The campaign formerly known as ‘Anti-Privatisation’ or ‘Occupy Sussex’ will carry on its work under the name of ‘Free Education Sussex’ from now on. With the privatisations of estates and catering going through, a national movement for free education sprouting up everywhere and industrial action by unions on campus ‘Anti-Privatisation’ just didn’t seem to fit anymore.
We wholeheartedly value the history of the campaign and the hard work and dedication that was put in by many students and workers before most of us even started university. It is a privilege to step into the shoes of people who build a movement that still inspires activist groups across the country. One of our focuses this year will still be to build a relationship with workers on campus and to fight alongside them for better working conditions. Our ultimate goal will always be to bring the services back in house.
Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that the privatisations will not stop. The infamous university ‘masterplan’ that outlines the next ten year includes not only the demolition of Eastslope, Park Village and Brighthelm, and the expansion to 18,000 students by 2018 but also hints on further privatisation operations (residences, IT services, library, etc.). The fight against privatisation is therefore definitely not over!
While we are trying to free education from privatisation we also want to free it from tuition fees and debt. This will be a second focus of this year: to be part of the national struggle for free education. This doesn’t just mean the abolition of tuition fees for UK students, international students, undergraduates and postgraduates but also includes an expansion of rent grants and the removal of hidden costs. We understand that this is a big demand but that is what makes the movement so exciting. For the first time in years the student movement in England is not just reacting to policy changes; it is proactive, standing up for what it believes.
Our belief is that education should be thought of as a public good not a commodity. To fully comprehend this one needs to shake off everything politicians have made us believe for years: firstly, there is enough money to provide everyone who wants to with free higher education; money just needs to be spent more efficiently and rich people need to be taxed more. Secondly, a degree is not only there to tick a box on your CV; it is about shaping a responsible human being, it is providing unique experiences and permitting young people to think freely. Finally, with this change of mind, students would value a financially free education as least as much as they do now.
But Free Education doesn’t stop with financially freeing education! There are so many decade or century old believes and structures in the today’s education system that need to be questioned. This liberation of education includes liberation from racism, sexism and ableism. Out of 18,500 lecturers in the UK 85 are not white, only 10 of these are female. Even thought the female-male undergraduate ration is somewhere around 45%-55%, on average, only a fifth of professors are women. At some universities this gap is much bigger. There is also a very narrow perception of intelligence that put chains on students who don’t conform to it.
I once read a poem about education that went like this:
It’s in blasting chain links, in smashing metal lies the mandate of our education, and education everywhere.
Yet another of these chains around our education is the prohibition of dissent. We are not encouraged to think freely and wildly out of management’s and politicians’ fear of social change that will ultimately work against them. To break this particular chain is probably the most important action. For once we feel and know that we can change the world around us we will be encouraged to do so.
This is why activists across the country will be marching for Free Education in London on the 19th of November. We encourage everyone to join us. There will be a coach leaving from Brighton; tickets are available online for only £5 return. If you feel like you can’t afford this but want to come, contact us. Finances should never stop you from having a voice! If you want to organise actions on campus, come to one of our open meetings. Mondays at 6pm in Meeting Room 3 in Falmer house.
Free yourself, free education!