Essex University – We won’t let our International Academy be privatised

by Nathan Bolton,

At the end of April, an email was circulated to all University staff to ‘consult’ them on the tabled privatisation of the International Academy. The International Academy provides foundation degrees for international students to at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. It helps many students to acquire the skills necessary to move on to other degrees within the university.

The proposals within the email set out the outsourcing of the Academy to a private company. The proposal has been made on the basis that the Academy is set to “fall well short of the University-wide gross surplus target of 46 per cent”. These figures are disputed by staff but keenly show the mentality of University management – departments are valued not on merit, but their profit generating power.

This privatisation is only the beginning. It is clear that if the management were able to push this through further privatisations would follow. Developments at the University of Sussex show how far management are willing to go – privatisation plans there would see 235 jobs be transferred to private providers, creating a two-tier system in pay and conditions within the University.

These privatisation proposals show that EAN cannot just be about cuts and tuition fees – at Essex we have built contact with our lecturers and staff members through supporting the UCU on picket lines and agitated consistently against the HE White Paper and privatisation. We must pull these fights together –cuts, privatisation and pensions in order to challenge the Government’s plan for the Higher Education system.

The importance of challenging the logic of the market in our institutions cannot be underestimated. Students will be arriving at Universities in September paying £9,000 a year – we must be ideologically clear: We are not fighting for ‘value for money’ but seek a free publicly funded education run as a social good. We need to provide an alternative to a marketised education. That means we need to argue for the transformation of our universities into centres of critique, and of cooperation and learning.

Students and staff in the Essex Education Activist Network wrote a statement on the proposal and put copies under the doors of all academic and administration staff in the University. We plan to, alongside the Students’ Union apply consistent pressure on the University in the last weeks of term and over the summer.

Earlier in the year, students won concessions from the Accommodation Management after cuts to services were made and students occupied. But we must be clear that concessions are not enough – we need to cut off cleanly the creeping hand of privatisation before it digs its fingers into our institution.

Nathan Bolton is  a supporter of the Education Activist Network. He is also the President-elect of Essex SU and tweets at @nathanjbolton

About educationactivistnetwork
The education activist network provides national coordination for trade unionists, academics, university workers and student campaigners fighting to defend jobs and education in the UK.

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