What struck me about this student strike

Grab a placard head for the picket line — there’s a strike at the University of Lincoln, apparently.

It’s an event from Socialist Students Lincoln, who are calling for students and lecturers to walk out of the university on Tuesday, and for a “boycott on every university outlet”.

According to the event’s Facebook page: “The university generates its profits not just out of your pockets, but also through its shops and cafés, so we’re also calling for a boycott on every university outlet.

“While students may not have the financial leverage of other workers, we can still use all tools available to us, and reveal to the university and to the government, which take taxes from it, that it will cost them to try and force unfair hikes on students.”

But, hold on a minute. What will this strike achieve, other than us losing out on some education that we’ve got to pay for?


Is the 'strike' on Tuesday well thought out? Photo: jasmined / University of Lincoln / The Linc

The university is about to be starved of resources. Arts and humanities funding isn’t going to be protected and much of it will be scaled back. Most of this university’s courses are arts and humanities based, so it’s a simple choice: up the fees or up the swanny.

This is why it will increase its tuition fees. Not because it wants to, but because it has to. It’ll have to recoup the lost funds if it wants to continue. As Professor Mary Stuart, the university’s vice-chancellor, has said — a rise in Lincoln’s fees is “inevitable”.

Why, then, would you want to financially punish the university for a situation it is being forced into?

What seems to have been forgotten is that the university is not an extension of the coalition government, but a victim of its cuts. It can’t do anything about the impending higher education apocalypse.

You’re on a wild goose chase if you’re running after the university yelling at them to keep fees low. It won’t happen because it can’t.

I’m broadly supportive of protests against tuition fee hikes and education cuts, not because I think there’s a realistic chance it’ll change the government’s mind, but because dissent is important.

However, let’s keep the tuition fees and education funding pressure at a national level, focused on the government and Karl McCartney. They’re the ones slicing and dicing in the abbetoir Treasury.

On a local level, we should lobby the university on how it spends its money, to ensure we actually get a service and education that’s worth paying for. Let’s start viewing ourselves as consumers of the university’s education services.

For example, if your lecturer or seminar tutor hasn’t turned up — why not? Who’s going to compensate you for that lost time?

Perhaps the resources in your department haven’t been updated for a while. Join together with others in the department – staff included – and put pressure on the university to prioritise your needs.

Striking at the university and boycotting its sarnie sellers to get lower fees is a waste of our time and our money.

8 Responses to What struck me about this student strike

  1. Member of SSL says:

    Agreed…

  2. Rob Wells says:

    By saying people should ignore local action, and instead focus on national protests, you miss one of the most effective ways to resist education cuts and tuition fee increases.

    The same goes for Karl McCartney. In his case, your sums are off. Even if you manage to convince him to vote against education cuts, you’ve still got 305 Tory MPs and 57 Lib Dems to work on. That’s an impossible task. And it’s made even more difficult when you consider people such as McCartney are party careerists, so they’re going to vote with the government no matter what.

    There are far fewer universities in the country. Generally, they’re run by and full of people who don’t want budget cuts or fee increases. Surely these are the places where you need to focus?

    In some ways I think you should duck out of the debate, as you seem to think the cuts are inevitable: “Most of this university’s courses are arts and humanities based, so it’s a simple choice: up the fees or up the swanny.”

    To protect higher education, and every other thing that the government are hacking away at as part of their ideological privatising rampage, every tactic must be on the table.

    Think back. In the US the civil rights movement and the ’60s–’70s anti-war movement didn’t succeed because of a few national demonstrations. We need everyday, ordinary, local resistance.

    The protest tomorrow might be feeble. But the solution to that is to organise, not ridicule.

  3. You’re misunderstanding the point.

    Like you say: “There are far fewer universities in the country. Generally, they’re run by and full of people who don’t want budget cuts or fee increases. Surely these are the places where you need to focus?”

    Certainly. But focus on getting support from those at the top, who may actually have some sway. Striking at the university and boycotting its goods and services does nothing to support those who actually have any lobbying power. Like I said, the university is as much a victim of the cuts as we are – so why try to blockade one of its income streams?

