Some 110 delegates attended the “Defending Post-16 Education” conference last Saturday. The conference, organised by the UCU Left, looked at different aspects of what is happening to post-16 education.
The opening session was kicked off by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn who reported on the latest developments at London Metropolitan University.
International students there have been fighting against the removal of their visas. Jeremy placed this struggle in a wider context of the fight against austerity.
This was followed by a Greek lecturer from Athens university who described what was happening in the movement there.
A forum on “Does it matter who owns our colleges and universities?” heard Andrew McGettigan, Jane Hardy and Ken Spours explaining the challenges that higher and further education face. They put forward alternatives to the pro-market and privatisation agenda of the Tory-led coalition.
John McDonnell MP called upon UCU members to continue to develop progressive alternatives to austerity for the working class movement as a whole.
The conference held eight workshops on topics ranging from multiculturalism in education to the casualisation of work in education.
People also discussed democracy inside the UCU union. Great ideas came out of these workshops which will be used to launch a new forum on the UCU Left website called “another education is possible”.
The conference finished with a session on “Privatisation, pay and pensions—building a new alliance”.
Speakers from the NUT, PCS and the UCU unions put forward strategies on how the movement can learn the battle over pensions and how building the 20 October TUC demonstration could move things forward.
A central part of this must be campaigning for further strike action over pay, pensions and jobs.
A number of initiatives came out of the conference including UCU Left hosting a conference on multiculturalism. In higher education, lecturers raised the idea of organising a conference over the impending crises facing the sector.