SIGN THE PETITION PLEASE
Please send messages of support to:
Julie Wilkinson – J.Wilkinson@mmu.ac.uk
Please send messages of support to:
Julie Wilkinson – J.Wilkinson@mmu.ac.uk
UCU NEC member and President of UCU Scotland, Douglas Chalmers, took time out to attend the 3rd Convention on Higher Education, following the last HEC in London. Here are his impressions of this useful meeting
An audience of up to a 100 listened to speakers at the 3rd Convention for Higher Education in UCL’s Darwin lecture theatre today where educational experts, UCU activists and others condemned the proposals in the UK government’s Higher Education and Research Bill.
John Holmwood opened events by a devastating critique of the proposals, declaring that ‘it’s the nature of the public university that’s at the heart of this discussion’. Member of the House of Lords and professor of public sector management at Kings College London, Baroness Alison Wolf, went on to condemn the flimsy ‘cod’ market economics underpinning the proposals, pointing out that what she called a ‘very underdeveloped form of economic thinking’ had come to dominate the debate’ which was ‘ a genuine step in the wrong direction’.
Martin McQuillan of Kingston University pointed out that the whole fees debacle which would now be exacerbated was a ‘question of intergenerational justice’, and he castigated the universities for being ‘on the wrong side of the public debate’.
Amber Rudd’s proposals to cut international students to all but Russell group universities were roundly condemned by all speakers – as were the efforts by some in the Russell group itself to lobby in support of these divisive proposals.
Malia Bouattia, NUS president suggested that the prospect of ‘market exits’ by some of the proposed new providers which would fail (as some inevitably would), might be seen by Teresa May as a sign that the ‘market was working well’.
She finished by saying the proposals could still be defeated, and quoted James Baldwin in saying “Those who say it cannot be done are usually interrupted by those doing it”
The conference also heard and condemned the current situation at London Met university, and also spent a useful session looking at the joint work that could be done in different areas, to help weaken the Bill and work towards defeating it.
Union members at London Metropolitan University are under threat again after announcement of compulsory redundancies of permanent facility staff, and other job losses resulting from the removal of all teaching hours from some long serving hourly paid lecturer staff.
Amongst those targeted for redundancy are UCU union officers including the chair Mark Campbell and Secretary David Hardman (see picture above).
According to Mark: “What is quickly becoming evident is almost all those selected for dismissal are committed UCU members and educators that have on many occasions had the courage and principles to stand up and be counted. Those members, and ourselves, are now what our current VC, John Raftery, describe as the ‘actively disengaged’ who need to be ‘managed out’ of the university. He also had previously had the gall to suggest this will be to improve and support the student experience! Yes, we are disengaged – but not from our students. We are disengaged from a management that puts its own wellbeing above the interests of our students and the working class communities we are proud to serve”.
Please sign the petition here to oppose this vindictive action by the University management. The branch also request you download and take a photo with this poster share it on social media and please send a copy to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on their FB page here
The hashtags for support are: #savelondonmet #saveourreps
More details of the campaign overall can be found from London Met’s UCU blog here
The atmosphere promoted by management at London Met can also be found in the correspondence between the Vice Chancellor and the UCU’s Environment Officer seeking support for the incorporation of environmental issues into teaching.
It’s well worth reading, particularly the bizarre last paragraph: The e-mail is here
The UCU Independent Broad Left (IBL) network supports the need for UCU to make hard strategic choices about prioritising resources to meet the challenges we face in this ever more hostile environment for post-16 education. This requires a union leadership which puts members first, and seeks to involve them, and emphasises core professional and trade union issues – education, research, jobs, pay, conditions, equality and professional autonomy.
With this in mind, we have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting Vicky Knight’s candidature as VP of the union. (Download her election address here)
A message to all UCU members from Vicky:
“This Government’s ideological agenda is clearly hurting everyone in our communities. As workers, educators and researchers we are continually doing more for less, in increasingly stressful environments – over-worked, underpaid, our workplace rights eroded, increasingly precarious in terms of job security, our professionalism undermined, and terms and conditions constantly under attack with privatisation looming.
We also face the (anti) Trade Union Bill, designed to subvert our right to strike, congregate and demonstrate – all of which are fundamental trade union and workers’ rights.
