Sunday, 5 December 2010

Protest Against Local Lib Dem, Sarah Teather, To Stop Rising Fees

Tuesday, December 7 · 3:00pm - 6:00pm

Brent Central consituency office: 1 High Road, Willesden Green, London, NW10 2TE (or meet at harrow campus on the street at 2pm)

In the run up to the parliamentary vote on 'increasing tution fees' this Thursday, 9th December ( it is imperative we keep up the pressure on our Local MPs and advocate they vote against against it.

The Lib Dems are in a particularly vulnerable position as part of the coalition who gained many of their votes from students who they had promised not only to stop increasing fees,... but to banish them all together!

Reports show the student movement against fees and cuts has already made massive inroads as the very MP who put forward these proposals, Vince Cable, has come out and publicy said he may well abstain on the vote (

This is just the beginning.

The University of Westminster's Harrow Campus has many students who reside and vote in the Brent Central area where Lib Dem MP Minster for Children and Families, Sarah Teather, holds a seat.

She is keeping low on the radar and has not announced how she will vote on the 9th. This is good .. She is clearly not confident to come out and say she will vote in favour.

We know that in the past, as the Lib Dems Minister for Education, she has voted strongly-against student top-up fees. let's hold her to account and make sure she follows this logic in the vote on the 9th.

She has also voted against the war in Iraq and the Trident nuclear programme. UWSU has a free education policy and believes that as well as taxing big business, these are two other areas where funding for education could be found. Let's push this message too!

So, this Tuesday we will have a demonstration outside Sarah Teather's constituency office where we will pass over a set of demands including 'a vote against rising tuition fees' and a warning (including signed petitions) that Brent students will not vote for her if she fails to deliver what we've asked.

It will be peaceful and lively demo complete with chanting, singing and a special prize for the most imaginative UWSU/student banner.

Meet outside her office at 3pm or, meet at Harrow Campus on the street at 2pm and we'll travel together.


Finally, Robin Law, UWSU President, went to the National Union of Students headquaters last week and they've estimated that the vote on tuiton fees is very close - 300 for and 293 against! Westminster students, we have everything to play for .. let's do it.

For more information call your VP Education, Jade Baker, on: 07595738396

Friday, 12 November 2010

We should have solidarity with the students of Millbank ..

"The real vandalism is not a few Millbank windows broken, but £9,000 fees destroying the dreams of many young people going to university" - John McDonnell MP
The students who besieged Millbank Tower on 10 November were right to do so, and should be saluted, not condemned. The right of millions of people to a decent education and decent life is infinitely more important than the property of corporations and their political arm, the Tory party.

Let us explain what we mean.

The coalition government and the right-wing media are straining every muscle to condemn the actions of those who besieged Millbank Tower, which includes Tory HQ, at the end of the NUS/UCU demonstration in London.

We should refuse to accept the arguments being used against the protesters.
NUS President Aaron Porter has condemned the protest for the same reason that he refuses to demand free education – he puts looking respectable, his relationship with the Labour Party leadership, and his career, above taking on and defeating the government (if he can conceive of doing that at all).

Phrases such as “extremist”, “divisive” and “the violence of a minority” need to be broken down.
Extremist? Well, the action at Tory HQ was certainly radical, reflecting the anger millions of young people and others feel. And that is exactly what is called for! The Tories’ agenda, which will disrupt, shorten and brutalise the lives of millions of students and tens of millions of working-class people to shore up the profits of the rich, is extreme – in fact, a form of violence in itself (in fact, "the violence of a minority" is quite an apt description). Their policy on fees is quite clearly a violation of popular will even expressed, according to the low standards of capitalist democracy, at the ballot box. We will need much more such radical action (by students, and above all by workers) to defeat them.

The government, which expected a much smaller and nice, polite, A to B march, is scared and on the back foot. Good! As as for our side, if Tory HQ had not been besieged, the protest would not have had the galvanising, inspiring affect it seems to have had for so many – including huge numbers of British workers who read about it in the papers or heard about it on the news, and for activists all around the world.

We can build on this by a thorough-going debate in the movement about the demands, forms of action and tactics necessary to push forward our advantage. Such tactics will not necessarily always involve smashing windows, and those who fetishise such actions are wrong to do so. But such tactics are legitimate, and the necessary debate will be undermined, not aided, by Porter-style condemnations of direct action.