    The university shouldn’t be seen as a target of the action, but as a partner in a fight against cuts.

    That said, if you think the cuts aren’t inevitable then you are naive. I’m not saying I support them, but the government will not change their minds. You know how it works, we don’t live in a democracy. You recall the civil rights movement, but I’ll cite the millions who marched against Iraq, and the various local opposition etc. That worked well, didn’t it?

    Governments no longer listen to protest.

    And it is a very simple choice for the university – up the fees or fold. How else can they get back what’s going to be cut, in order to sustain themselves?

    You might say the solution isn’t to ridicule – which I’m not doing – but nor is it to have pointless action, like the strike and boycott. I’m saying focus on what’s achievable at a local level (i.e. pressing the university on where and how it spends its money), and oppose cuts and higher fees at a national level (which includes going out into the streets of Lincoln and marching with ordinary people to raise awareness/support).

    Then, if you can get enough support, come election time you’ll be able to toss out the Tories and Lib Dems.

    That’s the pragmatic way to look at it.

  4. Luke Morton says:

    I won’t be striking as Tuesday is my busiest day at uni and I want my degree. I know this isn’t the point, but walking out on something YOU HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR is just ludicrous.

  5. I completely agree with this view on the strikes. It’s pointless.

    And people need to stop calling for not fees stop. You don’t get something for nothing…. it’s the cuts to funding that’s the bad thing.

  6. Rob Wells says:

    The university should be targeted until it becomes a partner in the fight against cuts. University managers are resistant to join with students in opposing the government’s plans, as we’ve seen from the student occupations across the country.

    But you’re right, the government won’t change they’re minds. Unless we organise a campaign of protest and direct action that will force them to change their minds. It’s going to be a long, hard struggle and we are only at the beginning.

    There is absolutely no justification for lying down and letting them go ahead. To do so would be to betray all those who are set to lose their jobs, benefits, or vital services.

    As for elections, many — myself included — thought the Lib Dems’ presence in the coalition would be a change for the better. There’s nothing to say such a betrayal won’t happen again in 2015, by which time the cuts guillotine will have fallen.

    We have a choice between seriously trying to stop a terrible thing from happening, and letting it happen and then trying to make the most of it.

  7. Sean McGrath says:

    Government has never really listened to protest. By definition, ‘protest’ is the declaration of objection to that which one is powerless to prevent. When do they listen? When they are at risk of becoming over-powered. How do we do that? Get the rest of the country on our side. Half a million smelly students with long hair (how the world sees us) would carry a lot more clout, should we be able win over some of the other 62 million inhabitants of this country. Currently the student ‘strikes’ are having the opposite effect. Therefore, on a local level… the very best thing we could be doing is win over the townfolk. Have THEM fighting for us. This is certainly something the University could do a better job at. Instead of spending it’s resources purely on the establishment, perhaps it could look at improving the city as well. If the University chose to build its bridge on the high street instead of next to the one we already have, this would not only aid students – but would win over the hearts and minds of every business and pedestrian in Lincoln. I digress…. viva la revolucion!!!

  8. Where we seem to differ is that you see it as black and white: fight the cuts or don’t. Anything other than opposition you see as tantamount to collusion with the coalition.

    I don’t. I think that, yes we should fiercely oppose the cuts, but at the same time we need to be making the best of the situation forced on us. Otherwise the situation will be even worse.

    That’s why I say we should be lobbying the university on the service it provides for the money we pay, rather than taking action against it. Save the protests and direct action for the government, politicians, and tax evading arseholes.

    I think the best way of getting the University of Lincoln on side is to meet with them and talk, not to try and coerce them (which will be impossible) into doing something.

    I wonder if Socialist Students Lincoln has asked for a meeting with Mary Stuart and senior management at the university? It might be a good idea. If the university refuses to make a public stand against the cuts and, as a result of the cuts, higher fees – then that is the time to take action against the university.

    Striking and boycotting now seems to be reactionary and, if I’m honest, poorly thought out.