cuts in Higher Education are being felt in Bristol, where lecturers at the University of the West of England (UWE) have been forced to take strike action over threats to staffing. Here I report on the strike and find out what students who supported it think about the situation. See the video here.
The arguments advanced by government ministers like David Willetts for the draconian reform of university funding are confused and specious. They would certainly fail any exam in logic. Rather than reason, they depend on various forms of mediatised rhetoric, like Orwell’s newspeak, or doublespeak, or what the writer Steve Poole has called unspeak—although sometimes they amount to simple misrepresentation, derived from hasty and inadequate statistics, or falsehood resulting from denial. Continue reading
In On Campus, Terry Eagleton speaks at a meeting at the London School of Economics about the contradiction between education for society and education for the economy. South of the river, the Vice Chancellor of Roehampton University, Paul O’Prey, considers the implications of government measures with colleagues.
With Terry Eagleton, Paul O’Prey, Joe Kelleher, Nina Power, Laurie Penny and Ruby Hirsch.
It’s a curious business. You’ve got these two nutters. One of them, let’s call him Rajiv, has culled some emails from a discussion list from which he’s been excluded for assorted ravings, and sends out plaintive missives couched in terms of eastern philosophy which no-one can understand. The second nutter, we’ll him Jack, receives one of his messages, and knowing something about eastern philosophy, takes it seriously and replies. One or two others complain to the discussion list which they mistake it as coming from, to which Nutter No.2 responds in terms that people on the list find pretty offensive (and it’s not the first time his interventions on this list have caused unhappiness either).
Seems to me this incident should be understood symptomatically. Continue reading
One of Nina Power’s photos from 9 December protests
Do you wanna marketise our education? We will educate your market!
SOAS Occupation 2010
The first snows of winter have come early but it’s beginning to look like things are hotting up. The second mass student demonstration in a fortnight, and more to follow. One student website declares: ‘We shall not stop until we break the government’s cuts programme or we break the government’ (NCAFC).
It seems a whole generation is learning very fast the meaning of political betrayal. A few months ago, Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dems promised to oppose any increase in university fees. ‘Hundreds of thousands of students, voting for the first time, took him at his word and “agreed with Nick” at the ballot box’, writes Nick Faulkner over on Counterfire. On the 10 November demonstration, he says, ‘The sense of betrayal, and the consequent anger against Clegg, was visceral’. Now all Clegg can say is that he ‘massively regrets’ having to break his promise—you bet! May it yet prove his comeuppance. Continue reading
Some interesting feedback on my recent post about universities funding, from discussion lists and private contacts. Two or three people thought that the situation I described isn’t crazy but a logical result of the way capitalism works. As one comment put it, state support of higher education is part of the social wage, and it makes perfect sense for capitalist interests to try to push down the social wage when profits are at risk; and when there’s little organized or effective opposition, there’s nothing to stop them. Yes, but by calling it crazy I wanted to register, first, how angry it makes me, and second, that this way of running the world is meshuga, because it can only make matters worse. As my brother Gabriel once put it, capitalists are rarely as intelligent as they would be if they were designed by Marxists.
It’s also necessary to correct the impression given by the Guardian letter that I quoted about the way different countries are approaching things. For a better idea, look at Universities in Crisis, the blog of the International Sociological Association.
The last time I voted Labour (apart from the London Mayoral election) was 1997. My disillusion with New Labour under Tony Blair began almost immediately, and was due to his treatment of the Dearing Report on Higher Education. Higher education had been taken off the agenda of election issues by the appointment of the Dearing committee which wasn’t due to report until after the election was over. Blair took full advantage of the fact that when the report came out we were into the summer, when faculty are dispersed and least able to respond. He cherry-picked what he wanted and rammed it through, going against Dearing’s recommendations by introducing the combination of tuition fees and student loans. After this highly undemocratic behaviour, I never trusted Blair on anything. Continue reading
Students take to the streets
Students in Buenos Aires have taken to the streets in protest against the appalling conditions to be found in many of the city’s schools. A lack of heating in the cold winter just coming to an end has brought to a head a state of neglect which has been building up for several years. In the inimitable style of Argentine tradition, there have not only been occupations of at one point as many as forty of the city’s secondary schools, but classes have been taking place in the street. The protests have been going on for a month, and have now been been joined by university students belonging to several faculties where buildings are in similarly bad condition.
This was not what I was expecting to find when I arrived in Buenos Aires to give a talk about teaching documentary at an event promoted by the Ministry of Education and intended primarily as a showcase for creative practices in the universities. I was also supposed to be speaking at the University of Buenos Aires, which was cancelled when Social Sciences, the faculty where this was due to take place, was occupied when a window fell on one of the students. So instead I go to film the occupation, and the demonstration being mounted outside the Ministry of Education. Here’s the result.