London South Bank University (LSBU) has announced the wholesale closure of a series of courses with immediate effect.
No students will be recruited to the courses from September this year. They are BA History, BA Human Geography, MSc in Refugee Studies, MSc Development Studies, MSc Education for Sustainability.
Historian Sami teaches a Black British History module at LSBU. He said the announcement is a “kick in the teeth”.
“It just shows how little they value you,” Sami told Socialist Worker. “They talk about decolonising education, diversifying and being anti-racist, and it’s all bullshit.
“The history course has so much to offer that is relevant today – about the legacy of slavery and colonialism. It means a lot to the local community as well, not just students.
“This sends an awful message to students at local schools and colleges that we don’t value this history.”
The UCU union branch at LSBU is holding an emergency meeting this week over the attack. Sami said bosses made the decision to slash courses without consulting with the union or workers.
“The way they went about it was quite underhand,” he said. “They pulled the courses from Ucas before telling staff, so it was presented as a fait accompli.
“Closing down degrees at this time of year is really sinister as there are only a few weeks of term left. It’s more difficult to challenge it.”
Workers are now left with uncertainty about their future, as it isn’t clear how many staff will be affected. Sami feels particularly vulnerable.
“I’ve only been at LSBU since September,” he said. “It’s the first successful job interview I’ve had as an academic. I was planning to start a new life in London. But my contract ends in December, and I can’t see how I’m going to be at LSBU after that. It’s painful.”
Sami added that workers were told they would have time to develop the course and modules. “It feels like we’ve been lied to,” he said. And the news comes after a “difficult year” teaching during the pandemic.
“We had an IT outage earlier in the year,” he said. “The whole system was down for a month. No student could do research or work, so they have had more attempts on all the work they submit.
“We get no extra time to do the extra marking. Workload has gone through the roof. We worked so hard on modules during lockdown, and this is how we are treated.”
They talk about decolonising education, diversifying and being anti-racist, and it’s all bullshit.
LSBU isn’t the only university facing vicious cuts to courses. Bosses at Birmingham’s Aston University plan to close the Department of History, Languages and Translation to new students from next year.
This would scrap over 12 courses including BScs in history and politics, and international business and modern languages. UCU members there have voted unanimously to resist the cuts.
Nearly 2,500 people have signed a petition against the cuts at Aston. And solidarity with workers and students at LSBU has poured in since the cuts were announced.
Attacks will grow as bosses and the Tories use the pandemic to wage an assault on education, students and workers’ rights. There must be resistance.
Sami fears the attack at LSBU is “only the beginning” of attempts to reshape universities. And he said the courses targeted show the attack is “part of the Tory agenda to crush humanities”.
“It kind of excludes marginalised students, ethnic minority students, working class students,” he said. “It’s an attempt to dismantle critical education degrees. It’s brutal.”