Thursday, 11 November 2010

Protest and Survive

Yesterday there was a solid demonstration in London against the approach of the UK government towards higher education. As discussed previously the general approach involves abandonment of direct government responsibility for funding of higher education by abolishing the teaching grant to the vast majority of subject areas saving only a select few so-called "priority" areas. Over 50,000 people gathered yesterday to protest and the day climaxed in the take-over of Millbank, the building in which the Conservative Party is housed. The general passion of the crowds gathered was very impressive, the turn-out was twice what the National Union of Students had predicted and the atmosphere was one in which the sell-out of the Liberal Democrats was particularly high-lighted by protestors. The day was generally successful in showing the beginning of a mobilised resistance against the government plans and NUS plans to specifically target Liberal Democrat MPs given that they are currently intending to break an election pledge.

It has to be said that all this is deeply encouraging, showing, as it does, that many people are passionate about education and angry with the government. Protesting the proposed policies is essential to maintaining an education system worthy the name in which education is understood as a public good and not merely a private "investment". It is now essential to maintain the pressure as is being done by these students at Manchester University.


sinistredestre said...

A violent riot is an extreme response to a situation of percieved desparation. I think that with all the cuts made in the name of austerity, this kind of response is overdue.

It's nice to see passionate students. There's a part of me which compares this spate of activism with the likes of the 1968 student activism.

I wonder if and when the academics will start protesting as well? Those in the humanities and social sciences and those deemed 'non-useful' subjects by the Government.

As someone who has been trying for a PhD for some time, an overall cut in funding and raise in tuition fees makes my aspiration seem less and less likely to be realised. If I were a full time student again I'd definately have been out there at the protest, as it happens, I was working on my second day in a job that is barely paying my bills after graduating from my MA.

I don't think one needs a masters degree specialising in 18thC metaphysics and epistemology to open doors and say 'good afternoon sir'. But expect more of it with these intolerable economic conditions.

It's nice to hear an academic (and Kant scholar) not standing against the protest this week. There's something almost Durkheimian about the behaviour in Milbank; extreme actions are a result of overly controlled social conditions.

Gary Banham said...

Thanks for your comment and commiserations with regard to your current situation. I well understand how difficult it is to progress within academic institutions, particularly given the scarcity of grants for post-graduate work. Academics were also on the demonstration protesting against the government, the Browne report and the general attack on the majority of subject areas. I certainly stand with those protesting and against the destructive policies of the UK government.