Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Finally, the chance for Westminster staff and students to air their voices en masse, in opposition to management's job cuts and course closures, is upon us.

Next Monday, March 1, 3pm at Regent Campus (main entrance) is set to see an unprecedeted mobilisation of tutors, support workers and students from Westminster and beyond holding the court of governors and vice-chancellor to account by performing a lobby of their conference.

The vice-chancellor has openly announced that job cuts are the initiative of the governors, not himself. Well, let's ask him for ourselves this Monday!

Why have we been forced to take action?

This protest comes upon a backdrop of course slashes, nursery closure and 200 tutor, administrative job cuts set for April this year.

This conglomeration of cuts will result in a dwindling qulaity of education with less tutors on the ground, and yet when extrapolating recent trends at the university, more managment on the top. What use is that to us?

We say NO .. do you?

Support staff and save the future of education at Westminster; bring banners, placards and noise!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The Motion Passes ..

An unprecedented mass of over 60 students attended this year's Annual General Meeting, hosted by Westminster's Student Union (yes, I'm being sarcastic).

The meeting, held yesterday at Harrow Campus, was not a complete farce however and did give some speck of hope for happier days ahead. Albeit a minor one; did you know that our SU is one of a kind, it is the only SU in the country line managed by a member of university staff? Canny.

Unfortunately, a combination of a depoliticised student population and union members that have carelessly and seriously abused their positions has led our union down a vertiginous slope, and until yesterday it found itself in a state of 'frozen subvention.' I.E. The university had ceased funding the union.

The first motion put forth was by a union member and was passed; to combat the funding freeze, this motion included bringing external members from other institutions to sit on their board of trustees as well as other university staff on an 'interim' basis (which had been suggested by the university).

We did not advocate for this to be passed as it defeats the core values of a 'student's union' and further contributes to the bureaucratisation of the university.

However, as it did go through, this means the death of the SU is not nigh and all the better for the fight cuts campaign.

Simon Hardy, a member of the Fight Cuts at Westminster Campaign, put forth our motion which essentially asked the student union to formally recognise our campaign and to support the students and tutors in whatever action they may wish to take.

To our delight, it was a unanimous pass.

This now leaves us in a great position to persevere with the campaign; it also leaves us with an opportunity to work with our SU and help build it from the bottom up again, if possible.

Let's not let this one go - all students deserve the right to a union with their interests at heart.

The Motion ...

MOTION: Oppose cuts at The University of Westminster and in Higher Education

This Union notes:
* Massive cuts have been announced in the Higher Education (HE) sector. Recent estimates by UCU and the Russell Group predict that cuts in HE may add up to as much as £2.5bn - or 33% of total HE funding.
* Job cuts have also been announced at the University of Westminster. As part of a restructuring plan, 150 academic staff (not including technical and administrative staff) will be made redundant by April 2010. This follows the closures of the Ceramics department and of the nursery.

This union believes:
* Management has not been transparent in dealing with the financial problems currently facing the university.
* Management attempt to deal with the current financial problems is a shortsighted one.
* That these proposed cuts are only the beginning of a much wider programme of cuts.
* Students' experience at university will be severely compromised by these job cuts. Fewer staff means bigger class sizes, less time with tutors, and less time for staff to prepare seminars and lectures. This will worsen the level of satisfaction of students of Westminster University, which is already amongst the lowest in the country.
* Education is extremely important, particularly during an economic crisis. education represents one of the few viable alternatives for young people at a time of increasing unemployment. The government should invest in education as other countries are already doing (e.g. Germany, USA).

This union resolves:
* To defend jobs and education
* To actively oppose any cuts in this university and all funding cuts in the HE sector.
* To call on management to:
a) Issue a statement on the avoidance of redundancies;
b) make freely available to the unions in the university appropriate financial documents including accounts, planned project expenditure, and staff expenditure to enable a transparent review of the university's financial position;
c) produce alternative, sustainable plans for addressing the financial gap over the next several years.
* To officially support the "Fight cuts campaign at Westminster" and to actively promote it.
* To formally support the London Education Activists network and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
* To promote the National demonstration on Saturday, March 20, organised by the UCU and London Education Activists Network.
* To support any industrial action taken by our lecturers and members of staff as a result of the cuts.
* A vote of no confidence in the vice-chancellor and management

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Unlucky: Outright Vote of No Confidence for Vice-Chancellor Geoff Petts

Over 150 staff and students placed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the vice-chancellor, and his management, at a rally addressing Westminster's severe proposed job cuts.

The meeting, which took place yesterday, saw encouraging and emotive speeches from Union representatives, one of whom revealed that the latest slashes are set at 190 academic and 90 administrative jobs.

