Day of Action Against Cuts
south west |
Tuesday June 22, 2010 16:53 by Lee Salter
Monday 21 June saw a national protests against government cuts to higher education. Bristol's University of the West of England's main unions came together to march on the Vice Chancellor's office. Union delegations handed a petition to the Vice Chancellor to request that he fight with them to resist the cuts.
The march through the grounds of the University.
Monday 21 June saw a national "Day of Dissent" take place against government cuts to higher education. Bristol's University of the West of England's main unions came together to protest cuts and to call for the protection of Higher Education in the UK.
The day of action was co-organised by the National Union of Students, UNISON, UNITE, the University and College Union and other unions.
At UWE members of all unions gathered at a barbecue to listen to speeches about the impact of the cuts before a delegation marched to the Vice Chancellor's office to hand in a petition to "call upon the governors and Vice Chancellor of UWE to work with trade unions to make the strongest possible representations to the government against the proposed cuts in education".
Mike Hines from Unison told the protesters that the cuts had already impacted on widening participation programmes, ensuring the cuts, alongside fee increases, will hit the poorest and most vulnerable students first.
Hines denounced the impact disinvestment in the public sector would have not just on the University itself, but also on the wide economy in the region.
Elsewhere, Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said: “It is shocking news for students that three quarters of staff are reporting course closures. “The country cannot afford to become a low skill, low wage economy - we must invest in our future and that means investing in further and higher education".
Terryl Bacon, Chair of the UWE branch of the University and College Union explained the broader context of the cuts: "After the savage and ill thought out cuts of the 80s, we should have learned that it can take decades to rebuild. Education is the lifeblood of regeneration. Making cuts to H. E. now will affect our future ability to achieve. The doctors, scientists and social innovators of tomorrow need us to protect education today."
Students also expressed concerned about the impact of cuts on their studies. One third year student said "if the cuts affect the number of lecturers there will be teaching us, it means we get poor quality teaching, because fewer lecturers cannot cope with the same amount of students. As for the future, if staff get cut and teaching moves online in order to cope with the cuts, it will not be the same university education as previously". "There are more students to be affected by cuts than lecturers so the Student Union has to fight along with UCU and Unison".
Another third year UWE student expressed his dismay over the priorities of government spending, "We seem to have lots money for wars but when the economy falters its education that gets hit. On a personal level universities opened up my mind and my world and find it sad that prospective students won’t have the opportunities I have".
UWE's Student Union said, "Going to University changes people's lives, it is vital that funding to HE is protected to ensure as many people as possible get the opportunity to study and that the focus on the student experience continues to improve."
Having received the petition from the union delegation, Vice Chancellor Steve West told the assembled protesters that we live in a global knowledge economy and that investment in higher education is essential to succeed. He added that he was working with University Alliance and Universities UK to ensure that representations were made to the government that investment in higher education be maintained.
When questioned about compulsory redundancies the Vice Chancellor confirmed whilst they might be unavoidable, it was his intention to try to prevent them taking place.
UWE's Vice Chancellor addresses protesters.