Stop the cuts at Sussex Uni
The British government has announced huge public sector spending cuts, and higher education is no exception with 13-18% budget reductions expected. At the University of Sussex, management plan cuts of £8 million over the next two years. These will be passed onto staff in the form of job losses and benefit cuts, onto students in the form of fee increases and a reduction in student services, and onto schools through departmental and course closures.
Three departments – Engineering and Design, Life Sciences, and Informatics – have been identified as financially unviable as they currently stand. Already the Environmental Science degree programme will be withdrawn. Staff members have been informed that the university will no longer allow cross-subsidisation and departments will be forced to act as isolated units competing against each other in order to generate income as well as being forced to undertake research funded by external bodies, thereby bending to the needs of the market. In addition, the Student Union is facing cuts, teaching contracts are not being renewed and staff redundancies are to be announced later in the year.
In response the ‘Stop the Cuts’ campaign has been launched, aiming to unite all who work and study at Sussex to take action together to create the type of institution which stands in opposition to the market model of the university – a model which positions the university as a business to be run competitively and efficiently to the detriment of many other qualities. The campaign demands that the university administration enforce no compulsory redundancies, reduce the excessive salaries of managers (the top 14 of whom earn over £2.1 million per annum), resist the increase in tuition fees and cuts in HE, protect academic freedom, and treat education as public right and not a commodity!
This struggle is more than a material struggle to protect people’s livelihoods. It is also a struggle of values, which fundamentally define the purpose of public education. A university can be made into an institution controlled by managers who respond to the needs and movements of capital thereby creating a competitive cutthroat environment. On the other hand, it can be made into an institution which promotes solidarity, advances critical thinking and accords dignity to all who work and study there. We are at a decisive moment in history wherein, more than ever, we are confronted with the question: what is public education for? It is ordinary people, fighting together, who can make it into a system that genuinely serves the needs and interests of the public.