Students launch anti-cuts campaign

first_imgThe first public meeting of the ‘No Cuts at Oxford University Movement’ took place at the Kings Arms pub. The meeting was held to raise awareness among students about the potential cuts facing Oxford and other universities due to the fall in public spending.The meeting, chaired by a current Oxford undergraduate, heard from four speakers; Terry Hoad, vice-President of the University and Colleges Union, Ben Sellers, the Student Union President at SOAS, Michael Chessum, founder of the National Convention Against Fees and Cuts and Joanna Pinto, an anti-cuts campaign student at the London College of Communications.All detailed the negative effect the budget cuts would have on the student learning experience and stressed the need for immediate action from higher education institutions in conjunction with their students and staff.Sellers underlined how important he felt the issue to be, stating, “your course is getting cut, your lecturers are getting sacked”.This sentiment was shared by Pinto, who commented, “it’s up to you to make it sexy; it’s up to you to put it on the news.”The UK currently spends 0.9% GDP on higher education, less than the average 1% from comparable countries. With the economic downturn, this gulf is expected to grow, and the panel highlighted that this, together with the reclassification of universities to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in Government, leaves higher education resources vulnerable to being slashed in order to increase institutions financial efficiency.Chessum and Sellers illustrated this argument with examples from KCL and UCL, both of which generated a large profit margin last year, yet still forced compulsory redundancies. Specifically UCL, at which Chessum is a student, had a 6% budget cut made by its management in response to just a 2% decrease in funding.The repercussions of any cutbacks are expected to be felt by all students, with many courses closing, arts subjects neglected in favour of the more profitable science degrees and every graduate having to justify their research’s economic benefit to society. Sellers highlighted concerns that if the current fee cap is raised or lifted, higher education will become a competitive market, in which more financially able students will be able to pay for a better quality of degree.One audience member commented, “Students feel useless” and said that tangible cuts will have to be felt by students before they will get involved.The panel explained that with the average undergraduate degree lasting just 3 years, it is difficult to excite any long-term engagement from students on the issues which affect them. The suggestion to combat this is to engage support from local communities, by offering the resources of the students and the institutions in skills shares.Action is currently being taken by the University and Colleges Union in order to protect student interests; on the 26th January leading members lobbied Parliament with their new education manifesto, reinforcing the need to allow generous funding to maintain high academic standards in universities.The panel concurred that although the focus of the campaign appears fairly narrow, it is a part of battling a wider economic injustice in the UK which, as Sellers puts it, “supports people who are marginalised in society”.last_img read more