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University Struggles Update

Educate! Agitate! Organize! | 19.12.2009 11:45 | Education | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

The struggle to save jobs and the quality of education continues at the University of Birmingham.

As reported a couple of weeks ago - - the University of Birmingham is undergoing significant restructuring at present. The decision to close the Sociology Department prompted a wave of student and staff protests against a senior management that has been labelled by staff “out of control” and “a threat to academic integrity and the reputation of the University”. This is in the context of a wider restructuring programme that threatens to axe 200 jobs. Whilst the University brands their restructuring “Sustainable Excellence”, the recognized unions on campus are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of consultation. Without any input from the University workforce, the senior managers hope their plans to sack employees will somehow raise the University’s performance! UCU, the lecturer’s union, have re-branded the document, “Unsustainable Arrogance”.

In response to the Sociology Department’s planned closure, the students staged a second round of protests on 26 November that followed the first round previously reported. These were again well-attended. 200 students and staff marched through the University campus, past the banquet hall where the University Council members were due to enjoy the meal provided for them prior to deciding the fate of the Department. The march was a loud and highly visible event, and the University’s vice-chancellor (i.e. chief executive) had to pass the angry crowd on his way to the meeting.

Nevertheless, despite all the protests, the University Council, made up largely of over-paid University managers (Birmingham’s vice-chancellor is paid around £250,000) and local fat-cat bosses, chose to continue with plans to close the department. The protests did manage to win a small concession that consultation between now and April (when the very final decision to close the department will be made) will be more transparent and open – but it’s the same scheming and manipulative managers who will be ensuring this transparency is in place! Staff and student protests have quietened for the time-being, with much attention being paid to the new phase of consultation – but in April, if as many suspect, the consultation turns out to be yet another sham, the protests are likely resume.
In the meantime, the wider fight facing staff and students at the University are the planned 200 job cuts. The recognized unions on campus are obviously doing all they can to negotiate to minimize the impact of these cuts on employees. At the same time, the IWW’s University group on campus is working to mobilize resistance and to move towards a fighting presence on campus, opposing the University management, and pointing to a more radical form of industrial organizing than that preferred by the mainstream unions.

Further details:
Save Birmingham Sociology facebook group

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