Divisive? The media, aided by Porter, have gone out of their way to contrast the respectable majority of demonstrators to those who took part in the Millbank action. It is not so clear that most demonstrators would condemn what happened. Anyone who was there on the day will tell you that the mood was militant. In any case, it is not the Millbank action which is dividing the movement, but the NUS leadership’s condemnation of it in step with the Tories and their press.

The violence of a minority? Yes, the Millbank protesters were a minority of the demonstration! So what? So were those who sat down in Parliament Square – an action which the NUS stewards also tried to stop. Those at Tory HQ were not a small clique, but numbered many thousands – and we should not be afraid to defend our mass action, including its use of force.

There were some utterly stupid actions by small numbers of people – throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof, for instance – which any reasonable person would condemn, and which the great majority of protesters put a stop to (by chanting “Stop throwing shit”, until they did). But our condemnation of this stupidity can have nothing in common with condemnation of the Millbank protest itself. The “violence” involved at Millbank was basically violence against property – except in so far as the police intervened and forced violent clashes (a number of their victims are still in hospital).

We repeat, unashamedly, that people’s right to education and a decent life is more important than the property of corporations and their political wing, the Conservative Party (which exists to defend the interests of a tiny minority). Infinitely more important! So, yes, we were right to do what we did!

Look back through two hundred-plus years of working-class and democratic struggles against exploitation and oppression, all over the world. No major struggle has ever been won by respect for the laws of property, or by relinquishing our right to self-defence.

The early 20th century the women's suffrage movement, for instance, carried out acts of small-scale – and not so small-scale – terrorism. The problem with their movement was not its use of force, but the fact that it was elitist – a problem remedied by the working-class women's suffrage movement in East London, led by Sylvia Pankhurst, which wielded force on the basis of democratic mass mobilisation. That is the tradition the Millbank action stands in!

In the 1984-5 miners’ strike, Margaret Thatcher's Tory government set out to destroy a powerful union and devastate whole communities, as part of its more general drive against the working class. When the miners fought back, and met police violence with violence of their own, they were right to do so! Aaron Porter stands in the disgraceful tradition of Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who instead of backing the strike and fighting for its victory condemned the violence of the striking miners.

That is why striking firefighters can be run down by scabs in full sight of the police, while students smashing windows are condemned as violent.

Of course the current struggles are on a different scale from the miners' strike - for now. But in a system where capitalists and the governments that serve them can devastate millions of lives at whim, and use their highly trained, highly violent police thugs to enforce those decisions, it is legitimate for us to fight fire with fire.

We should defend and celebrate the protest at Tory HQ on 10 November!


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Students Launch the Fightback Against Cuts and Fees in Style

Westminster students enraged by the ConDem government's plans to cut back education spending on an unprecedented scale, and to set fees soaring at the same time, joined over 600 students on an anti-cuts demonstration last Wednesday against the official announcement of budget cuts made in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

Students angered by the prospect of an education system falling into disrepair from universities across London met at the University of London Union, on Malet Street, and fed their protest into a much larger demonstration of over 3, 000 workers and trade unionists for a march to Downing Street. See: (look out for Westminster students involved in The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in the video too)

This marked only the very beginning of the struggle which now faces students and workers alike. Who are about to embark on a period which - as some more relastic estimates have put it - could see over 3 million people unemployed. This will not only be disastrous for the average worker trying to bring home the beans for the family, but, it also means there will be a dire lack of jobs for graduates too.

Students will have a dual role to play in times ahead: fighting for the right of employment and fighting to protect education.

If the government gets away with what it intends, this will mean the end of education as we know it. The end of social mobility; the end of a decent education for all; the end of the chance for people to live out their potentials.

A quality university education would only be afforded by the rich, the rest of society will be left with two year 'vocational courses'. The enlightening and life transforming chance to spend three years in all sorts of academic enquiry will no longer exist for the vast majority.

This is nothing short of a disaster.

Fight Cuts at Westminster, along with help from the lecturers union UCU, has been rallying students over the past two months and previous academic year at a set of different events including 'ConDem The Cuts To Education', which heard from the likes of left-wing legend Labour MP, John McDonnell and The National Union of Students' Education Officer, Usman Ali.

