Thousands of students and trade unionists marched through London and Manchester last Saturday.
And tens of thousands of lecturers are set to begin ballots for strikes against attacks on jobs, pay and pensions.
The UCU union will ballot higher education lecturers over jobs and pay from Wednesday of this week. The ballot ends on 2 March.
Those in older, pre‑1992 universities will also be balloted on pensions between 2 February and 2 March.
Those in post-1992 institutions will join lecturers in further education and vote on pensions between 23 February and 11 March.
Further education lecturers will also vote on strikes against a below‑inflation pay offer.
This means lecturers could strike on budget day. If we are to protect our livelihoods and our students’ education, it is essential that we produce significant votes in favour of industrial action against our employers.
Unity has been key to defending education.
In London, a successful partnership between the Education Activist Network, National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and UCU produced a vibrant, confident march last weekend.
The presence of lecturers, teachers and other trade unionists made it much harder for the police to attack and kettle students as they did on 9 December.
One moment stands out: as the march went past the unguarded Tory HQ on Millbank, protesters gathered outside chanting “Tory scum”.
Yet rather than lay siege to the boarded up building, people instead joined a joyful celebration of resistance to Mubarak at the Egyptian embassy.
The marchers understood that solidarity with the Egyptian uprising was more important than taking out frustration and anger on the Tory HQ again. This movement is growing—in sophistication and strength.
Now we have to take the fight to those implementing the cuts.
Those who run our universities, for whom austerity applies to everyone but themselves, are in the process of deciding just how much financial hardship to inflict on our students.
Some will double fees, others will triple them. All intend to increase job insecurity, steal from our pension funds and slash our wages.
Their own salaries—£250,000 on average—will of course remain untouched.
In this situation unity is imperative.
It is therefore a matter of genuine regret that a small group of our NEC colleagues has over recent weeks chosen to train its fire not on our employers but on the UCU Left, and in particular the SWP.
These colleagues have decided to rail against certain union policies.
Bizarrely, they themselves not only voted for these policies, but in some cases played a key role in winning unanimous support for them.
They have not explained why they have changed their minds. Some of these colleagues are clearly talented, capable of making fine militant interventions in defence of our members’ interests.
We need these talents to be put at the service of the whole union and directed against our common enemy, not some imagined “enemy within”.
Alongside the ballots for industrial action, elections for national union positions and the national executive committee begin on 7 February. The UCU Left group is standing a number of candidates.
A strong vote for the left will strengthen the fight to defend education.