THE TWO days of strike action by university lecturers in the AUT union were hugely successful. The government and employers are trying to fundamentally change higher education. They want to create a two-tier education system for students. Lecturers could see an end to job security, loss of control over the work process and pay related to where you work, not what you do.
But lecturers took part in tremendous strikes around the country last week. Those in different areas took action on different days, with the whole country coming out together for a second day on Wednesday. The National Union of Students (NUS) also took action against university top-up fees on this day.
Hundreds of lecturers joined the union in the past week in order to take part in the action. A massive 81 percent of lecturers voted in favour of a boycott of assessment and other work, starting from Monday of this week. Weekly strike committee meetings involving reps from all departments will be needed to make this action stick.
STRATHCLYDE: Around 60 AUT members and students picketed Strathclyde University on both days. Members on one picket line set up a barbecue to cook breakfast. Staff are now working hard to ensure the action short of a strike is successful.
NEWCASTLE: We had around 50 pickets covering all six entrances. We turned the post deliveries away and some staff as well. The university was very quiet.
ESSEX: Picket lines were well supported by students at Essex University. On the Wednesday, students led a five-hour occupation of the vice-chancellor's boardroom.
LEICESTER: Over 40 pickets covered the five university entrances. Very few members went in, with some non union members respecting picket lines. We held a joint rally with the NUS on campus. Some students are apparently going to be the subject of claims from the university for criminal damage after bags of flour were thrown, a window was broken and several cars were damaged.
SHEFFIELD: The strike was solid. Over 300 students and staff from both universities marched on Wednesday. We staged a sitdown protest outside the vice-chancellor's office. Around 200 people broke away from the main demonstration and staged an occupation of Sheffield Town Hall. Over 70 people joined Sheffield AUT in the week running up to the strike. We have been holding twice-weekly strike committee meetings and will continue to do so.
LEEDS: On the strike days over 100 people turned up to picket the university. Some 1,000 staff and students marched through Leeds on Wednesday and held a rally.
BRISTOL: Students joined us on the picket lines. Third year student James Plunkett said, 'Fees and low pay for staff are linked. They are both a product of the marketisation of education. We are against both variable fees and variable pay.' There were around 300 people picketing. At the lunchtime rallies it became clear that a whole layer of new, young, staff were getting involved.
SWANSEA: Students sat in the road blocking traffic. Groups of students and staff set off to close the other entrances that vehicles were being redirected to. The vice-chancellor drove up to talk to the gathering. One student, using a megaphone, recited a rap poem he'd written, about planned departmental closures, right in his face.
CAMBRIDGE: Wednesday was the main day of action at Cambridge University and was a good day for us. Around 30 people visited our picket line. Lectures were cancelled across a wide range of faculties.
WARWICK: Staff marched from the picket line to join around 200 students for a rally and march around campus. Some departments closed completely as non union members cancelled lectures alongside AUT members.
Malcolm Povey with additional reporting by Nick, Chris, Nicola, Celia, Angela, Zoe and Gareth