Students at Sussex will be excused from lectures and seminars this Wednesday, 10 November, as thousands of people from all over the country will gather to protest the looming cuts that higher education faces as a result of the Coalition’s new budget. The University of Sussex has responded to an appeal made by the Students’ Union to be considerate of students who wish to attend it.
The Government’s plans to cut up to 40 per cent from higher education nationally would mean a loss of up to £4.2 billion in funding for universities in England by 2014-15.
The NUS (National Union of Students) and UCU (University & College Union, a staff trade union) have joined forces to organise the national demonstration – ‘Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts’ – in order to give university workers and students the opportunity to make their anger known.
With the Coalition taking the stance that no cut is too deep, the view being taken is that unions and students must make the Government realise just how detrimental the impact of these cuts will be on higher education. It is hoped that the demonstration will force the Government to reconsider, something considered more crucial than ever with reports emerging which claim that 190,000 students wishing to pursue higher education have been turned away.
As such, university executives have taken the Student Union’s plea into account and decided to take an understanding approach to students wishing to attend the demonstration.
While it is stated that it will not be feasible for the majority of activities and deadlines to be rearranged, Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing and his executive team have “discussed and decided… that individual students’ absences from teaching will be accepted. However, students will be responsible for ensuring that they catch up with any teaching that they may have missed.”
The university has also made the notable decision to extend deadlines for assessments due on Wednesday 10 November by 24 hours to 4pm on Thursday 11 November so that students may attend the demonstration without disrupting their courses. However, they are reminded that “attendance at the demonstration will not be accepted as mitigation in respect of any late or non-submission of any assessment.” Staff members wishing to attend the demonstration will need to agree leave with their line manager, subject to work requirements on that day, as they would for any time off for personal activities or events.
Lita Wallis, the Students’ Union Education Officer, says: “The university’s decision to back the NUS national demo is a great sign of how relations on campus have changed since last year. We should be united in our fight at this point, as the cuts proposed by the Government affect everyone involved in the Higher Education system. I’m actually rather hoping to see some members of the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group out there marching with us! However, there is still work to do. The responsibility for arrangements on the day has now been put on to the Heads of Schools, and not all of them have publicly made a decision on what will happen on the day of the demo. We should encourage all students to contact their Heads of Schools to support them in rearranging classes, allowing staff as well as students the opportunity to fight for Higher Education.”
The Students’ Union is organising transport to and from the demonstration for £5 per ticket; these can be bought from the Students’ Union’s website or its Box Office, which is on the ground floor of Falmer House. One coach will be departing from campus in the morning and students attending must meet in Mandela Hall at 8am. A second coach will leave from Pool Valley coach station and students must meet here at 8am also. Both coaches will leave London at 5pm for the return journey. More information about the demonstration can be found at www.demo2010.org which is accessible through the Students’ Union website, along with the demonstration’s Facebook event page.