We must maintain at all costs the right to withdraw our labour – an action which UCU members never undertake lightly. Our strength is our democracy, using our collective ability to negotiate and exhaust political alternatives rst.
In order to defend our members in the current climate, a vital objective and focus of the union must be the strengthening of our branches – the absolute foundation of our membership – including increasing our numbers, and thus empowering us to use our collective bargaining and negotiation skills to improve members’ lives.
If you vote for me, you vote for a strong independent voice working hard for, and responsive to, all UCU stakeholders, for the benefit of all, inclusively and equally, in both HE and FE.”
Some aspects of Vicky’s experience.
Vicky believes that:
See below for endorsements of Vicky and her approach from a wide range of UCU members.
Julia Charlton is UCU branch chair at Northumbria University, Northern Regional Secretary and NEC member. Here she writes about the importance for UCU members of the campaign to retain bursaries for student nurses.
In the autumn statement, George Osborne announced the scrapping of the NHS bursary for new student nurses, midwives and allied health professions in England from 2017. The NHS bursary supports over 80,000 healthcare students at more than 120 universities each year and the Tories want to scrap it.
Why does this matter to UCU members? Because our hardworking health academics are at possible risk because of the possible loss of NHS commissioned training places at Universities. These commissioned places bring vital finance into the university in millions per year.
Under the current NHS bursary system, no fees are charged and students are entitled to a combination of a non-means tested bursary, a means-tested bursary and a ‘reduced rate’ student loan. This will be replaced with the standard undergraduate system, with fees of up to £9,000 and a much larger student loan for maintenance.
These changes would see students burdened with at least £51,600 of debt, plus interest and any overdraft and commercial debt. This is an enormous sum for many in these professions. Loan repayments will mean a nurse, midwife or allied health professional will lose over £900 in pay a year. A new graduate nurse can expect to earn about £ 22,799 in their first year.
What do students say? “The next nurses will basically be paying to work,” says Danielle, of Cornwall. “And no one from my background is going to think it’s a good idea to get in huge debt for a job where you are never going to earn a lot.” “We know we’re going into a profession where there’s been no pay increase for five years.”
A pre-registration health degree requires significant time spent in clinical practice, including early, late, night and weekend shifts as a normal part of their studies. For example, nursing students must complete a minimum of 2,300 hours in clinical practice over the course of their studies. These changes effectively charge students for working in the NHS. The best asset of the NHS is its workforce. The best way to make the most of this asset is to invest in the future workforce. By scrapping the NHS bursary and uncoupling workforce planning from education commissioning the Government are taking a risk with the future of patient safety and care delivery, and exacerbating the current recruitment crisis.
The Government needs to reconsider these proposals and discuss how best we invest in and support students, rather than making a reckless decision driven by the desire to achieve deficit targets. We’ll be reminding the Government that “people should come before money” (Sir Robert Francis) on the Save the NHS Bursary demonstrations. (Written by Gail Adams, Head of Nursing at the trade union Unison)
How many hospital visits can you remember where the ward or department was fully staffed with nurses, nurses got their breaks and had time for patients?
We have a shortage of nurses in the UK (just for starters 1200 matrons/ very senior nurse posts were cut as was reported recently). So one would think that the government would do their best to attract more nurses and get more people to train as nurses. Instead we have ‘boom and bust’ policies, and possibly unethical recruitment of nurses from overseas from countries that need their nurses too. The reason we aren’t training enough nurses is because the Conservatives cut the number of nurse training places in the last parliament.
If you or I wanted to get people to choose a particular job or career, would we treat them well and make them feel welcome? Or would we – like the government—effectively block a lot of nurse recruitment from abroad, make those from outside the EU leave if they earn less than £35,000 per year, and scrap student nurses’ bursaries, making it financially impossible for many people to train as nurses, especially for mature students with families? For decades, professions like nursing and midwifery have been open to people of all backgrounds. Now, Jeremy Hunt and George Osborne are slamming the door on the dreams of working class kids who want to care.
To anyone with common sense, these measures seem like a sure fire way to make sure as few people as possible train as nurses.
Now this is where government spin comes in: these policies are being sold to us as “recruiting more nurses and student nurses”, as having a lot more nurses than we used to have, and as all being well with the NHS. NewSpeak rules supreme, Black is White, nurse shortages are more nurses, financial hardship for student nurses will attract more people to become nurses.
