Higher education

Casual assault on higher education

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The creeping marketisation of higher education has had major implications for staff contracts. Xanthe Rose explains the extent of casualised work in the sector.

In April the UCU lecturers’ union published a report revealing that higher education institutions are using casualised contracts to a shocking degree. The union estimates that 54 percent of all academic staff and 49 percent of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts. That includes staff on hourly-paid, zero-hours and fixed-term contracts, as well as agency workers.

Casual assault on higher education workers

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SOAS fractionals campaign

The creeping marketisation of higher education has had major implications for staff contracts. Xanthe Rose explains the extent of casualised work in the sector.

In April the UCU published a report revealing that higher education institutions are using casualised contracts to a shocking degree. The union estimates that 54 percent of all academic staff and 49 percent of all academic teaching staff are on insecure contracts. That includes staff on hourly-paid, zero-hours and fixed-term contracts, as well as agency workers.

Anatomy of a strike victory

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The current spate of local disputes provides a glimpse of the potential for a fightback. Donny Gluckstein reports on the successful strike at Edinburgh College.

The strike of further education lecturers at Edinburgh College has been described as "a classic example of how to conduct a strike" by the executive of the EIS, the Scottish education union. The bare outlines of what happened make impressive reading.

Fighting Spirit

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Julie Sherry draws out the wider lessons of the spate of local disputes.

There is a frustrating contrast between the intensifying assault on workers by the government and employers and the lack of coordinated national resistance led by the unions. Yet in recent months we have seen a spate of militant and determined local strikes - some of which have won serious victories - that point to the potential for a wider fightback.

The successful strike by Hovis workers in Wigan last September, which defeated an attempt by bosses to introduce zero hours contracts, has not been an isolated example.

Sussex occupation

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The last few weeks of the autumn term at universities saw a rise in student protest and resistance to austerity, prompting a draconian crackdown by university managements and the police.

The driving force behind the protests is a growing opposition to the privatisation of higher education, part of wider Tory attacks on the whole public sector.

Strike for your rights!

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Jack Farmer spoke to University of London cleaners about how they won the London Living Wage and union recognition by staging an unofficial strike

Cleaners are among the most badly treated and poorly paid workers in London. Many are immigrants from South America and a lack of fluent English often makes it all the more difficult to organise.

This is why the struggle of cleaners, porters and security guards at Senate House - part of the University of London - has been so remarkable. Over a number of years they've built a Unison union branch which includes over 100 outsourced workers, organised noisy public protests and a successful unofficial strike, winning the London Living Wage and union recognition.

Quebec: how we won

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After a six-month strike students in Quebec celebrated a victory last month when the new Parti Quebecois government announced it would reverse a planned tuition fees hike. The new government also repealed Bill 78, an emergency law introduced in May, aimed at restricting the right to protest. Aamna Mohdin and Jamie Woodcock spoke to Jérémie Bédard-Wien, a spokesperson for CLASSE, a radical student coalition that played a central role in the movement


“Half a million people marched through Montreal on 22 May - the largest ever act of civil disobedience in North America.”

Jérémie Bédard-Wien


There has been a history of student strikes in Quebec. What was the trigger for the 2012 student strike? And what was the inspiration?

Class barriers

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As half a million students begin university this month Rob Ferguson looks at the consequences of cuts and fees on applications

This September around half a million students will begin a university education - 36 percent of all school leavers. In 1962 a mere 20,000 school leavers entered university. The landscape of higher education has been transformed over past decades. In east London, where I now work, thousands of young people, male and female, many from Asian backgrounds, enter university who could not have dreamt of doing so 20 years ago. Vocational and Access qualifications now provide an important route to university for many working class students and mature workers.

Degrees of marketisation

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The new Higher Education White Paper marks a step change in the neoliberal transformation of universities. Jim Wolfreys looks at the ideology behind the government's plans, what it will mean for students, staff and the nature of teaching, and how we can resist

The government's Higher Education White Paper will disrupt and potentially break up the existing system of higher education in England, deterring poorer students from university, subordinating teaching and research to the logic of privatisation and competition, and paving the way for the closure both of courses and of entire institutions.

It makes claims about putting "students at the heart of the system" and "excellent teaching back at the heart of every student's university experience" that are flatly and comprehensively contradicted by the entire content of the document.

Universities Inc

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Outbursts of anger from students and academics greeted the plans of philosopher AC Grayling to establish the New College of the Humanities (NCH) - a new for-profit private university with fees of £18,000.

Peter Hall, a financier who has donated more than £450,000 to the Tory party, has provided the money to promote his vision of a market-driven education. To dismiss the NCH merely as a finishing school for the super-rich (which it will be) fails to capture its significance.

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