Newcastle Free Education Network – rally today

Newcastle University’s Free Education Network will be holding a rally today at 12, as a shot across management’s bows – against cuts the University is rumoured to be planning in secret. The rally will be addressed by trade unionists from the town and student activists. The following is a speech that one of the students from the campaign will deliver at the rally.

Get in touch with NFEN – contact and check out

There is an anti-cuts demonstration today in NEWCASTLE!!!
I am a member of the Newcastle Free Education Network which called this rally today. We are a group of students and staff at the university who are collectively opposed to tuition fees, course cuts and job losses on campus. I’m going to talk about three things. Firstly, why we oppose course cuts and job losses and why we think it is likely we will be facing them at Newcastle in the near future. Secondly, I will talk about the national anti-cuts student movement that is fighting back and that we are part of. Thirdly, why and how you get involved with the Newcastle Free Education Network.

– Why Oppose Cuts?

The Government has announced cuts to higher education amounting to roughly £1 billion over three years. Universities across the country are feeling the burden of this already with job losses, department closures and even losses of whole campus sites. The Association of Colleges says current cuts put more than 7,000 jobs at risk nationally.

We have serious reason to believe that today Newcastle will be announcing cuts. Rumors such as the closure of the philosophy department are made more worrying when University management are at present trying to push through changes to University statute 57 to make it quicker and easier to sack staff by removing their job security and academic freedom. The UCU completely opposes this move and sees it as groundwork for job losses – we as students should see any attack on lecturers job security as an attack on our education.

This is not a question of us tightening our belts while there’s an economic recession on. This economic crisis was caused by bankers and bosses. The government made billions of pounds available for the banks in financial support while massive bonuses continue for already wealthy bankers. On top of this, at a time when university staff are loosing their jobs due to cuts in funding, more than 80 university heads now ‘earn’ more than £200,000. Our VC earned £280,000 last academic year! This is too much money – tax the rich to fund education!

– But there is a fight back:

Ballots for strike action at Leeds, UCL and also, not far from us, staff at Northumberland College in Ashington balloting for strike action at the colleges plans to sack all teaching staff and reemploy some of them on lower pay. They are demonstrating today too and we have sent messages of solidarity.
Across the country today, students are demonstrating against cuts. There have been student occupations of lecture theatres at Westminster, UCL, Sussex and Aberdeen – the latter two still ongoing. 6 students have been suspended for taking part in the Sussex occupation but students are occupying again until they are reinstated. That is the sort of energy and refusal to be intimidated that is needed by the student movement. Governors meetings have been shut down, massive demonstrations have been held and even teach-ins have been held.. Europe too – strikes and occupations in Austria, Greece and Germany against course cuts. This rally is one small part of a much bigger, national and international student movement.

– Why join NFEN?

Newcastle University should be run in the interests of students and staff. Any attack on lecturers is an attack on students, and we need to fight these attacks together. We set up the Newcastle Free Education Network to do that – we are working closely with UCU to oppose cuts, defend education and to prevent the university changing the statutes to make it quicker and easier to sack staff at Newcastle University.

We have made links with national campaigns and will continue to help build this movement. More than this we will link up with other civil services and public sector workers who are fighting attacks on transport services, schools and hospitals.

The cuts we expect to be announced today will mean we as students and workers in the education and public sectors are paying for an economic crisis that we did not cause. This is an attack on a national scale – we must fight back, united, on a national scale and say:
Join NFEN and defend your education!


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