We held our first protest of the term at Regent Street Campus on Wednesday (before marching to ULU) and are now looking to step up our activity and ramp up student engagement. Together we can beat the cuts! Last year our actions, which included a three day occupation of the Vice Chancellor's Office, managed to save 100 jobs. This year we must save them all.

So, to get involved in the fight to save our education, keep an eye out on facebook for our events and organising meetings. Do come along!

Sing, shout, protest .. just get the message out.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

ConDem the Browne Review, students must fight back!

Today, the infamous Browne Review of higher education funding has recommended lifting the cap on fees, leaving universities free to charge students what they like.

This means a switch to a complete free market in Higher Education, with newer institutions charging double what we pay now at £7,000 a year, and in theory, older elite universities charging anywhere up to the sum of £20, 000. Let’s bear in mind the striking fact that fees didn’t even exist just over a decade ago; they were introduced in 1998 at £1, 000, and have been on the steady increase ever since. Those who plan to make this devastating reform had the pleasure of a free education, why can’t we?

What more did we expect from the former chief of BP however, who was commissioned by the government to suggest changes in HE funding and essentially ‘take the slack’ for the unpopular changes they plan to implement. What does he, an ex-multi millionaire, know about being hard-up and looking to education as a root out!?

This is exactly the kind of background many of our students at Westminster come from, and unlimited fees will no doubt put these types of students off for fear of having such a high burden of debt. Not only that, but many will lose out on the chance to go to university in the first place with the ConDem government’s 25 – 40% planned budget cuts in education; let’s not forget that this year alone, 200, 000 applications to university were declined! Browne’s Review calls for an increase in student places by 10 percent over three years, that’s 30,000 extra places; well that’s still 170, 000 from this year alone without a place and we all know that student applications are rising. You do the math! So much for this government’s calls for “fairness”.

Westminster has a very special role to play in this society and Browne’s review seeks to undermine it; we’re part of the widening participation initiative which means we have a higher percentage (44%, 07/08) of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and provide them with an opportunity to participate in a well-funded, quality education. We also have an above UK average for full time undergraduate students from state schools (96%, 07/08).
Yes, our university plays a vital role in educating the working classes!

However, as it stands, that is not to say that students from a similar background might not study at a pre-1992 ‘more prestigious’ university like Leeds, UCL or even Oxford. At the moment the chances to do so are there, albeit that these aren’t always equal chances.

Nevertheless, the implications of what the Browne Review has suggested means that this chance, to study at a world-renowned higher education institute, will dissolve into thin air. With only the richest students being able to afford the astronomical prices, which will see the likes of Cambridge and Oxford set to the tune of 10, 000+. Access into university will be based on bank balances rather than academic ability.

This will only serve to create a two-tier university system whereby the minority in this society - the rich - have access to a high calibre of education and the rest of us will be herded into poorer universities, where we’ll pay what fees we can afford, but they’ll be underfunded and quite frankly miserable!

We’ve already seen post-1992 universities, our own included, losing departments in Languages and teaching staff in Social Sciences, which come under the category of ‘Blue Sky’ (ideas), research type degrees with no barriers.

The government plans to make these ‘Blue Sky’ degrees available in the elitist institutions only and pave the way for nothing more than vocational ‘workers’ degrees in establishments like ours. This is massively in tune with what’s going on now: at Westminster we’ve lost Russian and Greek courses; at London South Bank they’ve just had their entire language department shut; at Middlesex last year their world-renowned, entire Philosophy department was shut to fit with this agenda.

Students must fight back! The government is testing the water with this recommendation and will be looking to see what the reaction from students and the rest of society is.
We must take action and make it clear that this will not be tolerated; we’ve got to protect our education from the increasing neo-liberalism higher education has become subject to over the past decade. Education is about people and society, not profits!
And that should be our overarching message.


· If you would like to hear more about the Browne Review and what students can do to fight back, join the Fight Cuts at Westminster Campaign next Monday 18th October for a Public rally against higher fees in The old Cinema at Regents Street Campus, 6 pm.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

UWSU votes YES on a FREE EDUCATION policy ..

Okay, Westminster Students, here was part of my pitch ..

Why Our Education Policy should be for a FREE Education
Let’s get this straight: Free education is a political term referring to education that is funded through taxation rather than tuition fees.

