Make Bristo Square Red Square! Defend Edinburgh University Lecturers and the National UCU Pension Strike

Max Wright, IMT Edinburgh

Beginning this month, the National union of students (NUS) and University and College Union (UCU) have called for four rounds of strikes action in a unified defence against the slashing of Pension benefits. Lecturers at Edinburgh University will be partaking part on this strike. These benefit cuts will lead to a typical lecturer being £10,000 worse off in retirement, at Edinbrugh this is happening even when the university is already reliant on “voluntary” severance deals. Edinburgh IMT call for total support of the action in order to fight back against the increasing levels of Marketisation affecting our education system. The strike action was backed by 88% of UCU members in the largest vote for industrial action ever seen in the higher education sector.

The cuts, that will affect staff across the country will lead to a lower level of service provided to students, and acts as an affront to the right to free and decent education. Not only this, but the money saved in this attack comes from a false narrative that there is not enough to provide both the lecturers with a dignified retirement, and students with the education they deserve.

The cuts come as part of a greater wave of attacks on education being carried out in the interests of private profit. These attacks stem from the remnants of New Public Management in which the worms of private corporations decompose our publicly funded institutions. As we have seen with our NHS, emergency services, and welfare state in general, the tactic of “suffocate and sell” in which our institutions are defunded and subsequently privatised, attacks any institution we may have thought sacred. The marketisation of education can only mean the focus is no longer quality of learning, but quantity of profit. It is in the elemental nature of capitalists to only invest in that which is profitable, and so billions go uninvested whilst we subjected to cut after cut.

Edinburgh University has managed to find an annual £342,000, plus a five bedroom home in the city centre, with which to pay new Vice Chancellor Peter Mathieson. Mathieson is the latest example of the university’s failure to get to grips with excessive senior pay and perks. Nothing but underlying greed and inefficiency can explain the £400,000 welcome package received by the new Vice Chancellor, who holds the prestige of 80% of prior students “strongly disagreeing” that he understood the needs of his students and staff. If the reasoning is that top universities must meet top salaries, why does this not apply to the lower staff that are being thrown under the bus? Why are the pockets of the 1% continued to be lined, whilst those they make profit from are subjected to greater and greater austerity? The answer lies in the contradiction of capitalism in which the system run for profit over need only delivers inequality and crises.

​We call for recognition of staff as deserving educators, and recognition of students as pupils, rather than customers. No part of our welfare deserves to be corroded through marketisation, as by definition it hurts those with the least in society the most. We must publicly support all staff currently taking strike action, as well as encourage students to assist the strike. The University will very likely put out its own propaganda about the lecturers being “selfish” and “damaging education” and we must defend the lecturers from this slander. Any negative affect this strike has on students lies 100% with the university bureaucracy with their greed, inefficiency and subservience to the market. Students who agree with this should write to their institution to make this point and also join the striking lecturers on the picket line. Peter Mathieson’s previous statement that “freedom of expression is not absolute” must be contested by students and workers who collectively hold a lot of power. The situation must be treated seriously and picket lines must not be crossed. Austerity can only be beaten through solidarity and the fight for a socialist alternative, for a system where money can be correctly invested, a system for the people, not for the profit.

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Lets make Bristo Square Red Square!

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