#GrantsNotDebt

by Tom Robinson – UCLU Welfare and International Officer

Students and our education are under attack like never before. We have already seen the tripling of tuition fees in 2010, a measure that barred many potential students from coming to university. Meanwhile, our education has been steadily marketised, with our institutions run like businesses aiming to generate profit.

Now the government intends to entirely scrap maintenance grants, replacing them with loans. This will mean that students from the poorest backgrounds take on yet more debt in order to access an education – if they even start at university in the first place. We know that many students who relied on maintenance grants in order to make it through their degree simply would not have been able to come if they had been forced to take on thousands of pounds more of debt instead.

Demo 4 Nov

We know that the system was not fit for purpose in the first place. Any system for allowing access to grants which is based on means testing will mean that some students do not receive that they need. It is difficult to legally prove estrangement from your parents, which means that many LGBTQ students who do not receive financial support from ‘phobic parents are unable to claim the amount of grant that they require. We can’t argue that we should keep the current system: we need to demand a radical change, with living maintenance grants for everyone.

We cannot and will not sit quietly as the government destroys the final chance for anyone other than the vastly rich to go to university. All around the country, students are mobilising. Students organised a series of protests and occupations of MPs’ offices in mid-September, demanding that they oppose government plans to scrap maintenance grants.

On October 14, students will be demonstrating at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to demand #GrantsNotDebt, and on November 4, students from all over the UK will converge on central London to march in our thousands to demand free education and living grants for all – no barriers, no borders, and no business.

  • Also don’t miss our UCL activist meeting on Monday evening to find out more about how to get involved on campus! ‘WTF is Going on?: The fight for free education’ – full details here.
  • And, the next meeting of our ‘UCL, Cut the Rent‘ campaign on Wednesday. Details here.
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Jeremy Corbyn: What Next for the Left?

By Omar Raii – UCL Department of Mathematics

In May of this year, the Tories managed to gain an overall majority in the general election and got ready to continue in power for five more years, with plans of implementing even more devastating cuts to public services and an unrelenting austerity agenda.

Imagine if someone had said at the time that a few months later, the Labour party would be led by the vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a man who had voted against the previous Labour government hundreds of times. Imagine if someone had said that this man would have as his Shadow Chancellor someone who described one of his hobbies as “generally fomenting the overthrow of capitalism”. It would probably have sounded somewhat surprising.

But that is of course exactly what has happened.

After over a hundred thousand people joined the Labour Party, as well as many registering as supporters, Jeremy Corbyn, initially quite the outsider with some bookies offering odds of 100-1 for his winning, was elected by a landslide on a mandate to oppose austerity and change the direction that Labour had been going down for many years.

corbyn meeting
Our meeting to discuss the Corbyn phenomenon at UCL a few days ago was absolutely packed.

Corbyn has chosen as his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, someone who has not only had a track record of opposing Tory attacks on working people, but who also has supported student protests in the past. This included visiting student occupations at UCL in 2010 and 2012 to show his solidarity!

There has been a somewhat refreshing renaissance within the Labour Party and in its relation to the government it was always meant to oppose. After a majority of Labour MPs shamefully abstaining on the Tory Welfare Bill, we are now in a position where every single Labour MP voted against the Tories’ ultra-restrictive Trade Union Bill and the party is now
promising to support strikes in future. The new Labour leader’s anti-austerity politics carried over also into education and debt, where he promised to end tuition fees, leading him to be very popular with student voters and being officially supported by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

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Since Corbyn’s elections Labour MPs appear to be more decisive in their opposition to the government’s attack on workers’ rights.

With the current Tory government planning on ending maintenance grants and furthering marketisation of education with the “Teaching Excellence Framework”, this has come as encouraging news.

But this honeymoon period can’t last forever. On September 20, various youth and student groups as well as individual Labour party members that had been supportive of the campaign to get Corbyn elected came together to set up a new organisation, Labour Young Socialists, in order to build on the momentum from the campaign and to further socialist ideas and democracy within Young Labour and Labour Students as well as the wider party.

If you’re a Labour member, get involved with Labour Young Socialists as well as your local Constituency Labour Party and fight for the socialist policies that Labour desperately needs.

What the hell are we doing? Defend Education Autumn 2015

We’ve planned loads of events for you, we know exactly what you wanted and we’ve delivered like never before. Below is a handy guide to your life for the next few weeks:

06/10/15: 17:00 – Jeremy Corbyn: What Next For The Left?

In this year’s first UCL Left Forum meeting, we will try to answer the questions: what does Corbyn’s victory mean and what happens now and how can we make sure that all the people who are excited about left politics stay mobilized and militant? Afterwards, we’ll decamp to the UCLU Labour social!

