The bickering, backstabbing and pseudo-intellectual debate of student socialism.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A fight for free education

Looks like the North West is gearing up for a fight over free education! At a regional NUS event of all places we seem to have worked out a reasonable strategy for building up to the National demonstration on the 29th of October. Local demos, regional actions and reasonable buy in from Student Unions – I’m simply shocked.

The background to this is the NUS’ priority campaign over coalition 2010 (an alliance of Teaching Unions, MPs and NUS over not lifting the Cap on Fees.) The upshot of this is that the student movement actually has something to rally around to put our vision of education on the map and a chance to revitalise our movement. The need to broaden out the campaign to the question of what higher education should be about is undeniable as are the limitations of 2010 but here is what we have agreed:

Wednesday 27th September – NW regional demo in Manchester to end at the Labour Party conference. A chance at the start of term to mobilize the North West against a tangible target. Also an opportunity to draw in support from local Unions and political figures.

Wednesday 13th October – NW mass lobbies of local MP’s. A half way point to the national demo drawing together activists and win support for our action.

Sunday 29th October – National Demonstration in London.

All that is left is to organise the events and get as much buy in as is possible. Approaching FE’s, tying in with the national Anti War demo (in Manchester) on the 23rd September and blitzing our own students when they get back.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Waking up bit by bit...

I haven’t posted in a while because the world of student politics seems to have entered a lull. But seeing as I just missed the only thing NUS are doing at this moment I thought this momentous day shouldn’t go unmarked. Because today on the same day as NUS and the teaching unions launch their “Public Services Not Private Profit” campaign Blair has decided to come clean as being a Tory all along. Worshiping the right of the Individual to get rich and highlighting the privatising agenda in Secondary education. Is there any more obvious way to slap us and the Unions in the face?

At a speech to the British Society of Magazine Editors which must have been happening just as NUT reps from across the country filing into Westminster Blair outlined his agenda for business friendly secondary schools based on New Labours “choice agenda.” One of the most sickening things (as History is dropped to “an option” in the secondary curriculum) is the comment that,
"One of the things we are doing with specialist schools and trust schools is have schools where enterprise and business becomes very much a greater part of what kids are taught from an early age.”
Echoing horribly the comments at the launch of a recent University of Manchester project about “providing a generation of professionals capable of bring private enterprise to the public sector.” The gearing of the entire sector has been gathering pace for a while with the gradual erosion of “soft” subjects such as art, drama and history but this seems to mark a turning point with Labour determined after ramming through the Education and Inspections bill through the commons. The whole fiasco has been labelled by the press as Blair encouraging entrepreneurialism which is in itself sickening without Labour is dismantling the remaining legacies of comprehensive education. Brown is getting in on the act as well with his summer schools for entrepreneurs as part of “enterprise week” - no I’m not making this up. Even when you expect it you still want to weep for their unashamed worship of the market and business. Apparently Brown is proud to say that at the 97 election 5% of schools offered education on business matters and this has now increased to 50% as business courses at Universities swelled.

The only reason I’m going on about this other then missing the lobby is the horrible parallels between this and what is happening in Manchester. Privatisation or more accurately the “modernisation agenda” has slowly dominated our University while the left was distracted and while the leadership of our Students Union was dining with the Vice Chancellor. The Universities 2015 agenda is solely based on the premise of providing “centres of excellence” to industry. The nuclear research based Dalton Institute being only one among many examples of a project where the education of students was considered as an after thought to the needs of the North West’s least pleasant industry.

Things have been picking up with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade disinvestments campaign opening up a series of debates in the student population about how our University is funded. Similar campaigns against Halls sell offs and Nuclear research have started to merge in a way which is generalising out when the lecturers strike brought the question of education funding to a head. I almost started this earlier with a moan about predicting the moment when things will kick off again in the student movement but realised that we don’t have much in the way of reasons to complain. We still have an active anti-war movement and the combination of privatisation starting to pinch and the Labour Party conference up the road could be just one of many sparks creating a real campaign for education.