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Glasgow occupation leads fight for survival

Students occupying Glasgow University’s Hetherington Research Club building, have called for a mass protest on February 16 to oppose devastating cuts.

This is when the University Court – a kind of Trustee Board – will review proposals to axe altogether courses in nursing, anthropology, social work and several modern languages. History, archaeology and classics will be merged into a single department. Evening and weekend classes for 5,000 adult learners will disappear, and at the university’s Dumfries campus, liberal arts courses are to go.

In a particular blow to Glasgow, where drug abuse continues to be a massive health and social problem, the university is considering the future of its Centre for Drug Misuse Research.

The proposals aim to save £3m. The university says it has to cut a total of £20m from its budget by 2012-13. It is looking for voluntary redundancies, but compulsory redundancies are not ruled out, as libraries, student support and other departments are told to save between 11% and 15%.

Glasgow’s proposals will be repeated across Scotland in the coming months. Already research budgets have been cut by £67m for next year with newer universities suffering the brunt.

After the University Court meets, managers say they will consult “within the context of the university meeting its strategic ambitions”. Those ambitions are nothing to do with education as a whole. The slick managers running universities today are enthusiasts for the role of the market and the need to service big corporations. Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli is a classic example.

The Glasgow branch of the UCU union, which represents lecturers, said economic factors should not be the only criteria for deciding what happens in a university, and that the management must also take on board the views of students and the wider community the university serves.

Staff at the Department of Adult and Continuing Education are now “fighting for survival”, and Liam Kane, one of the lecturers, accused the University of contempt for their work when in fact “the students we are teaching are the people who pay their taxes to pay for the University in the first place”.

“Their strategy appears to be all about internationalisation, foreign students and research, but we are providing real education to real people in challenging subjects,“ he said.

Occupation spokesperson Caron Bell, a student on the threatened anthropology course, said:

This latest round of cuts amounts to only £3 million in so-called savings, as part of a plan to save £20 million over the next three years. What department will be next? This wholesale attack on education will be resisted, both by staff and students. The occupation is the first stage of a long battle to defeat these cuts.

Nursing student Stuart Tuckwood added:

The staff in the Nursing Department are dedicated and hard-working and do an excellent job of developing talented nurses who go on to provide a high standard of care... we will not be ‘axed’ quietly. We will fight [this] business model for the University every step of the way.

The only way to halt these cuts is to unite the community as a whole with staff and students to challenge the management’s right to carry them out and at the same time consider a new approach to education and governance. A resolution passed by last month’s National Assembly for Education provides a model for doing this. It says:

This National Assembly for Education urges communities throughout Britain and Europe to build inclusive People’s Assemblies that can:

Penny Cole
10 February 2010

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Free Hetherington says:

The Hetherington Research club, closed with 4 hours notice last year and refused further funding by University Management, has been occupied and reopened as a social and discursive space. We invite everyone down, check out the blog for demands and events.

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