Socialist Worker

At UCU conference, the fight for post-16 education is crucial

by Sean Vernell
Issue No. 2454

College workers and students lobby parliament

College workers and students lobby parliament (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The UCU union’s annual congress takes place this weekend as the new Tory government signals further assaults on services and working conditions.

The fight for post-16 education must be at the centre of the movement against austerity. At the heart of this must be the campaign to save adult education. 

We need a vision of genuine student-centred education and must be prepared to use every weapon in our armoury—lobbies, demonstrations and strikes.

UCU punched above its weight in its first four years, but it has become far less visible nationally and this is weakening us at branch level.

At the heart of the debate is what kind of union UCU should be—one that services members or a campaigning union. Unfortunately most of UCU’s leadership is deeply pessimistic about the potential to mobilise members.


Yet where a clear strategy has been offered members have been very enthusiastic.

We can start by supporting the amendment to congress calling for a national demonstration to defend post-16 education. 

The NUS union has elected a left wing leadership and is looking for partners to call a demonstration, as is the teachers’ NUT union. 

Alongside this UCU members in further and adult education are preparing to take industrial action in defence of jobs and education. Some 11 colleges across London could strike together over cuts in June. 

There is a national lobby of parliament on Tuesday 16 June, called jointly by the Association of Colleges, the National Voice for LifeLong Learning and the UCU. 

The UCU also plans to have a Save Lifelong Learning contingent on the People’s Assembly demonstration. 

On 3 June there is a rally at Hackney College from 6pm on defending further education. Let’s stoke the resistance.

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