Socialist Worker

Students plan walkouts over education attacks

by Mark Bergfeld, NUS national executive (pc)
Issue No. 2294

Students across Britain are gearing up for a week of action against government plans for the marketisation and privatisation of education.

Walkouts, teachouts and general assemblies have been organised for this Wednesday as part of the week of action called by the National Union of Students (NUS).

The walkouts give students, lecturers and other university workers an opportunity to rally in defence of education.

The action was called after the higher education (HE) bill was withdrawn. That’s because the withdrawal exposed the weakness of the government’s higher education policy—but did not signify a total retreat.

Most of the proposals recommended in the HE white paper do not require legislation and can be forced through at an institutional level.

And students are facing a raft of other attacks.

The University of East London is privatising its security and canteen staff.

The term length has also been shortened at the university by several weeks because of the Olympic games.

At Queen Mary’s college in London, the lecturers’ UCU union is officially in dispute with college management over restructurings.

And Bradford University has withdrawn many of its courses from the Ucas university applications service.

The University of Sussex Students’ Union has planned a walkout. During this it is set to hold a general assembly to discuss higher education.

Arguments

The Liverpool Guild of Students has organised a rally for Wednesday morning.

It plans to hold a panel discussion with the UCU on the effects of the HE white paper in the afternoon.

However there are arguments inside the movement.

Some think we should wait for the next general election and make education the number one issue. Others argue that the battle for education is already lost and that we need to move on to other political issues.

The Tories are set on transforming education into another business opportunity for the wealthiest 1 percent.

We should try to build a unified movement that can respond to local attacks as well as weaken the government.

That’s why the Education Activist Network and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, alongside a number of students’ unions, have called a London-wide demonstration for Wednesday this week.

It is set to take place outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and will call for universities minister David Willetts to resign.

So far more than 17,000 people have signed a UCU-initiated petition saying they have no confidence in Willetts.

The demonstration gives students the chance to build links with lecturers—and to build momentum in the run-up to the strikes on 28 March.

Go to www.educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com for more information


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