A Unison representative clarified that up until a year ago finance papers showed that the university was operating at a surplus of over two per cent, therefore, she and others across the board claimed it suggests that management (who are not allowing public access to any finance details at the present moment) are simply using Mandleson's Higher Education cuts and their '11 million budget deficit' as a guise to fulfil an already planned agenda to slim down on staff and further marketise the establishment.

To place this in perspective it was later revealed that the university plans to spend 61 million on a new building project, ironic, seeing as there will be considerably fewer lecturers to fill it.

Furthermore, a representative from the University and Colleges Union (UCU) pinpointed to a study undertaken by the union which has disturbingly found that whilst academic positions have only risen by three per cent, managerial positions with an allocated wage of £100, 000, have risen by 25 per cent.

"This has attributed to a management clique, who live upstairs, and have no idea of what's going on on the ground," she declared.

This sentiment was shared across the board, a speaker and lecturer involved in the struggles at London Metropolitan University, riled staff and students alike by describing the process which led to their feat over the Vice-Chancellor and the board of governors; ballots, strikes and student occupations.

However, an ex National Secretary of the UCU gave some hope by urging staff to remember that there has not been a single voluntary redundancy at Westminster for 20 years, due to staff resistance.

Even so, a computing lecturer from the floor, for example, revealed that his department of 150 is set for a hammering of a third of the positions.

With this and other revelations, a sense of urgency swept the floor and led to an exciting dialogue of what to do next..

An immediate vote of no confidence for vice-chancellor Geoff Petts and his management was called for and achieved.

Striking was placed on the table, but this can prove to be a long and bureaucratic process, taking up to six weeks.

In the meantime, it is down to us students to support our tutors as much as we possibly can by taking any action necessary to stop management in their profiteering tracks. Not only are jobs at risk but the future of education as we know it is, we can't take this without a fight ... can we?

Monday, 15 February 2010

Students and Tutors Unite

A meeting, marking the next phase of Westminster's anti-cuts campaign, will be held this Wednesday.

The event, which is open to all students and education workers at the university will be taking place in Fyvie Hall, Regent Street Campus, at 1pm.

The main aim of the rally is to create a bubbling dialogue between students and lecturers, with reference to possible actions that can be taken to fight cuts and job losses.

Speakers, with experience in the field of education campaigning, include: student activists, University and College Union (UCU) representatives from Tower Hamlets, Unison and the Student's Union at Westminster.

It is imperative that as many students as possible support our tutors by attending this event; the campaign stems from us!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

National Convention Against Fees and Cuts

Students, education workers and activists from across the country gathered on Saturday with the aim of stepping anti education cuts campaigns, on a national level, up a gear.

The National Convention Against Fees & Cuts, which was held at University College London, saw over 100 partakers grapple with the pressing matters facing students and eductaion wokers over a day of workshops designed to tackle and question the future of education and the imminent cuts of up to £3 billion.

The event which was hosted by UCL Students for Free Education, with a presence from anti-capitalist education oragisations such as Education Not for Sale and Another Education is Possible, succeeded in its aim of 'a concrete result' in the closing plenary session, in the form of a democratically designed manifesto. (Which will be posted as soon as available)

Other structural decisions were voted into place too which will see regional caucuses take place on a two-weekly or monthly basis, with the aim of broadening and strengthening individal campus cuts campigns and seeking to build an overall coherent, national resistance.

A national student demonstration has been set for March, 20.

The day saw students get involved from across the board, from FE to HE, and even across the ocean with a special attendance from Austrian students.

It is without doubt a sign of a stronger movement ahead ...

Future anti-cuts events include: Take Back Education at King's College London, Feb, 27.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Why Campaign?

In December the government announced plans to make cuts of up to 33% in higher education funding, amounting to some £3 billion. This comes alongside talk of staff redundancies, course closures, and £30,000 tutition fees for students.

Taking this lead, management at the University of Westminster have already proposed deep cuts of up to 285 jobs by July. This a short-sighted attempt to deal with the financial problems currently facing the university

What does this mean for staff?

For those who remain, the cuts will mean increased workloads to cover the work of those who have gone. Academic staff will face larger class sizes and less administrative and technical support, with these staff facing longer hours and increased stress.

What does this mean for students?

Students will undoubtedly have a worse experience with increased class sizes, stressed lecturers and even less time with their tutors.

According to National Student Survey, the University of Westminster currently has one of the worst student satisfaction rates in the country. Cuts will only deepen this dissatisfaction.

Management are telling staff to tighten their belts, while their average salary has risen to £193, 000!

They are not interested in listening to staff and students! WE NEED TO BE UNITED AND ORGANISED IF WE WANT OUR VOICE TO BE HEARD!!