Where?: Institute of Education Bar S14

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/480458088800891/

07/10/15: 18:00 – Winning the Rent Cut – Open Meeting for the UCL, Cut the Rent Campaign

This meeting will focus on how a rent cut can be won – building on what has been learnt from the campaign last year and the successful action taken by the students protesting in Hawkridge House and Campbell House – and planning exactly the steps that will be taken in order to build an effective campaign from the residents in the halls upwards.

Where?: TBA

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/964826676907267/

08/10/15: 18:00 – Grant Cuts, Rising Fees and a Housing Crisis: UCL Defend Education Launch Meeting with Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

The new Tory government is planning brutal attacks on students and education. They want to take maintenance grants away from the poorest students, hike up repayments on loans we’ve already taken out, and marketise universities while slashing funding for colleges – not to mention dismantling the wider welfare state while a cost of living crisis enforces rip-off rents.
But if we fight back together, we can beat them! UCL Defend Education is part of a movement campaigning to stop these attacks, and to win free, democratic education for everyone. Come along to find out more about activism at UCL, and engage in the debate over education, the priorities of society and what we as students can do about all this.

Speakers:

Clive Bradley, Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners (as featured in the film Pride)
Raquel Palmeira, National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts
Hannah Webb, National Union of Students Exec
Angus O’Brien, UCL Cut the Rent activist & UCLU Halls Officer
Tom Robinson, UCLU Welfare & International Officer

Where?: Kathleen Kenyon Room, Lewis’ Building

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/744561008982297/

09/10/15: 19:00 – Pints and Politics: UCL Lefty Welcome Drinks

If you’re interested in lefty political ideas, crazy things such as reducing inequality, saving the environment and fighting cuts to public services, or if you’re just a bit weirded out by what David Cameron did during his time at university, come for a relaxed evening and a chat about politics and campaigns on and off campus.
No background knowledge is required – we won’t be giving you a test or make you argue with someone over their interpretation of the twenty-fourth page of the Communist Manifesto. Probably best not to come if you’re a Tory, though.
Have a soft or not soft drink and talk about stuff – and don’t worry, we’re nice people.

Where?: Institute of Education Bar

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1472662343041562/

12/10/15: 17:00 – WTF IS GOING ON?: The Fight For Education

This meeting will explain “WTF is going on?”, with help from speakers involved in the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the National Union of Students, and discuss ideas about what we can do to get involved in the fight for education.

Where?: Institute of Education Bar S14

Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/543748365790984/

04/11/15: 13:00 – NATIONAL DEMO: Free Education and Living Grants For All

From scrapping Maintenance Grants, planning to raise tuition fees, slashing support for disabled students and making brutal funding cuts to Adult & Further Education; to keeping thousands of people locked up in detention centres and deporting international students to their deaths: the Conservative Government is attacking us from all sides, and it’s time to fight back.

Where?: Assemble on Malet Place

Event Page: www.facebook.com/events/1449378505377525/

The Provost Missed His Pay-Day Party. Nobody cried.

We had a great time at the protest outside Provost Michael Arthur’s office today. It was a no-show for poor old Provost, however, even though we’d brought him cake!

(…seriously though, we despise the Provost)

Joining this protest against inequality at UCL were members form the UCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign and UCL UCU, who spoke about how cleaners are organising a campaign for better pay and conditions and how the top UCL fat cats are getting rich from cutting university workers’ pensions.

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The protest took place outside the Provost’s Office and Jeremy Bentham’s creepy cabinet.
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We handed out lots of flyers!

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The banner of UCL UNISON, the trade union of the Justice for Cleaners Campaign.
The banner of UCL UNISON, the trade union of the Justice for Cleaners Campaign.

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payday 3

One of the speakers at the protest from UCL UCU.
One of the speakers at the protest from UCL UCU.
Cake to commemorate that Provost earns as much in 19 days as a cleaner earns in a year.
Cake to commemorate that Provost earns as much in 19 days as a cleaner earns in a year.

Ready for Provost’s Pay-Day Party! (Chants and more)

Who’s been a good Provost, then? xD

Tomorrow UCL Provost Michael Arthur will have earned as much in 2015 as an out-sourced cleaner here earns in an entire year, about £16,000. In order to commemorate this momentous achievement we’re organising a party for him and Everybody is invited! Find all the details here.

A banner from the UCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign outside SOAS, where cleaners organised themselves, demanded and won vastly improved wages and conditions. April 2014.
A banner from the UCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign outside SOAS, where cleaners organised themselves, demanded and won vastly improved wages and conditions. April 2014.