Clear as mud?
If you and your loved ones wish to be cared for and treated in a publicly owned and funded and accountable NHS now and in the future then please get behind the movement in favour of keeping student nurses’ bursaries. We have already seen the anger shown in the marches all over the country in mid January. This will continue till we win.
But it is not just nurses as the move will mean thousands of student nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, podiatrists, radiographers, dietetics, operating department practitioners and possibly paramedics will be over £50,000 in debt when they graduate. (Veronika Wagner )
Things you can do:
Sign the petition to urge MP’s to save the NHS Bursary
If you’re a student in the NHS fill in the survey
Get your branch to pass and act on this suggested TU branch NHS motion.
Those of us who were UK congress delegates in 2012 will remember the electrifying speech given by Dr Miguel Beltran, the Colombian academic who had been falsely imprisoned for two years on the charges of rebellion – a trumped up accusation due to his criticism of the Colombian government.
In his speech he paid tribute to UCU saying:
“There were moments when every door seemed to be closing. But your solidarity meant I did not feel alone. It gave me dignity and the strength to carry on.”
On 31 of July of this year he was once again arrested. The arrest came after the ruling which cleared Miguel of all charges was overturned, but in spite of the fact that a subsequent appeal with the Supreme Court is still in process. Continue reading
Increasingly branches are having to deal with the imposition of the UK Government’s ‘Prevent’ agenda. Some valuable work is being done with local NUS branches, Students Associations, and most recently the ‘Students not Suspects’ tour. Here are some observations following the recent arrival of the tour in Strathclyde University
Horror stories about the new government measures under their Prevent ‘anti-terrorism’ agenda are becoming more widely known, and were no surprise to the audience at the recent Students not Suspects rally in Strathclyde University. These included the accusations of supporting terrorism against a Staffordshire University student on a Masters Course on Terrorism, Crime and Global Security ( you would think a tiny clue might be in the name of the course), who was questioned while reading a course textbook called Terrorism Studies in his own university library. Previously, Nottingham Uni research student Rizwaan Sabir was wrongly accused of conducting research into terrorism – although clearly part of his doctoral research, endorsed by the university. After being detained for seven days as a ‘suspected terrorist’ he eventually won out of court damages of £20,000 from the police.
These are only two, isolated cases easy findable through a Google search. What is as bad, if not worse, are the examples of ‘self censorship’ or reticence beginning to be seen in some of our Muslim students who are aware that there is a concerted effort by the UK government to find a ‘terrorist threat’ in our universities and other public bodies – an effort which targets the Muslim communities. Continue reading
A ballot for strike action at the Open University (OU) has opened over the closure of regional offices and potential loss of over 500 jobs. The OU Senate has voted to advise against the plans despite the university’s attempts to prevent UCU lobbying the meeting.
Quoted in the Guardian, Philip O’Sullivan, lecturer in the faculty of social sciences, and a UCU rep. pointed out that this was the most fundamental change in the way the university had operated since its creation. Tony Coughlan, a tutor at the OU’s Bristol office also pointed out that closure of these centres means students do not get a person who can personalise the learning experience – this is something that the regions had always done.
Coughlan points out that its only through meeting other students that the sense of being in a learning community is created – something that’s vital if you’re having a difficult time as a student. Continue reading
Trade Unionists all over the world will have been shocked at the carnage caused by suicide bombers at a recent peace rally in Ankara on 10th October. This rally was called by Trade Unions anxious to end the hostilities between the Turkish state and the Kurdish people. Over 100 people were killed and over 200 injured.
In a welcome initiative Brighton UCU sent the following message
Colleagues, comrades and friends,
Please accept our condolences on your losses, and our dismay that this could happen to a peaceful demonstration in the capital city of modern Turkey. Over 100 of your people are dead, and scores are wounded. We stand in solidarity with you at this time, and in support of peace and justice.
We note that your rally was called by trade unions, was unarmed and peaceful, and sought an end of hostilities between the Turkish state and the Kurdish people. We further note that the detonations were located close to where the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was assembling. We conclude that this atrocity was designed, therefore, to undermine the unprecedented unity, achieved by the HDP in the recent election campaign, of sections of Turkish left-leaning opinion with the Kurdish liberation movement. Continue reading