We are currently occupying the Senate Chambers at the University of Birmingham.
The Senate was, historically, the place in which the academic community came together to discuss and decide the direction of the University. Today, this has evolved into a box to be ticked, a bureaucratic procedure of approval which carries little weight, in which very little can be debated or contested, and in which the few academics and even fewer students are routinely ignored and powerless. We have chosen this site to occupy as it is symbolic of the way in which University management has steadily decreased the democratic power and representation of both students, staff and academics, and we feel this needs to change.
Defend Education believe that staff and students should have more power in every level of university decision making. Currently a small class of senior managers benefit disproportionately from the fees and work of staff and students. They have total unaccountable power to harm our interests within the university and lobby against our interests outside it.
We are fighting this campaign to try and put pressure on the university to directly accept the following demands; but also because we wish to start a debate and dialogue among students and workers at the University about the kind of institution we want it to be and how we can bring this about.
Free and open access to the occupation by all students and non-management staff, without victimisation or punishment. Senior management staff should be excluded from entering the occupation so that it can remain a strong and safe organisational space.
That David Eastwood and the University of Birmingham should publicly take back their position that fees should be increased and that bursaries should be cut. Instead, they should lobby the government for fees to be reduced, and bursaries to be increased.
That the University of Birmingham make a public statement against the privatisation of student loans and in defence of the public university. The Vice Chancellor should sign up to the Council in Defence of British Universities or the Campaign for the Public University.
That the University’s total income per student place from halls should be frozen next year, and that the cheapest fifth of halls should have their prices decreased.
That all staff working for the University of Birmingham- including those employed in house, by external contractors, and the Guild of Students- should be paid a living wage.
That the pay ratio between the lowest paid and the highest paid staff in the university should be reduced to 10:1.
That a body should be set up made up of elected students, academic staff, and support staff. This should have ultimate oversight over the restructuring of departments, the University’s investment decisions, and its lobbying positions.
That the University produces a publicly available Ethical Investment and Procurement Policy which is reported on annually with plenty of opportunity of engagement with staff, students and other key stakeholders.
That financial statements of the University’s academic departments, and non-academic services should be published so that they can be scrutinised and the University’s decisions be properly held to account by the community.
That the Nursing course faces no loss of investment and no redundancies.
That the University should allocate none of its access income to compulsory fee waivers and instead spend it all on Bursaries, or give students the choice.
Discussion with Professor Allyson Pollock and David Price from the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary University, London
Co-ordinated by the Student Assembly Against Austerity. See a list of actions on the facebook event here.
The government has announced its plan to sell off student debt to private companies.
In order to make the student loan book more profitable, a secret report for the government (written by Rothschild Bank) has proposed retrospectively increasing the cap of interest on student loan repayments or scrapping it all together. This essentially means a retrospective hike in tuition fees.The government is planning complete the sell off by 2015. It could happen sooner.
This means we urgently need to build a mass movement on every campus to stop this privatisation from happening.
We will be producing resources for this day of action – including model leaflets, petitions and signs – that you will be able to download and print from the Student Assembly Against Austerity website.
Dear People’s Assembly supporter,
What a fortnight it’s been! Hopefully you enjoyed reclaiming Guy Fawke’s night on the 5 November, and seeing the reports of actions taking place up and down the country, from occupations of banks and Jobcentres to roadblocks and protests targeting privatisers and tax evaders. On Westminster Bridge, people fed up with choosing between eating and heating burnt their energy bills alongside guys of Cameron and Clegg. Thousands of new people are participating in the anti-austerity movement; the historic-sized rallies, meetings and actions in many towns and cities are testament to that.
It’s clear: the People’s Assembly founding conference in June launched a new movement. The 4,000 people who attended agreed to spread the People’s Asssembly movement across Britain; since then, over 80 local People’s Assembly groups have been set up with more springing up each day. This really is a fantastic achievement; our local groups were instrumental in mobilising for the massive 29 September demonstration at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
But we’re up against a government addicted to austerity, forcing millions into poverty while the wealthiest get richer. We have started to challenge this but if we want real change, we need to build a movement that mobilises millions of people.
So, we’re are organising a re-call People’s Assembly conference for early next year to help make this happen. We’ll be working with the unions and the TUC for a national demonstration in London this spring. We’ll continue supporting the growth of local groups, with a whole series of national initiatives including further days of action. And most crucially, we’ll work hard to engage with new organisations and individuals, and bring them into the People’s Assembly!
This means we urgently need to set up a functioning national office. So we’re asking every supporter of the People’s Assembly to set up a regular monthly donation. No amount is too big or small – if everyone on this list gave just £3 a month we’d have the resources we need to properly support our local groups and national campaigns.
Please help us build a movement impossible to ignore. Set up a monthly donation here:
Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to working with everyone in the coming months.
The next planning and organising meeting for Derby People’s Assembly Wednesday 20th November at 7.30pm at The Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace Derby.
The next planning and organising meeting for Derby People’s Assembly activities is on
Wednesday 20th November at 7.30pm at The Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace Derby.
This is near Derby Railway Station. Imagine you have come out of the station main entrance. You turn right on the main road and walk past the station car park on your right. The Brunswick is on the opposite side of the road, just before the traffic lights.
Some of the issues suggested for the Agenda
1. The latest round of cuts – £81 million – to Derby City Council Services. The local Trades Union Council agreed at their last meeting that they want to work with the People’s Assembly on this.
2. Continuing campaign reports: SOS NHS, Fire Brigades Union, Action For Rail, Bedroom Tax, Royal Mail, Teachers/Education etc. Any others?
3. A proposal for building the Assembly “bottom up” – going out to ask Derby people to identify the key “austerity” issues, and organising very local activity.
Do you have other items for the discussion/agenda?
See you at the meeting!
From the Independent Newspaper