OVER five hundred students and staff of the London Metropolitan University gathered outside the building in Holloway road in north London yesterday to protest against the planned programme of cuts.
They chanted ‘Save Our University!’ and ‘Save the Met!’ as the pavement outside the university was blocked with students with many banners and flags.
Hoots of support came from passing traffic.
‘I think it’s really disgusting that they’re making so many staff cuts and jeopardising our course and the rest of the sources’, said Fine Arts student Claire Harris, responding to news that London Met plans to cut 330 jobs.
‘It’s the biggest university in London and it’s in dire straits.
‘There should be national action to defend education.
‘If my course loses any more members of staff there is no point in me being here,’ she concluded.
London Met has recently had its teaching budget cut by £18m and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has confirmed that it wants to claw back £38m in past funding due to inaccurate information about students completing courses.
Unison and University and College Union (UCU) have not been consulted and have launched a campaign to protect jobs, force London Met to consult properly with staff and unions and explore options for savings that do not involve redundancies.
Amanda Sakur, chair of the Coordinating Committee of UCU, NEC member and Honorary UCU Treasurer candidate, told the crowd, ‘It’s a brilliant start to the campaign.
‘After today the management will be in no doubt over the strength of feeling.
‘This university offers opportunities for many who wouldn’t normally go to university.
‘We shouldn’t be cutting education, we should be expanding it.’
Mark Campbell, another member of the Coordinating Committee of UCU, said: ‘This is not just about the Met but about education.
‘There are billions for the banks while students are not getting the chance to develop their full potential.
‘We have to defend the very notion of education for society.
‘And we have to take decisions into our own hands.
‘We need new management and new funds and we have to go to the government with our demands.’
Members of the communications workers union CWU attending the university on a trade union scheme were among the crowd.
John Thwaite from CWU central branch No 1 said: ‘We’re on a degree course BATUS at London Met.
‘We’re concerned about what will happen to our courses and our lecturers, who are more important.
‘Clearly they will have to reconsider where the savings are coming from.
‘There are £38m worth of financial problems.
‘For mature students like me, it’s worrying because it’s my last chance of education and it may be in jeopardy.’
Ross Boll of Unite said: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting that an institution like London Met is crucified, playing to capitalist demands when they can bail out the banking sector and put us in this position, throw the education system to the dogs.
‘It’s an indictment of the neo-liberalist government.
‘Trade unions should unite all over the country because this is a fundamental right of the working class.’
Fine Art student Isabel Grech said: ‘It is an amazing university for art and our 3-D tutor is worried about his job position.
‘It is ridiculous that we have to protest to save our university when we should be learning and we’ve also paid a lot of money.’
In an appeal to members to join the lobby, the UCU said: URGENT – support your colleagues at London Met.
‘At least 330 posts are under threat at London Metropolitan University.
‘As you may know, London Metropolitan University has recently had a massive cut in its teaching budget (£18m) as a result of inaccurate returns on student completion rates.
‘Unfortunately, London Met’s managers have responded to this crisis by stating that they are seeking to slash jobs and failing to consult meaningfully with staff or unions about the crisis or the future of the university.
‘It is unacceptable to punish staff for what appears to be serious failings in London Metropolitan University’s management.
‘The proposed job cuts could throw the future viability of the university into doubt at a time when education and training are seen to be vital to the capital’s economic health, as well as further undermining efforts to widen participation in London’s higher education institutions.
‘UCU will not stand by and allow London Metropolitan’s managers to further undermine the university.
‘With regional and national support, the branch is fighting these cuts but as with our recent success in re-establishing recognition for the union at Nottingham Trent University your support here will be crucial.
‘Please attend the lobby of Governors on Wednesday 28 January and sign the petition here:
www.ucu.org.uk/saveouruniversity and do everything you can to help.
‘Our ability to help each other in time of trouble is the essence of what UCU is about. Please support your colleagues.’