Lectures to bring fees to foreground

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An autonomous group of postgraduate students and teaching assistants will be running a series of lectures during the Michaelmas and Lent terms aimed to provide a greater debate on the issue of government cuts to higher education.

The subject of the lectures is ‘The University in Crisis?’, and will call upon the verdicts from top academics on the financial issues that face Lancaster University. The recent government cuts on education will be on the lectures’ main agenda, a policy which has resulted in the recent closures of certain university departments around the UK. Chris Witter, the creator of The University in Crisis? Facebook page, mentions closures such as the Middlesex University Philosophy Department as the demonstration of a “‘business-like’ mentality over intellectual judgement and integrity… discontinued for undisclosed ‘financial’ reasons.”

Unlike the student protests of November last year led by LUSU President Michael Payne – which opposed the proposal of a great increase of tuition fees – the movement isn’t organised by any official student body.

Witter has outlined that “the reason we’re running the lectures is to provoke greater debate on campus about the problems faced by Higher Education at the moment, and to begin to work towards answering the question: what is to be done?”

More specific issues which the lectures will address include those of students paying more for less; increasing pressure on staff for teaching, research and administrative duties; and greater responsibilities faced by postgraduate teaching assistants who, as Witter wrote in his SCAN comment article, remain “grossly unpaid” and “unlikely to find full-time lectureships”.

“Meanwhile, students find themselves attacked from above as the weakest link in the chain: while the little education they receive becomes steadily more meagre and increasingly worthless, their Vice-Chancellor is everyday courting the Government and media with speeches suggesting that tuition fees of more than £7,000 a year are acceptable,” continued Witter.

He further outlines the group’s goal through the upcoming lectures as a way “to make links between the problems of Lancaster students and staff and the problems encountered by other students and academics nationally and internationally. Messages of solidarity, links, advice, communication, collaboration, invites and debate are more than welcome.”

Bob Jessop, Maurine McNeil and Laurence Hemming are among the confirmed speakers. The lectures will continue with group discussions, an opportunity for students to express their views on the current fiscal/educational struggle which they find themselves at the forefront of.

With additional meetings being held, along with further SCAN comment pieces, ‘The University in Crisis?’ is a movement that offers participation in a number of mediums, as well as focusing on a dilemma which will permeate students’ lives even after their university graduation.

Anyone who is interested in keeping updated on ‘The University in Crisis?’ can do so on the movement’s Facebook group.

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