This is crisis for education. It has been announced that within six months the first UK university could be taken over by a private equity firm, this university will undoubtedly be the first of many to be taken by the private sector.
I don’t like many of the decisions and priorities of current university managers; however they will seem incredibly benign compared to the private equity sharks that are poised to take over.
This time last year nobody thought we could have a movement that was strong enough to articulate an alternative to tuition fees. We didn’t win but after occupations, sit-ins at the march on November 10th, we shifted public perception clearly in our favour and we built a movement that shook the government.
It was the spectacle of our sit-ins, walkouts, occupations and marches that brought the debate into the public sphere in a way that no one in power predicted. The attitude that currently prevails is again that there is nothing we can do; the guild of students in particular have no concrete plans and have announced no events for campaigns to defend education.
The white paper outlines the marketisation and privatisation of our universities. It will be a disaster for most students and it will make universities inaccessible to most people. Yet it is seen by many, especially some student unions, as inevitable.
UCL have made a really good, detailed analysis of why the privatisation plans are so terrible. We all need to learn these points in order to win the debate with our friends and colleagues.
It is up to us, all of us, to fight back. These years are critical junctures for education in the UK, what happens now will define people’s lives for generations. If you’re someone who believes in equality, social mobility and access to education; if you don’t want to see an increasingly deeply unequal society then now is not the time for apathy, despondency or procrastination.
Over the first weeks of term, despite my imprisonment without trial and suspension without a vote we have built a bigger, stronger group of students and staff than ever before. It is clear already that our campaign will be bigger and stronger than last year.
So what are the Defend Education group going to be doing?
At our weekly Defend Education meetings we have set out a strong campaigning agenda for the term.
The key dates we have outlined are:
Tuesday 12th: The start of mass flyering and leafleting all university campuses and sixth forms in Birmingham.
October 26th: Flashmob on University of Birmingham campus, 2pm main library.
November 2nd: March and rally, University of Birmingham campus, 2pm clock tower.
November 9th: National demonstration; defend education. Marching on the city of London.
And after November 9th this is when we really get started, building for November 30th the largest strike in generations.
Why have we decided on this timetable?
We must build an escalating movement on campus and in the city that by November 9th reaches a critical mass. On November 9th we will march on the city of London.
We are marching on the city traders who caused this crisis in the first place and who now want a private education system to start speculating with our futures. This is when we will put our issues and fight onto the national stage. Just like the national demo on November 10th last year, this will be the real starting gun of the student movement this year.
It is important that we build this march in Birmingham massively. Failure is not an option. However, as we build it is also important that we put this into a local context; we must not let it distract us from our local struggles and articulating the government’s national agenda in terms of how it is affecting students and staff in HE & FE institutions in Birmingham.
To achieve this at the Defend Education meetings we have decided on a march and rally on campus to bring to the forefront the problems students and staff at the University of Birmingham face.
On Wednesday November 2nd, at 2pm at Old Joe, the clocktower at the University of Birmingham, we will rally against; undergraduate fees going up to £9,000; postgraduate fees going up to £10,500; unaffordable university accommodation; against massive pay rises for university managers; cuts to our lecturers, contact hours, courses; the university’s lobbying for higher fees and against poverty pay for university staff.
With the demonstration last Wednesday we have shown we can build big demos on campus and for the demo last Wednesday we didn’t even go all out, only sticking to University of Birmingham campus for publicity.
The November 2nd demonstration will be launched live at 12 o’clock Monday the 17th of October, it is important that you all give the launch momentum that afternoon, starting by inviting your friends to the Facebook event. You will be able to sign up to the leafleting rota at the third Defend Education meeting that same evening
15,000 colour, card glossy leaflets for November 2nd and 9th have been communally paid for by the Defend Education campaign group. By November, we will have leafleted every university and large sixth form in Birmingham.
November 2nd will be a step up to getting masses of Birmingham students to November 9th.
Building for November 2nd and 9th the Defend Education campaign group will be running “don’t take the biscuit, don’t sell education” cake & biscuit based flash mobs on campuses and around student housing, raising money and awareness. Some of these will be announced others will be surprises 😉
This is of course just the start after November 9th we will really get going. Get involved join the Facebook group Stop Fees and Cuts in Birmingham like Birmingham Occupation on Facebook and sign up to the Defend Education phone tree text “no fees” to 07988056867
Coach tickets to November 9th are available for £5 text or call 07988056867 to reserve a seat, do this now spaces are limited.