Let’s now backtrack to 1996 the year when tuition fees were introduced (yes, just over a decade ago universities did not charge fees) at a fixed basis of £1000; the student resistance at the time was quite weak, according to student activists from back in the day. They believe that the introduction of fees could have been stopped with a little more FIGHT; today I believe we must advocate for a free education and the principles surrounding it but also FIGHT (like they should have then) to stop the ever increasing price and marketisation of education.
So, where are we at?

Just over a decade ago education was funded by general taxation, I see no reason at all why this cannot be today (Let’s remember the top 1000 richest in the country maximised their wealth by 77 billion this year alone. Not only that, but money can be saved in military and conflict spending; by nationalising organisations such as banks - we are the majority shareholder in RBS anyway - and using the profits to fund education and general welfare. This list goes on, and on).
In essence, problems in education came to blows when fees were introduced. All of a sudden education was seen as a commodity; not as a good in itself, for society, for the well being of the individual. It was seen as a ticket into the workplace, and although this is a true statement to an extent, it is problematic.

Top up fees were introduced and education really became something that could be bought (students felt/feel they have to go to university as it would be a barrier to entry on the job market if they didn’t) and today in 2010 we see HE priced at £3290 a year. However, when the Browne Review comes in the autumn it is almost inevitable (being an ex-chair of a corporate oil company BP an all) that he will suggest lifting the cap. Paving the way for universities to charge whatever they think their ‘breed’ of students can afford.
This will start to create a massive wedge in between the elitist institutions and the workers’ institutions. More vocational institutions. Fundamentally, they want a return to the pre-1992 polytechnic situation.

I believe we have to fight against this lift off the cap and against cuts in education too. They want to cut our funding by 25 per cent whilst hiking prices two, three or even four fold. You do the math!

So, I plead that our policy be for a FREE education, open and accessible to all who want it. It should not be a ticket which is deterministic only to job entry (also, university isn’t for everyone). The key element here is choice and the ideology that education is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT.

However, I understand that to jump from a scenario where the cap is quite possibly about to be lifted to a free education is a massive one. Nevertheless, I believe we must fight against rising fees and against the reactionary graduate tax (see below) in the meantime, but always persist and advocate for a free education and all the reasons encompassed within that.
Jade Baker, VP Education

Friday, 6 August 2010

Sign Up: Students' School of ECS Cutbacks Declaration..

Dear ECS Students,

You may be aware that the university has very recently undergone a controversial and unnecessarily demoralising “restructuring” process, whereby 48 ECS staff members have been laid-off by precarious voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

An ECS/ UCU member stated at the end of June on “ECS staff would not wish our worst enemy to go through the agony of waiting to receive an email for an interview that does not arrive, or the wait for some months now to find out whether we have a job after July. It goes without saying; therefore, that ECS staff sincerely hope that no other school will have to experience our predicament.”

Equally infuriating, management from the School of ECS have not, until recently, liaised with the students about the possible effects of this, or even asked them for their opinions on the cutbacks.
The effects of this negligent restructure is already taking its toll and impeding students’ studies.
To take an anecdotal example, last February, second year students were given a Final Project Supervisor Sheet (listing area specialties) and were told if they wanted to up their grades: a) endeavour to find work experience and b) initiate and start researching/ carrying out their Final Projects. They were asked to hand in the sheets by June 10th but the climate of sporadic redundancies prohibited many lecturers from knowing whether they’d still be at Westminster come September to supervise on any projects; and so, effectively, students and staff were both left in the lurch. This hinders students from achieving the best possible outcome from denying prompt research and creates a culture of fright and uncertainty for tutors who fear for their job security. Concurrently, this leads to a focus for lecturers on whether they’ll be able to pay next month’s mortgage rather than concentrating on next month’s student assessments. This is NOT fair and is an indictment on university management.

As many students refused to hand in the sheet until they knew their chosen supervisor would be staying put, the university quite rightly agreed to put back the date to the July 8th.
However, today, August 5th and students have still not been notified on who will be here next year and what modules will be affected.

