As I was leaving a poker game at the School of African and Oriental Studies a week ago I saw some bloke removing a flyer from one of the trees outside. It was a manifesto for Clare Solomon’s election campaign for presidency of the University of London Union. Upon my questioning him he said something along the lines of “I wouldn’t want that fucking awful woman imposed on anyone.” I’ll be totally honest, I was rather too stoned to coherently convince him otherwise, but the fact that Clare inspires such hatred amongst right-wing cunts is an absolute credit to her, which is why I am writing this piece to congratulate her on her election last Thursday.
I work in the University of London, and across the board (along with the higher education sector nationally) we are facing massive cuts. In my institution, £1m of staff cuts are expected, and similar is happening elsewhere. With the policy of the current Blairites in charge of NUS to be to condemn strikes by university staff, it is only through the election of more radical student representatives that we will be able to effectively fight what is happening. We need the unity of students, support staff, and academics.
We are consistently told by management that Higher Education is “going through a tough time at the moment.” What they fail to say is that what we are seeing in the HE sector is far more permanent than the recession. For years we have been building up to the end of affordable higher education, the end of education without taking on massive debt, the end of the possibility of people from low-income backgrounds attending university. We are seeing the end of small specialised courses, an increase in the division of intellectual labour when interdisciplinary courses cannot receive proper funding, and in all likelihood the absorption of many smaller specialised centres of study into larger universities to the detriment of their academic work.
It is times like this that we need a properly radical student union movement (to compliment a hopefully radical UCU and Unison.) Clare’s election is a promising sign that students are recognising this, and let us hope that it brings us a year of campaigning, fighting, protesting, and unity. We’ll sure as hell need it. Already we are seeing the beginning of the cross-London struggle with the formation of the London Education Activist Network, which has begun to produce bulletins on ongoing struggles in the universities.
As a little extra I thought I’d just put a little shout out to counterfire, who have recently returned to the left blogosphere. They look to be a good addition to left-wing online literature regardless of the difficult and much-debated situation from which they have been reborn.