There will be party hats and cake for those attend the party! We hope that Mr Arthur will join us so that we can ask him how he sleeps at night and why he thinks the migrant workers who clean his office should earn little more then a living wage and not enjoy the same privileges as himself the other male, white fat cat bosses.

Spend the money on cleaners' wages, no the bosses!
Spend the money on cleaners’ wages, no the bosses!

We should, of course prepare to shout a few chants in case he decides to stay in his office and sulk. Here’s a bit of inspiration:

“Michael Arthur [or Provost, Provost] we’ve got beef!
Pay your staff, don’t be a thief!”

“UCL, shame on you!
Pay your cleaners what they’re due!”

“Michael Arthur, you old toad,
Pay your workers what they’re owed!”

“UCL, hey hey,
Wage gaps are not OK!”

and finally…

“UCL, there’s a solution;
Better income distribution!!”

Tomorrow’s protest will not only be about the unjust pay gaps between cleaners and the 1% of UCL, but also to highlight the gender and racial pay gaps at our university and to demand that workers are given a larger say over how wages are distributed. Read our demands here.

See you tomorrow, Michael Arthur!!

Provost’s Pay-Day – Protesting Inequality at UCL!

On Monday January 19th, UCL Provost Michael Arthur will have earned in 19 day what the lowest paid full-time workers at UCL – outsourced cleaners – earn in a year. Arthur earns almost 20 times as much in a year as the people who clean his office and private kitchen.

We are going to protest this grotesque inequality by holding “a party” (see link) outside the Provost’s office in the Main Wilkins building at UCL at 1pm on Monday. Everybody is invited!

Provost Michael Arthur is one of the wealthiest men on campus. He earns 20 times as much as a cleaner ...wonder who works the hardest?
Fat cat Provost Michael Arthur is one of the wealthiest men on campus. He earns 20 times as much as a cleaner and has his home paid for by the uni …wonder who works the hardest?

At a time when our lecturers’ pensions are under threat, when many of the lowest paid workers are on outsourced contracts that force them into in appalling working conditions with few working rights, it is outrageous that the university can pretend that there’s not enough money for everybody. Michael Arthur alone in senior management gets paid £360,000+ per year

Beyond the Provost, there are 113 members of UCL staff who every year are paid more than 10 times the annual wages of a cleaner. All together they earn a combined £21.5m.

At other campuses across the country, students have also been taking action against unequal pay,

The salaries of  those at UCL who are paid more then 10 times as much as an out-sourced cleaner. 114 out of 11,000 employees, these are literally the people who constitute "the 1%" of UCL!
The salaries of those at UCL who are paid more then 10 times as much as an out-sourced cleaner. 114 out of 11,000 employees, these are literally the people who constitute “the 1%” of UCL!

To counter the growing inequality that is making UCL extremely wealthy at the expense of staff and students our demands are:

1. A 5:1 pay ratio at all universities, colleges and schools, with all in-house and outsourced workers paid at least the Living Wage

2. Action to close the gender and racial pay gaps. Low pay at our university disproportionately affects women and migrant workers

3. Democratic structures which put workers, students and local communities in control of our universities, colleges and schools, including on issues such as pay.

Come along and show the Provost that we won’t stand for this absurd inequality of pay.

Our staff make our education possible, while management pay themselves absurdly high figures to do nothing but wreck it. Pay them decent wages with decent conditions!

Rent Strikes – Past and Future

“When they say ‘rent hike’, we say ‘rent strike’!”

We don’t have to settle for these extortionate rents and terrible living conditions. At UCL halls in Camden, residents with elected reps are organising together and putting pressure on the managers to fulfil their demands. Get in touch with us to join that campaign or for help starting one in another hall.

A banner for the UCL Camden RENTS Campaign
A banner for the UCL Camden RENTS Campaign

Sadly it’s not always enough to ask nicely. UCL managers have an interest in keeping rents high and costs low. Our campaigns have to take action to force improvements.In the past, one powerful tactic has been the rent strike. Residents
collectively agree not to pay rent until an acceptable deal is reached. At Sussex University throughout 70s and 80s student rent strikes reduced rent rises and stopped low quality halls being built. 4 years ago, an Oxford college struck over fire safety.

We hope UCL managers voluntarily improve standards and cut rents. But if we have to fight, we will!

An item on one of the rent strikes at Sussex Uni, from the uni newspaper 'The Bulletin' January 1973.
An item on one of the rent strikes at Sussex Uni, from the uni newspaper ‘The Bulletin’ January 1973.