The current onslaught on Higher Education in the UK is unprecedented. The cut of state funding, the increase in tuition fees of up to £9000 per year, the attack on the pension systems of staff members, all these factors contribute to the danger of an increasing marketization of Higher Education. In order to resist restructuring, it is not enough to fight individual aspects of the programme. Comprehensive alternative visions of how Higher Education could be run differently also need to be developed. Together with others, the Local University and College Union (UCU) Association will hold the workshop ‘For a Public University’ at the University of Nottingham on 15 June 2012 in order to contribute to the development of such visions.
The cut in public funding of Higher Education by the ConDem government sends a clear message to universities: in the future, you will have to rely more and more on private funding of your activities. To make up for the loss of funding, universities compete with each other over research funding from private businesses and over attracting more fee paying students. As a result, Higher Education as a whole becomes increasingly marketized. Studying is no longer a public good for those who have the necessary ability, but a commodity, which can be bought by those who can afford it.
Trade unions have multiple tasks. First, they need to assist members, who have encountered personal difficulties at the workplace. The related case workload is increasing as a result of the constant imposition of higher workloads. Second, trade unions need to mobilise members in relation to national struggles, such as the UCU industrial action over the imposed changes to the USS pension system. Third, trade unions have to mobilise members in relation to local disputes with management. These tasks in themselves, however, are not enough to resist successfully such a large-scale attack on Higher Education, as we currently witness it in the UK. In order to counter restructuring as a whole, it is necessary to develop alternative, comprehensive visions of how Higher Education could be run as a public good and not a tradable commodity.
It is for this purpose that the Local UCU Association at Nottingham University co-organises the workshop ‘For a Public University’ on 15 June 2012. The main objectives of the workshop are:
analyses of the current transformation of Higher Education;
discussions about the social function of Higher Education; and
interventions on how to organise the future of Higher Education.
The goal is to re-assert ways in which Higher Education can be retained as a public good, available to all.
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.andreasbieler.net
29 March 2012