29 April 2015
We would like to thank all the staff, students and speakers who attended a very successful “Hands Off London Met” meeting on Tuesday evening. Politicians, students and staff union representatives all condemned the Vice-Chancellor’s attacks on the staff and pledged to fight the cuts. What was most striking was the number of students in the audience who expressed their anger at the plan to fire lecturers and their disbelief in the claim that this would not affect the quality of their educational experience. In terms of gender, age, ethnicity and life experience the students represented the diversity that has made London Met a leader in widening access to higher education.
Max Watson, Unison brach secretary – chairing (Photo by David Hardman)
Jeremy Corbyn, the MP for Islington North, has long been a champion of London Met and paid tribute to all the unions at the university, not just the academics, administrators and technical staff, but also the people working in catering, cleaning and security. By contrast, he condemned the years of mismanagement that had caused serious damage to the institution. Along with the other speakers, Jeremy signed a letter to the Governors calling for them to abandon the continuation of a failed strategy of cuts, and to develop a plan for growth. The letter will be shared in the next post.
Jeremy Corbyn MP pays tribute to the unions at London Met (Photo by David Hardman)
About education more generally, Corbyn noted the likelihood of a hung parliament. Such a scenario, he said, can provide opportunities that otherwise might not be there. Following the election he would be demanding more money for university education.
A theme raised by several speakers – Liz Lawrence (UCU), Jon Rogers (UNISON), Sean Vernell (UCU), James Brown (Islington Councillor) – was the need to build a broad-based campaign in defence of education generally. As Sean Vernell pointed out, different fights against cuts are happening in numerous FE and HE institutions and the time has come for a wider fightback.
Sean Vernell, UCU (Photo by David Hardman)
Jon Rogers, UNISON (Photo by David Hardman)
James Brown, Islington Councillor (Photo by David Hardman)
Within London Met itself, Aaron Kiely (London Met student and NUS) accused the Vice-Chancellor of misleading students and using divide-and-rule tactics against them. The Vice-Chancellor had been “demolished” at a debate hosted by the Student Council and most members of the audience had opposed him. However, in a private (and inquorate) vote of the Student Council several members had sided with the VC.
Aaron Kiely, London Met student and NUS (Photo by David Hardman, UCU London Met)
Mark Campbell (London Met UCU) said that whilst the university had suffered cuts previously, the ones now being planned threatened to destroy us. Figures presented to the Board of Governors, and obtained by UCU, showed that the University had £42 million in discretionary capital spending for the next three years; this should be used to grow the university rather than shrink it. He pointed out that the Staff Experience Survey revealed staff had “no faith” in management but attacked the way the survey was being used, particularly the idea – also presented to the governors – that those classed as “disengaged” should be “managed out”. Mark announced that the joint unions will be lobbying the next Board of Governors meeting – scheduled for Tuesday, 12 May, and demanding the rescinding of the 165 job cuts.
Mark Campbell, Chair of UCU London Met Coordinating Committee (Photo by David Hardman)
Students in the audience spoke, variously, of the academic support they had received from dedicated staff at London Met, the opportunity it gave to mature entrants, black students, and the working class; but they also spoke of their own experience of how it had been “one thing after another” at the university.
Finally, we would like to thank once again everyone who attended. We should all take great heart from the support offered by the speakers and students present.
Liz Lawrence, President of UCU (Photo by David Hardman)
The UCU formal ballot for industrial action is now open and UCU members should by now have received a ballot paper. You have until midday on 11th May to vote and we strongly urge you to vote in favour of industrial action. Only by taking collective action can we fight the cuts and press for a strategy based on growth.
The UCU Coordinating Committee