Today the University and College Union at the University of Leeds released their strike ballot results. In a record turnout of 65.8% of UCU members, 63.8% voted ‘Yes’ to strike action and a staggering 78.1% voted ‘Yes’ to action short of a strike. We welcome the decision of the members of the UCU to support both strike action and action short of the strike. This is a move towards defending not only the livelihoods of lecturers and support staff, but more significantly the future of education in the UK.
However, lecturers and other UCU members cannot struggle against these cuts alone. It is the responsibility of all of us to help fight these cuts. If implemented the governments cuts will have a massively detrimental effect on higher education. Already it is possible that many young people will not be able to enroll on degree programmes next year. These are people such as your friends and younger brothers and sisters. What education system awaits them after years of hard work at school? Likewise, what awaits those of us currently in the University system? With record levels of graduate unemployment and spiralling debt it is highly possible that we may end up in low-paid and highly precarious employment conditions.
The crisis the University of Leeds is facing, is linked to a wider higher education crisis across the UK, Europe and the US. In Europe and the US, movements have sprung up to defend and expand education, with over forty occupations in universities across Europe, as well as hard fought struggles on campuses in New York and California. This higher education crisis is linked to the wider financial crisis currently being felt around the world. At the root of these crises is the same problem: a system that prioritizes profit over people, competition over cooperation and collaboration.
Whilst proponents of this failed economic model claim these cuts are ‘necessary’, not just in universities but across society as a whole, we understand that it is the economic and political systems that are at fault. We stand together with lecturers and support staff in opposing the cuts and the economic system that demands them. Together we can transform education and help create a different world in the process.
Strike, Occupy, Transform!
The Really Open University