On Tuesday 3rd December, many staff at the University will strike against the proposed cut to their pay of 13% in real terms. We the students have organised an occupation of the Queens’ building in support of this issue. Whilst many may see this pay cut as necessary in the current economic climate, it is difficult to see the justification for these cuts in the context of the Vice Chancellor has received a bonus on top of his already six-figure salary.
This is part of a national student movement. Students in the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, Ulster, Sussex and others have all occupied in solidarity with the staff striking against these cuts among other issues such as the planned privatisation of student debt, campus services, and the right to protest. The truth is that the people cutting staff wages are the same people privatising our student loans. Students and staff alike must unite against cuts that affect us all.
Many realise the detrimental effects these cuts and other issues will have on our education and in general at a time when the cost of higher education is so great. However, as students we are consistently under-represented by those who claim to represent us in the NUS. This is why students across the country are organising as one and taking direct action to fight against cuts and fees.
The cuts themselves link in to a wider economic policy pursued by the current government of marketising higher education. After the increase in student fees in 2010, we are now seeing the privatisation of student debt which may lead to further rises in the price of university education, prohibiting poorer sectors of society from attending. We find ourselves, as students, in a situation where we are paying an increasing amount for an education of decreasing quality due to staff pay cuts. In the recent e-mail circulated around the student body, we were ensured that the university would ‘withhold pay from any member of staff who participates in strike action’ whilst no balanced explanation of the reasoning behind the strike was given.
It is clear that the interests of university leadership are utterly opposed to the interests of those who make up our universities – that is, us, the staff and students.
This is just one in a series of actions on the behalf of students nationwide to fight the increasing corporatisation of universities. Universities should be places for free thought and balanced discourse, accessible to all, and not subject to the whims of government or big business.
Educate! Agitate! Organise! Unite!
– The Exeter Occupiers