We express our solidarity with students at Warwick University who have just released a statement confirming that they have occupied the Council Chamber in protest of the marketization of the public university. An excerpt from the statement is below; the statement can be read in full here. They can be contacted at PPUWarwick on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While fees climb to £9,000 a year, bursaries are either cancelled or transferred to ‘fee waivers’; meanwhile, in universities like Warwick, maintenance costs are driven up by the construction of ever-more expensive accommodation. The vast post-university debt (£43,500) now facing less privileged students whose families cannot afford to pay up-front makes university education seem both risky and undesirable for many. This process is changing the perception of higher education from a public good to a private investment, from a communal right to an individual privilege, accessible only by the few, as demonstrated by falling applications from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The widening gap in pay between senior managers and frontline staff, and the debt forced on students, means that the university now reproduces social inequalities rather than contesting them. This undermines the university’s democratic function as a space in which free thought, debate and critical inquiry is fostered in order to give people the tools to challenge social hierarchies and play an active role in the public sphere.
Our opposition to the rising salary of the Vice-Chancellor speaks to a deeper opposition to the continuing marketization and privatization of higher education. The problems at Warwick University are problems for the entire university system under market logic. The management of this university is failing to make the case for the protection and promotion of the public university, so we must do it. The government’s radical restructuring of higher education has crept up on us, and we must act now if we are to resist – before it’s too late.
***TEACH-IN UPDATE: Tuesday June 18th at 16:45 there will be a teach-in held outside Senate House at Warwick University to discuss the future of higher education. Speakers include 2 co-founders of the Campaign for the Public University. More details here.***