Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Reasons for Supporting the UCU

Aber Students Against Cuts

Statement in support of the UCU strike

Lecturers make up the main component of our education. We support their fight for adequate pensions, pay and working conditions.

We believe that education should free and fair to all, and we oppose the unjust market-drive rhetoric that's being directed at education and those who provide it.

Many of our lecturers have shown their dedication to academia and the public sector by the length of their service. With a marketplace that is already uncertain for academics, requiring them to move regularly to peddle their expertise across the country it's only right that they have adequate pensions and secure pay. Currently they are not even getting paid inflation. This is completely unacceptable.

This is just the latest attack on the institute of higher education and the public sector as a whole.

By forcing students to pay for their education you reduce them to consumers, which in turn reduces lectures to mere service providers. It's important that we ensure the academic freedom of the lecturers; due to Margaret Thatcher's legacy, they can't defend this themselves.

There are real alternatives to the problems facing higher education funding and we recognise this; what we are seeing are ideological choices, not political necessities. We also recognise that it is the lecturers and students who make the university what it is.

It is the public sector, including students and lecturers, who are being made to pay, not the overzealous banking system who caused many problems that the country is now dealing with. Before cutting funding to the most vulnerable and the most valuable parts of society, the government should look at viable alternatives to the non-progressive market-driven policies they are currently forcing upon society.

We hope for a quick solution to the problem, so that students and lecturers can go back to their respective professions.

It is in every student's best interest to support their lecturers before students find themselves with even less contact hours and support than we currently suffer from.

Ways to support your lecturers and tutors:
  1. Write to them, saying that you support their fight for a fair and just profession.
  2. Write to Noel Lloyd at ngl@aber.ac.uk or noel.lloyd@aber.ac.uk and remind him that we love our education and appreciate those who provide it.
  3. Write to your lecturers, seminar tutors and head of department and tell them you won't be attending in solidarity with the lecturers.
  4. Attend the picketline with the lecturers.
  5. Bring food and drinks to the picketline.

Their fight is our fight, and it is important that we are not divided from the people who make our education what it is. We stand alongside our lecturers - we are all in this together!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Reply to the Pro Vice-Chancellor

See our original letter to the Pro Vice-Chancellor here and her response here.

Here is our reply sent earlier today:

Dear Rebecca Davies and senior management co-conspirators of Aberystwyth University,

We are disappointed – although hardly surprised – that management is persisting in evading our very specific concerns.

We asked that the university be more transparent about its strategies for the future. We were not asking for repetitions of tired platitudes about maintaining and improving standards. The Strategic Plan 2009 – 2013 includes a target for university governance to be a “responsive” and “accountable” organisation. For these principles to be fully realised there needs to be far wider accessibility to staff and students of important publications concerning the university's future. If the Strategic Plan does indeed contain the “full details of the work currently in progress” in planning for the coming years then perhaps we ought to be more concerned about the university's total lack of detailed operational planning for the difficult years ahead.

Vice Chancellors are political subjects and as such ought to participate in the collective process of debate and policy-making. Noel Lloyd's public statements criticising the government's proposal to reduce the number of international students coming to the UK is laudable, yet unsurprising as it is directly related to income generation. We expect him to condemn the broad and severe attacks on Higher Education, the dramatic rise in tuition fees, and irresponsible cuts to education funding. In this respect, we were particularly concerned by Noel Lloyd's statement to the Welsh Assembly criticising the lower basic fee in Wales as socially unjust. Numerous studies have shown that the increase in tuition fees will result in a dramatic fall in the number of students from poor families going to university. The decision by the Welsh Assembly to set the basic tuition fee level at £4,000 rather than £6,000 shows some attempt to reduce the impact on social mobility.

We asked for a clear statement that students and staff would not be subject to discrimination as a result of participating in peaceful protests, including prosecution or disciplinary measures . The university's policies regarding its non-discrimination obligations may implicitly include non-discrimination towards individuals involved in protest activities, however, this does not guarantee that those involved in protests, characterised by management as 'disruptive', will not be subjected to disciplinary action. A number of students and staff have expressed fears that their degrees or jobs would be put at risk if they were to participate in the occupation or other non-violent acts of protest. Management's unwillingness to reassure these individuals stifles political engagement and produces a climate of fear and insecurity.

The higher and further education sectors in Wales and the United Kingdom are facing serious and frightening changes, the implications of which are unknown. We have consistently raised a number of very important issues that pertain directly to the future direction of education and given the seriousness of this issue, we would have expected from you an equally serious response.

Aber Students Against the Cuts

Free University!

On behalf of Aber Students Against Cuts, we would like to invite you to
the Free University this coming Friday at the Morlan Centre. Although this
is being planned to coincide with the UCU strike taking place at the
University, we are extending the invitation to all members of University
staff. The programme of events will be running between 10am and 6:30pm
(more details are attached), so please come along when you can.