This only hits the tip of the iceberg with regards to the current and likely problems the School of ECS and most importantly, its students, will face come next term. The foreseeable are larger class sizes; less one on one tutorial and class time with tutors; marking taking measurably longer to come back; pre-advertised modules being dropped; tutors which do not specialise in relevant and important specific areas; overworked and miserable lecturers. It seems ludicrous to cut staff back by a third but to keep student intake at the same level. If any of the above become actualities this could well fall within the remit of ‘failure to deliver’ what was promised by the university in the module handbook for example, and is a suable offence.
What’s more, the Students’ Union met with the Deputy of ECS, Stephen Winters, over two weeks ago and he promised to have the list of remaining supervisors shipped out to students. As stated above, this has NOT happened.

Further to that, he also reassured us that he would send out a declaration to all students promising the quality of their education will not drop over the upcoming year. This has also NOT happened.

We understand that the university’s line is essentially these cuts have been implemented to act as a buffer when the upcoming cuts to education in 2011, from the Higher Education Funding Council and this ConDem government, take effect.

However, we believe that there are many other ways the university could have made savings (as well as consulting students beforehand): like taking a salary cut over the top layers of management who between 2008-2009, hired four new deans and two executive governors, who got paid between £100,00 and £129,000 per year. Not only by cutting the ridiculously high salaries of the ever increasing layers of management, but also, the astronomical amounts of money which must have been spent or rebranding the university and consultancies. Further to that, the university has dusted itself off of many vital lecturing staff but has enough weight in its pocket to hire a new PR team, who will be starting in September. The list goes on.


· We demand that the list of remaining lecturers be released!
· We demand that a statement ensuring the quality of education will not fall is constructed!
· We demand that remaining and dropped modules be brought to our attention!

Please Sign.

* Alex Keable - Crouch
* Panagiotis Zavatzki
* Zbigniew Chmielewski (Mobile and Wireless Computing)
* Flaminia Giambalvo (Alumni)
* Amy Wilkes
* Ali Abbas
* Matthew Banham
* Mahad Mohamud (French & Arabic)
* Davinderpal Singh Rehal
* Natasha McGechan (Vice President activities, UWSU)
* Kamilla Koncz (English Literature)
* Seyed Ali Hosseini (Software Engineering)
* Rakesh Vishwanath
* Goochie Shack
* Queenie TC Wong
* Laurence Oliphant

Jade Lori Baker
VP Education, UWSU

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Letter from a concerned ECS student ..

I have been with the University of Westminster for 7 years, as a part time mature student, studying Electronic Engineering.
I have witnessed the development of the Cavendish campus electronics, software and IT departments, including investments in large new laboratories and computer rooms, all essential for students as these rooms are normally at maximum capacity all through the year(and it is increasingly difficult to find a quiet place to work or a free computer terminal).
Classes have generally become larger and noisier throughout my time at Cavendish campus, in the last 4 years or so.
I have also been working part time as a support worker for disabled students of the university, taking notes and helping in the library with their studies. Therefore I have been present in many lectures outside the Electronics department and Cavendish campus, where I study, and I have witnessed the same problems with class numbers elsewhere.
I am certain that any departmental reduction in staff numbers, without a corresponding reduction in student numbers, will damage the quality of education that has apparently been a long tradition at the university (my father was a student at the Regent street campus, previously the Regent Street Polytechnic, during his architecture degree in the 1970's; he speaks highly of the previous institution as it once stood).
Furthermore, in regards to Cavendish campus, it is illogical and redundant to make cuts to the ECS department staff, after such significant investment in the resources of laboratories and computers. Quite the opposite should be in order. Expansion of the discipline and its academic rigor! If students are failing the courses it is because of the high level that they demand. Electronics, engineering and the sciences are not intended to be "easy" degrees to obtain. It is actually the opposite as I have discovered! (what else?)If the university board decides to make its drastic cuts, I fear that they will play a part in the downfall of the UK's role in Electronics and Computer Science.
We should not forget the likes of the first computer scientist, Charles Babbage, and the great British computing engineers, mathematicians & inventors that followed him, such as the great Paul Dirac who developed Quantum Mechanics, and whom have all contributed to developing the most important technologies of the 20th century, helping to bring about the digital age that the world is now experiencing. Standing against these cuts is to stand for the institutions and practices that make the UK a place of academic excellence, steeped in the history of human achievement. We as the British people do not want to lose that legacy and privileged position in the world.

A J Golland, BEng Electronic Engineering,