Press release: Students expose Vice Chancellor’s regressive views and University’s lies

Today saw an unprecedented dialogue at the University of Nottingham that exposed the gulf between the views of students and staff and those of their Vice Chancellor. The open meeting was a condition of the temporary suspension of the students’ occupation of the Great Hall, and had a Question Time format with speakers from Notts Students Against Fees and Cuts (NSAFC, who organised the occupation), the Students’ Union and the Vice Chancellor of the university.

Following a lively and well-attended rally, the meeting opened with a statement from each participant. Dr Greenaway, the Vice Chancellor, who recently accompanied David Cameron on his trip to China, focused on the nuances of the difference between fees and a graduate tax and claimed that the argument was not about whether students should contribute, only how much and when. The representative of NSAFC explained the principles of ‘education as a social as well as a personal good’ that guided the demands of the occupiers and the collaborative, educational nature of that occupation. The Students’ Union President also stated that he was against the raise in tuition fees and supported ‘the cause’ of the occupiers.

The many students and staff in attendance asked a series of well-informed questions including those about the causes of the economic crisis, the purpose of education, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the refusal of the Vice Chancellor to lobby against cuts and fee changes, and whether he would take a cut to his salary of more than £300,000 pa in order to free up money for bursaries and research funding. Not one question was put forward in support of fees and cuts, despite the open nature of the meeting.

During 90 minutes of open debate, Greenaway admitted that he believed Higher Education to be a privilege not a right and agreed with markets and a tiered system in university education. The question now is whether the Vice Chancellor can maintain this stance against the clear will of his staff and students. Relationships of respect and trust have already been damaged by the fact, officially acknowledged at today’s meeting, that the university gave false information to the occupiers that a wedding was booked to take place in the occupied room (an assertion that was a significant factor in persuading the occupiers to suspend their action).

After the meeting one undergraduate explained that ‘The University has already lied to us. We made it clear today that we will give Greenaway the chance to take our views forward, but will continue to take direct action until the University and the government change their policies. This debate has shown that we are the true voice of the University. The next step is the protest in London this Thursday when MPs vote on fee rises.’

NSAFC, which includes students from schools, Further Education and both Nottingham universities, continues to demand that the University lobby against fee rises, funding cuts and the end of EMA, as well as opening its books and ensuring no redundancies for staff. In refusing the first of these demands, Greenaway argued that there was no point continuing to lobby against funding cuts because ‘the die is now cast’. The students countered that the mass national action underway shows that policy can and must change.

If you want to find out more about the campaign or book coach tickets for Thursday’s demo you can contact NSAFC at nsafac@gmail.com / http://www.nsafc.wordpress.com

Advertisements

2 responses to “Press release: Students expose Vice Chancellor’s regressive views and University’s lies

  1. The letter below from the VC of the University of Huddersfield (Bob Cryan) was circulated via the Campaign for the Public University mailing list yesterday (07/12/10) evening. It contrasts rather strongly with Greenaway’s stated views. Russell Group VCs, such as Greenaway, have long lobbied *for* increased fees (and fully support – indeed, directly contributed to – the Browne Review recommendations) so a U-turn at this stage would, unfortunately, be very surprising.

    The frustrating aspect of this battle is that many academics who, unlike Greenaway, are opposed to the fees/cuts nonetheless adopt the same basic attitude – “the die is cast, so what can we do?” Congratulations to all students involved in the occupation, rallies, and demonstrations for proving that it is still possible for universities to speak truth to power…

    Prof.Philip Moriarty,
    School of Physics and Astronomy,
    University of Nottingham

    ——————
    A message from Professor Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Huddersfield and Matt Christie, President, University of Huddersfield Students’ Union

    Fees Vote – Thursday 9 December 2010

    The parliamentary vote that is taking place on Thursday of this week will bring about the greatest change in funding for Higher Education in nearly a century and so we are writing to you directly to explain our views on the proposals.

    Firstly the University of Huddersfield and the University of Huddersfield Students’ Union believe that, as in the current system, the cost of Higher Education should be shared between those that directly benefit from it and the Government. We are deeply concerned that direct public funding to Universities is being withdrawn from a range of subject areas and that this is being described as a removal of a subsidy.

    We would argue that in any civilised nation it is essential that the Government invest in Higher Education to develop the higher level skills needed for a knowledge economy. To not fund the creative arts for example seems counter productive when it is this creativity that leads to the development of new products that in turn will help the economy recover. To move from some investment to no investment in key subject areas is wrong and unnecessary. As a nation we need to invest in our students for they represent our collective tomorrows.

    Secondly, the motivation for the changes is unclear particularly when the Higher Education Policy Institute states that “….the approach taken by the government cannot be expected to save significant sums of money – indeed, it is as likely that in the long term the government’s proposals will cost more than they will save.” If these proposals are not going to save significant sums of money then why are they necessary?

    Thirdly we believe that all those that can benefit from Higher Education should have the opportunity to do so. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown that there is a direct relationship between the level of fee charged and the likelihood of students from modest backgrounds entering Higher Education. It is a simple relationship, the higher the charge the fewer the students from the lower socio-economic groups progress to Higher Education. Surely this cannot be the right approach.

  2. Pingback: Them them eat paint! Education struggles set to continue after vote to raise fees is narrowly passed in Commons | Notts Save Our Services

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s