Thousands of lecturers struck on Wednesday of last week against plans for massive education cuts.
Across London ten further education colleges were out along with King’s College and the University of Westminster. They were joined by the University of Sussex.
The strikes were solid and well supported by students.
Groups of English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) students joined pickets at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (Conel) in Tottenham.
Strikers and students chanted, “Sack the bankers—not the teachers”.
Nadia Hassan, an Esol lecturer, said, “The government blames people for being unable to speak English and get a job and calls them scroungers—they’re not.
“MPs have lied and cheated about expenses. They can find the money to pay rich bankers, but the community needs education.”
Maureen teaches maths at Conel. “If I lose my job here, I can’t go to the college down the road for a job as they’re in the same situation,” she said.
“All the parties have lied about cuts. I look at Greece and think, that’s what’s going to happen here.”
At Hackney College, many students were supporting their lecturers on the picket lines.
College bosses want to cut five jobs out of seven in plumbing. Yet it is already over‑subscribed.
Margaret Lawrence is a plumbing student. “I’m 50 years old and I think I’d be first for the chop if they cut student numbers,” she said.
“I’ve been trying to get a job for four years. But I won’t be able to get one if I can’t get the qualifications.”
Robin Wheatley is one of her teachers. “We’re here for the students but management is just here for the money,” he said.
“I’ve been asking for materials for one of my student groups for a year and I still haven’t got them.
“The cuts will mean we can only offer a 12-week City and Guilds course—but it’s a nothing qualification. You can’t get a job with it.
“They have already squeezed courses that should last two years into one year.”
In London, strikers and students came together from their different colleges and universities to march to Westminster.
A delegation of philosophy students from Middlesex university joined them. They had just begun an occupation against plans to close their department (see story, right).
Many workers and students were opposed to the government’s whole approach to education.
Sanna, a history student at King’s, said, “The government’s priorities are wrong. It seems to have forgotten what universities are about.
“The cuts are going to get worse, which is why it’s so important to show our discontent now.
“This is the only way to save education.”
Jane teaches at Westminster Kingsway College. “The cuts are already savage,” she said.
“Further education is the Cinderella sector of education—and we’re being kicked in the teeth again.”
More strikes are planned—including at Bradford College on Wednesday of this week and at several other colleges on 18 May, the day the new government is set to take office.
Eleven further education colleges and three universities in London are still in dispute with their managements.
A number of colleges and universities outside London are also in dispute or have live ballots.
There is potential for more to join coordinated action in the future.
The battle for education will be one of the defining struggles of the new government.