At Lancaster University we held a series of three successful events over the course of a week (19-26 October 2016) to raise awareness of the Higher Education and Research Bill and the united opposition to it, culminating in the national demonstration #Nov19. We had a rally, a ‘teach-in’ and a ‘teach-out’ with UCU members, staff, the students’ union, students, the local NUT association and local MP taking part.
Campus lunchtime ‘Teach-In’
Our ‘teach-in’ was a lunch-hour panel discussion with Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood MP) Liz Lawrence (UCU past president) and Rhiannon Llystyn Jones (Lancaster University Students Union). Each speaker gave a ten minute presentation and then we had over a dozen insightful questions from the audience. The meeting was reported in the campus alternative newsletter, Subtext, which drops into the email boxes of hundreds of staff. It noted that it was ‘still very rare’ to have an all-female panel and that the general consensus was that the Bill was a ‘solution looking for a problem.’
Community evening ‘Teach-Out’
This was jointly hosted by Lancaster UCU and Lancaster, Morecambe and District NUT. Our speakers this time were Mark Campbell (victimised and sacked UCU chair at London Metropolitan University), Siobhan Collingwood (local NUT head-teacher) and Jenni Dybell (Lancaster University student). Our aim was to show how the HE Bill was part of a wider government push to commodify education from nursery to university, affecting everyone. The meeting heard powerful examples of how destructive this is on our young people, particularly from working class backgrounds, in terms of exclusion, mental health and poverty. It was good to have the opportunity to share our common concerns, making us all the more determined to fight the continuing marketization of learning.
To kick off the week, we had a lunchtime stall and rally in the campus square with our own leaflets about the two meetings and national #Nov19 UCU leaflets. A dozen of us came out and half a dozen of us talked about different aspects of the Bill on the megaphone. We also emailed UCU members several times about the events, giving them links to the HE Convention and UCU resources as well as media coverage of the Bill.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!
From the beginning, organising our HE Bill week was a team-effort. Half a dozen of us came together to talk about how we could raise awareness of the Bill and campaign against it locally. We generated ideas, we got the support of our local UCU and NUT branches, we invited speakers, we made a banner and we are now liaising with the local student union on transport to #Nov19. It has been a pleasure working together and it has made us stronger. As a UCU Left candidate for the NEC elections this year, I stood and was elected on a platform of resisting marketization nationally. I am proud that that is what we have tried to do in Lancaster.
– Julie Hearn
Lancaster UCU Membership Officer
UCU NEC (HE UK-elected)