Saturday, January 2, 2010

Report on Defend Jobs, Defend Education – London activist meeting:

Called by King’s College London UCU – Supported by No Cuts at King’s & London Region UCU

Over 90 staff and student activists from universities across London and beyond met at King’s College on Tuesday 15th December to discuss ways of giving a united focus to the fight to defend jobs and education across the capital. Many activists had come straight from the 500 strong protest against cuts at London Metropolitan University (which resulted in the entire board of governors resigning later that evening!). Institutions represented included: UCL, Westminster Uni, Westminster College, London College of Communication, Tower Hamlets College, Queen Mary University, Goldsmiths, London Metropolitan, Sussex, King’s College, SOAS, University of the Arts London, and others.

The meeting was introduced by Jim Wolfreys, President of King’s UCU, who explained that it had been called in response to an escalating crisis in higher education caused by government attacks on the one hand and the desire, on the other, of HE management to use the present financial situation as a pretext to restructure their institutions. Staff and students across London needed to join together in defence of education or the situation would fragment, leaving management and the government a free hand to wreck higher education.

A number of speakers stressed the scale of the cuts being imposed, with some facing redundancy themselves. There was a general feeling that we can no longer wait, but that we must act now to stop these cuts. Richard from Tower Hamlets UCU told the meeting how his college went on all out strike for four weeks and successfully fought off all compulsory redundancies, including saving 300 vital ESOL places. He said that the solidarity from trade unionists across London and beyond, who raised over £30,000, was crucial in their victory. During the meeting, Joel from King’s UCU raised a collection and circulated a Christmas card in support of IT workers at Fujitsu due to strike on the 18th December over cuts and attacks on their pensions.

Jesse from UCL UCU, said that because principals and vice-chancellors meet to plan together, we must do the same. In order to organise and co-ordinate further actions an open organising meeting was suggested, provisionally called the ‘London Education Action Committee’, on the 19th January. All those interested in attending should contact:

The meeting agreed to build and support the mass lobby of parliament called by the national UCU union on the 26th of January, mobilising students and lecturers to gather at the Strand and march on parliament. The meeting also decided to call a rally at King’s in the first few weeks of February to build the campaign and to challenge the marketisation of our education system.

Quoting the demonstrators at London Met, one activist said of the university management and the new movement: “They are the past, we are the future”.