As hopefully, most of us are aware the University and College Union (UCU) announced 14 days of industrial action, set to take place from 20th February to 13th March. They are now in full swing. As already witnessed in November, strikes rampaged across many UK Universities, with the dispute focusing on pay and working conditions, the controversial altering of the USS pension scheme and integral issues such as gender and race pay gaps. All things Universities like to sweep under their woollen carpets. For this round of strikes 74 Universities have joined the movement all in the bitter fight for, simply, respect?
The fact that academics are crippled with almighty workloads and are boiling over with stress is nothing to be proud of and most students – rightly so – are standing in solidarity with staff to end the multitude of issues facing them currently. But with industrial action must inevitably come anger. We in fact should be angry, furious even. But not towards the genius minds that underpin Edinburgh University, rather at a brutalist regime that is merely yet again just another display of ugly capitalism.
After two years of crying, working, stressing and more crying during A-Levels or equivalents, University acted as a divine saving grace. Like the shining green beacon seen across the water in The Great Gatsby, it was our sole motivation. After working so hard to get into such a prestigious University you are then however disappointed to find that you have minimal contact hours; and of those few hours you then must forfeit around 17% of your academic year due to issues not of your making. To say this is disheartening is an understatement.
Disappointed would seem appropriate here but with £9,250 added on top, furious seems a far better fit. The whole point of University is to learn or, in reality for many, to gain a degree to become ‘economically active’ and contribute to the glory of the post-Brexit UK economy. In strikes which are self-made by the University, learning becomes an activity marred with a series of hurdles.
The issue seemingly is that Universities are increasingly being run like businesses, with staff and students both seen as numbers to balance on an excel spreadsheet, shiny buildings to bolster both ego and admissions and a glorified CEO to head each one. A big thanks is due here to the role obscene capitalism plays in all this.
As seen with many of these ‘businesses’, what often follows is the exploitation of staff, low value for money and long-term structural issues. For students, not only is this incredibly disappointing, especially as a first-year, but also a major bug-bear; with the money being available in the pot, it is simply being spent in the wrong places.
There are ample funds to pay our gallant lecturers properly, to end things like the pay gap and for each Vice-Chancellor to still have their annual Maldives trip away. Surely. So, as students, not only should we support our striking staff, but lobby our Universities too. Don’t take this lying down; stand up for yourself and get your money’s worth!
Image: Nick Efford via Flickr