Royal Holloway Occupation

25 Feb

A statement from the occupiers at Royal Holloway:

Education is in a period of crisis. The cuts to the teaching budget, the prioritisation of STEM subjects, and the increase in tuition fees have devalued our degrees, changed students into consumers of university prestige and post-degree job potential rather than pursuers of education for its own sake, and reduced the valuable resources and contact hours that are essential to diverse and encompassing courses.

We have already conveyed these concerns to the university management, and invited them to take part in a public meeting before the end of the last term, which they failed to organise, or enquire about.

As members of the University Management team are attending the Universities UK conference on Thursday 24th February, we press those representing RHUL to deliver a clear message to other vice-chancellors and management. This is a vital opportunity to make the case against an increase in tuition fees and spending cuts.

As Principal Paul Layzell himself said “we can only speak with our actions”. Therefore we have decided to hold a sit-in. We wish to emphasise the importance of these demands, and reclaim the university space. We shall encourage an open-door policy, will not hinder any students or workers from their day-to-day activities, and shall put on a variety of academic and cultural events as chosen by those participating in the sit-in as a practical demonstration of what the university could achieve without the limitations of spending cuts, raised tuition fees, and a ‘marketised’ structure of learning.

We enclose our demands.

1. The management should open the university accounts and books, and make them publicly available for anyone to see. In the letter ‘A statement by Royal Holloway, University of London on the proposed changes to Higher Education Funding’ dated 24th November 2010, the management stated that “Whilst the college makes a modest annual surplus, this is used to invest in infrastructure such as the current projects to extend teaching space in the School of Management and to replace the Drama Studio” – we want access to the accounts and to be informed on the decision making process that led to these investments, and a projection of any future use of any annual surplus.

2. There should be collective decision making over key decisions, involving all members of the university – lecturers, administrative and support staff, workers, and students.

3. These decisions should be taken in open meetings, which consult the collective university body and operate democratically.

4. The management should release a public statement on the future of Royal Holloway in which they declare the future of funding, and discuss all reports and potential actions.

5. In the aforementioned letter, the management stated it was investigating the “better use of facilities by conferences and events outside term time, fund raising from former students and other donors, offering some of our programmes overseas, distance learning options and a modest growth in international students” – we want to know the developments made in these investigations, and how they would impact on funding at Royal Holloway.

6. We want to know what assessments the college have made regarding the impact of cuts and raised tuition fees on women, ethnic minorities, disabled students, international students and widening participation schemes, given that the management have already stated that “funding cuts threaten widening participation programmes and investment in the student experience”, in the abovementioned letter.

7. The management also claimed in this letter that “We believe in the public value of higher education” and that the “College and its trade body, Universities UK has and continues to lobby Government over the proposed changes to Higher Education funding. We welcome the College’s approach and wish to know the details of the college’s actions in lobbying the Government, and how they have linked with other universities, unions and pressure groups in campaigning against the cuts and the raise in tuition fees.

8. The management should be heavily lobbying and pressuring government not to hand down spending cuts: stressing that they will not make these cuts, redundancies and fee increases & prioritise spending on jobs and education.

9. Given that Principal Paul Layzell stated “we’ve been very clear here, you have a right to protest and no one’s going to stop you doing it”, and the conduct during the sit-in led Steven Bland, Head of Facilities Management, to convey to the Student’s Union that, paraphrasing, ‘he was happy with the way things had gone. He commented that the students were peaceful and polite and together with security have come to the decision that students can come and go as they please’, we push for no action to be taken against participators in the sit-in, whether lecturers, administrative and support staff, workers, or students. We also call on the management to speak out against those universities seeking to take legal action on other participants in sit-ins across the country, for example, at Birmingham University. We pledge to maintain the same level of courtesy, welfare preparation, and lack of disruption as during the last sit-in.

The Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance: http://rhacc.wordpress.com/

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