Many of those on strike will spend the duration of it at home, reading
student essays or writing academic papers. Even when on strike, there is
an imperative to participate in the increasingly bureaucratized practices
of the University. We ask you to come along to the Morlan Centre this
Friday to explore the alternative. This event will be a chance to discuss,
in the company of students, non-academic staff and local residents, the
impact of the latest funding cuts on the University and the wider

The day will be run around three main themes:

1)    “What is Free Education? What Are Our Aspirations for Higher Education?”

2)    “The Economics of Cuts: Is There An Alternative?”

3)    “Campaigning Beyond the University: Are We All In This Together?”

There will also be a discussion session at 1pm on the topic entitled

“Effective Campaigning Against Cuts” attended by Mark Williams MP and Elin
Jones AM as well as representatives of UCU and the student Guild.

For any queries or suggestions, please email

We hope to see you there.

Aber Students Against Cuts.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Response from Pro Vice Chancellor

Following our meeting with the Pro Vice Chancellor, Rebecca Davies, on the 23rd of February, we have received a response from the university.

You can view the response here.

We are awaiting a text version.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Update: Letter to the Pro Vice Chancellor

This evening the following email was sent to University management:

Subject: We look forward to hearing from you

Dear management,

As you know, we, Aber Students Against Cuts, have occupied A12/A14 since February 22nd. We would like to thank you very much for your support: e.g. providing security and sending Pro Vice-Chancellors over with helpful nutrition tips - though sandwiches (wholemeal, of course) would be more welcome.

However, we are all very busy people and would appreciate it if you could respond to the demands we relayed to you through Rebecca Davies on February 23rd and via a follow-up letter on March 2nd. Please be advised that we will revise our strategy tomorrow unless we hear from you.

Kind regards,

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Statement about cancelled lecture

We, Aber Students Against Cuts, have occupied A12/A14 since February 22nd in order to protest the ongoing marketisation of higher education in the UK and the lack of transparency and political engagement of senior management at Aberystwyth University specifically. As a result of this, we have set up a free university as a way to consider alternative learning spaces and engage in debate with students, staff and members of the general public.

We believe in education as an important public good and therefore would like to reiterate that all scheduled lectures are proceeding as planned.

While we have indeed invited members of the UCU to join us on Monday from 12pm for informal discussions and debate (everyone welcome), there were never any plans to disrupt lectures.
Any cancellations as a result of this invitation are the responsibility of the lecturer in question and we would advise you to email him/her in this regard.

Please find our invitation to the UCU below for clarification.

'Aber Students Against the Cuts' cordially invites all members of the UCU to a buffet lunch in the Occupation at A12 between 12:00pm and 2.00pm on Monday 7th March.

The purpose of this invitation is to encourage and facilitate a dialogue between member of the UCU and ASAC in order to seek common ground by exploring those issues that are of concern to all of us, and will become more so over the coming months.

Over the last three months ASAC has been actively campaigning against both the imminent funding cuts to HE and the planned rise in the cap on student tuition fees. In this time, we have organised two well supported Occupations on University premises; organised a number of high profile demonstrations in Aberystwyth; leafletted extensively; accumulated over 1500 signatures on a petition; organised trips to anti-cuts marches in London; attracted substantial press and media coverage, and established an agenda for a 'free university'. We have received support from many students and a growing number of academic staff (we would like to take this opportunity to thank those members of UCU who brought food and drink to the occupation as well as those of you who allowed us to give speeches in their lectures!) Our intention is to continue our activism by continuing to provide a platform for the issues by offering a challenge to the received wisdom that a reduction to the HE budget and a shrinkage of HE itself is unavoidable.

However, it is our belief that to do so we have to engage more directly and constructively with academic staff and other groups affected by these changes. We are convinced that staff and students have similar concerns and interests in relation to the imminent cuts to Higher Education, but that only by communicating and collaborating can we realistically hope to regain any control over the future of both our own University and Higher Education more generally.

Part of the problem appears to lie in the unavailability of a 'site' for such discussion, and the failures of both staff and students, given their institutional roles, to meet outside of their respective contexts. It is for this reason that we have initiated this lunch time event to introduce ourselves, discuss these matters, and consider ways of moving forward.

Please consider joining us at 12pm this Monday to discuss how we can collaborate to reach our mutual goals and better collaborate in the future.

Thanks for your time and attention,

Aber Students Against the Cuts.

Solidarity from Noam Chomsky

In a statement sent earlier today, acclaimed philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky has condemned the attack on public education as "a very serious blow to the population at large". The full statement can be read below:
"The attack on public education in the US and UK -- higher education in particular -- may bring short-term benefits to small sectors of concentrated wealth and power, but it is a very serious blow to the population at large, and to prospects for a decent society in the future. The protestors [sic] in Aberystwyth -- like those in Tahrir Square, Madison Wisconsin, and many other parts of the world -- are in the forefront of global struggles for basic rights, freedom, and democracy, and merit full and committed support."