Solidarity with Sussex Occupation – Halt Privatisation

We stand in solidarity with the recent events at the University of Sussex. The proposed privatization programme would result in the outsourcing of 235 members of staff at Sussex and would transform the University in a centre of private profit. We, as Essex EAN fully support the movement in Sussex.

 Acts of privatization within our campuses can be understood as a continuation of the policies espoused by the coalition government and the neoliberal governments in Europe; pursuing austerity measures to cripple the welfare state and attack social provision for the most vulnerable. In the age of austerity, neoliberal powers use the capitalist crises as an excuse to privatize. This is a trend we are battling to reverse.

 Within the student and workers movement, occupation has been a powerful weapon in the struggle against the senseless drive for profit. The occupation of public spaces has made its reappearance as a tactic of these movements, from the Indignados, to Tahrir Square and now in University occupations.

In Essex, the movement has fought and won before. Plans for the privatization of departments such as the International Academy were halted due to the combined pressure of University staff and the student body here. Whilst our campus does not face the threat of outsourcing of its workers nor the closure of our departments in the short term, we understand the threats that lie ahead. However, if in the future, our campus faces a similar programme of privatisation we will follow the lead of Sussex students and staff.




Solidarity to the Sussex Occupation

Essex Education Activist Network

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Report from the EAN Conference

A good summation of the steps made at EAN conference this Sunday.

Education Activist Network

by Nick Evans, Oxford EAN

Our Universities are Not Supermarkets: Education Activist Network Conference: 28 October

When Jacqui Mitchell, of University of East London UCU, complained to management about their contempt for public education, she was told: “You’ve just got it completely wrong. It’s a product.”

The education workers and students who gathered at SOAS this Sunday for the Education Activist Network conference were determined to fight for a different vision.  From the opening plenary session, at which Jacqui spoke, both the scale of the coordinated attacks on our education system and the will to resist were clear.  Although Willetts’ White Paper was officially shelved, speakers revealed the extent to which stratification and marketisation are being pushed through the back door. The attempt to close courses such as Manchester’s Applied Youth and Community Studies is yet another example of the way the public worth of education is being undermined for…

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For an Autumn of Resistance

The student struggles is international – Australian students and lecturers

The National Union of Students (NUS) has announced the date for its national demonstration against education cuts, tuition fee rises and student debt as November, 21st 2012. The demonstration was called on the back of a substantial vote at April national conference that fed off the mood, both in the room and within the movement: students want to take on the government over its Further and Higher education policy and over austerity.

A lot has changed since the last national demonstration organised by the NUS back in November 2010. That ‘hot autumn’ gave the trade union movement the confidence to march half a million strong in March that subsequent year, and strike over 2 million strong in November of the same year. The reciprocal relationship that students and the trade unions have must be the thread that runs through our preparations for the upcoming term.

To merely approach this November as a ‘re-run’ would be a cruel parody of the rage and anger that was shown on that demonstration back in November 2010. The vital experiences of both Chile and Quebec have shown how far students can go. In Quebec, a proposed raise to tuition fees has led to an explosion of student militancy which has seen over 100 days of education strikes and campus shutdowns. For our student movement, the bar has been raised.

In 2010, the students alone brought the Government to within twenty-one votes of defeat and showed that only a few months into their term, there was a visible and angry section of the British youth that were totally opposed to the Coalition. But since 2010, the trade union movement has stepped onto the streets and onto picket lines to show that same opposition to the Coalition government. That is why students’ unions and the NUS should be a part of the TUC October 20th protest, ‘For a Future that Works’.

We cannot wait for the new term to begin before unions start the preparations for this autumn. The work must start now to book coaches and form organising committees for the autumn demonstrations on our campuses. Our Unions need to be central to cultivating a culture of resistance on our campuses.

We know that a one off protest will not be enough to win – to do that, we need to fuse our movement to the trade unions, building ever stronger links, as students did when they joined picket lines and rallies on November 30th, 2011. We will need to work with unofficial grassroots organisations to organise and reach those who traditionally are left behind by NUS. We will need days of action, in the lead up to November 21st, to cultivate that resistance and set in motion the process that can make sure that Education is not the defining debate in the 2015 election, but the defining grievance that leads to our movement bringing down the Government.

Nathan Bolton

President, University of Essex Students’ Union

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Education Activist Network

NUS has called a national demonstration for the autumn term on Wednesday, November 21

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What does austerity mean for Greek universities?

Important picture of Greek Universities in the wasteland of austerity.

Education Activist Network

Kostas Skordoulis, a Professor of Physics and Epistomology at Athens University was so kind to write a detailed response to the question ‘What does austerity mean for Greek universities?’

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Solidarity with student protesters from Tahrir square

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Privatisation Halted at Essex

ImageThe University of Essex has backed down on its plans to privatise its International Academy, which provides English language teaching and foundation degrees for international students.

An email from the Vice-Chancellor announced that: “The University believes the risks involved in engaging an external partner in providing all pathway provision could outweigh the potential advantages in terms of numbers, quality, and diversity.” This is a pretty remarkable climbdown from the beginning of April, when the VC was arguing that a private provider was the only viable way forward for the IA.

So has the VC seen the light, and decided he’s against privatisation? Hardly. Rather, this is the result of an excellent campaign run by staff within the IA, with support from other staff, students and the local UCU branch. The campaign highlighted a series of glaring factual errors in the University’s report, which was clearly skewed in favour of privatisation from the start. Whilst this was important, and a crucial part of it was the detailed alternative proposals drawn up by staff in the IA, just as important was the feeling that the VC would not get away with this without a serious fight, a fight which he clearly did not have the stomach for.

This is an impressive victory, and shows what can be achieved when staff under threat organise themselves, and draw in support from across the University. But we should also be vigilant. The University will still “continue discussions with potential external partners regarding marketing and recruitment of international students to pathway programmes, and about potential new areas of pathway provision at other sites such as Southend or London.” A battle against privatisation has been won, but the war will continue.

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