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Stop the Cuts campaign plans further action

The Stop the Cuts movement has continued to operate throughout the summer vacation period, holding meetings in a Brighton pub, The Earth and Stars.

On 15 and 23 September, the group gathered to renew debate on the issue of university cuts and to draw up a plan of action for the autumn term.

Stop the Cuts is an open organisation that was formed by students at the University of Sussex to vocally oppose both academic and non-academic staff redundancies at the institution.

The group also opposes cuts to course programmes that are perceived to be damaging to the student learning experience.

Throughout the last academic year Stop the Cuts maintained a strong presence online and on campus.

Stop the Cuts attracted high-profile attention through its support of the so-called Sussex Six, a group of students suspended for their involvement in the political occupation of university administrative hub Sussex House, in early March.

The University later reviewed police and testimonial evidence and removed the suspensions, reinstating the students.

Stop the Cuts will continue to hold weekly planning meetings throughout the autumn term, and will also be producing flyers during the early weeks of October in order to attract new support from the next generation of Sussex students.

Since last year’s campaign, opposing planned cuts to further education have become extremely important on a national scale, and Stop the Cuts hopes to co-ordinate its efforts with counterparts at the University of Brighton and across the country.

On Thursday 7 October Stop the Cuts are taking part in an open public forum, involving speakers from the University and College Union (UCU) and the University of Sussex Students’ Union, and potentially Green MP Caroline Lucas.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has joined up with the UCU, organising a national demonstration against cuts to higher education institutions across the UK, to be held in central London on 10 November.

Stop the Cuts will encourage students and staff from the University of Sussex to get involved with the wider national campaign and to fight the cuts, which have their root in the slashing of university budgets by successive governments.

The pre-term meetings of Stop the Cuts demonstrate that the movement is willing to continue its activities, despite the campaign being disrupted by the long summer vacation.

Although it presents itself as active, organized and inclusive in its approach to campaigning against cuts to higher education, Stop the Cuts has polarized the Sussex student population.

Despite receiving backing from past and present presidents of the University of Sussex Students’ Union – both Tom Wills and Cameron Tait attended the most recent meeting – figures from the Facebook event pages for the meetings demonstrate that Stop the Cuts has failed to capture the interest of a significant proportion of the student population.

For the first planning meeting, held on 15 September, 20 people listed themselves as attending,                    whilst 64 were listed as maybe, 604 as not attending, and 1563 as awaiting reply.

For the second meeting, held on 23 September, just 13 were listed as attending, 50 as maybe, 580 as not attending, and 1605 as awaiting reply.

One Facebook user commented on the Stop the Cuts message board, “Woo hoo. I’m outta there. No more cuts for me”.

Other such online voices express apathy and even opposition to student-led moves to confront higher education cuts.

The first few weeks of this academic year will be crucial for Stop the Cuts if it is to continue to build on previous campaigns.

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