- There has been strong opinions all round campus about the recent strikes, from students being verbally attacked by campaigners to the valiance of the picket line. Here our Politics sub-editor shows his support for the strikes, and informs you of why you should support them too.
The recent strike of university staff has not only resulted in a political debate as to the role of education in our economy, but has also shown us yet again the commitment our blessed government has to a capitalist, free market view on education.
In essence, the coalition has been using claims of ‘austerity’ to change the position of education in the economy. They want to transfer it from a public good, to a private one. But the word austerity has been thrown around so much recently we almost forgot what it was. Allow me to clarify: Austerity is defined as when the government reduce public expenditure, usually in an attempt to reduce public debt.
So, why is it such a bad thing to have our staff take a 13% pay cut and to sell off the student loan book to private companies? Much like everything in politics, it’s a matter of opinion. If education continues to be privatized in a capitalist economic structure then it must be run on the basis of profit motive.
So should policies about how we educate our future leaders be based on cost-efficiency and profit, rather than the actual quality of education? We cannot allow for the education system to be run in the same way as a fast food joint. The decrease in the wages of our educators will only result in a decrease in the quality of teaching. We must make teaching, which is an investment for the future, an absolute priority. We must remind ourselves of Benjamin Franklin’s words; ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’
No passionate educator wants to strike, but their passion for education is shown to us through them striking. Members of the coalition government who are backing the policies to sell off the student loan book and decrease wages do not share this passion, and this is why we must stand with our staff. We must show them that we are as devoted to our own education, to the nurturing of our minds, as they are to their professions. It is not out of greed or spite that these strikes have occurred; it is out of a sense of desperation.
The head of Bargaining at the UCU, Michael McNeil put it brilliantly; ‘Staff love their jobs but their goodwill cannot continue to be taken for granted’. They refuse to have education take a back burner role in our economy and are demanding that they be given the respect and fair treatment that they deserve.
Many ponder how strikes, effectively stopping education, are meant to help education. It is a fair point that students have raised when wondering why they cannot access the various facilities that they pay ludicrous amounts for. But the reason is quite simple. The same people who are selling off our student loan book (which will effectively result in higher loan rates and less people obtaining higher education), are the same people who are telling our educators that they earn too much to be sustainable. Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, it is only the lower level educators who are receiving pay cuts – the board members and senior members of education sector are enjoying increased wages.
The copious amounts of unfair laws and policies surrounding this issue are appalling. As citizens we must stand up and fight against the policies we do not agree with. I personally find these reforms unacceptable and that is why every single one of the educators striking has my full support and admiration. “Enough is enough.” Mr. McNeill’s’ words sum it up perfectly.