Wednesday, 24 November 2010


The quality of our education at UWE is rapidly worsening. There are two major reasons for this. Firstly, it is a direct consequence of the implementation of the ‘Restructuring Project’ (its goals and processes) since the beginning of 2010 resulting in stress, tensions and work intensification of staff. Secondly, the government has recently proposed massive budget cuts across the public sector, including education and universities while talking about doubling or even tripling tuition fees.

Both initiatives, UWE-level and national, if they go through, will have a dire impact on education, students and lecturers at UWE and other universities. More specifically, these cuts will increase injustice, widen inequalities and intensify suffering across the country.

Despite growing protests such as demonstrations across the country, petitions and occupations of universities, no elected or responsible organisational or national ‘leaders’ are taking adequate measures to challenge the above-mentioned policies (UWE-level and national) and defend the interests of students, workers, jobs, universities or our educational values or the public sector. We have therefore taken responsibility for our own education and our future by setting up a ‘camp for education’ inside UWE’s Frenchay Campus at Core 24 to oppose the restructure, cuts and fees. 

Last night, the assembled students decided to keep the camp running to raise awareness about these issues, further discuss, work and organise at least until the national student walk out against cuts and fees on Wednesday 24th. We do not wish to interrupt academic activities (e.g. lectures, library services, research, etc.) at UWE during the occupation.  The camp is our working space intended to provide all the students and the UWE community at large with an opportunity to exchange views, learn about and engage in the camp’s activities.

Amongst the various university-level issues that were raised, participants repeatedly expressed their disagreement with a conception of a university which is largely and increasingly focused on ‘employability’ and this mysterious notion of the ‘Student Experience’ (i.e. irreversible marketisation of higher education).

We think that the idea of ‘student experience’ leads to a shallow, individualistic, consumerist and market-based education. Moreover, it serves to justify increased tuition fees, to rationalise the logic of proposed cuts in education, to antagonise students and academics and, specifically, to facilitate a damaging restructuring at UWE.
We think that our university should not solely provide career training and prepare students to solve problems defined by employers, but that it must also prepare all students for an active and rich civic life and for the major political, institutional and ecological crises we are facing. This reductionist process is contradictory to the essence of universities as spaces for debate, critique and democracy.

Following the first evening of discussions, the camp has formulated and agreed its first list of demands directed at university-level. We demand that today’s meeting of the Board of Governors:

1)      Starts questioning the inevitability of proposed cuts in Higher Education and increased tuition fees and informs students about the concrete actions that they are taking in engaging with and challenging the government policies.

2)      Opposes systematically and proactively the following government policies in all relevant non-governmental fora including the press:
a.      The increase in tuition fees,
b.      The cuts  in education and other public services,
c.       The withdrawing of all government support for humanities and social sciences,
d.      The abolition of EMA which puts even further education and sixth form study beyond the reach of many less well off students,
e.      Selective funding of research (i.e. supporting only engineering and science at the detriment of other disciplines). 

3)      Works with the camp for education to facilitate a conference for students, academic staff and management in which we can develop a shared conception of education for our university.

4)      Withdraws the damaging proposal to downgrade and remove academic staff which severely threatens the quality of teaching and contact hours available to students.

5)      Immediately abides by recognising the agreed dispute procedures by moving to status quo ante

6)      Takes immediate action to start negotiations with UCU, to facilitate and to settle a quick resolution of the above-mentioned dispute.

7)      Retains all existing Masters Programmes, and take concrete steps to defend existing levels of undergraduate teaching in arts, humanities and social sciences.

8)      Reconsiders all plans that would lead to reduced internal investment into research activities of the staff.

9)      Reconsiders all plans that would affect our education through intensification of work of UWE staff (in particular resulting from the roll out of the new workload model and the restructuring process).

10)  Immediately stops using the notion of ‘student experience’ in all university communications and policies as it simply does not represent the voice of us, students.

11)  Instead of enforcing such an individualistic and consumerist notion (of ‘Student Experience’), management should shift the discussion toward a more inclusive concept of educational VALUES in order to preserve and foster the societal nature and purpose of Higher Education and the interdependency between students and academic staff.

12)  Reduces the emphasis on ‘employability’ as the main focus of our education.

13)  Responds to all (individual and collective) requests for information and provide access to all documents related to the management of our university.

14)  Reinstates funding for all students to participate in well-established events and study trips.

15)  Establishes a time limit by which to enforce the implementation of the agreements following the 2008 Palestine occupation.

16)  More generally, agreements and proposals from management shall mention a time limit by which they shall be enforced.

17)  Not only ensures that no aggression, interference or disturbance will take place against the camp for education, but also takes measures to facilitate our work when appropriate.

18)  Undertakes no victimisation of students and staff taking part in this occupation, Wednesday’s walk out or any future actions in support of our university and education.

We urge UWE management to recognise that our university is NOT a corporation driven by business principles alone but an institution of Higher Education which promotes and is guided by a combination of economic, cultural and social concerns.

Finally, we warmly invite University Management, the board of Governors, like all other members of the University community to join us in the camp and participate in this process. Let’s work together to find better solutions for the future of our university and act in solidarity with the broader movement against cuts and fees.

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