Education plans under attack

After the success of Oxford’s no confidence vote in David Willetts, a national petition and campaign against the government’s plans for higher education was launched last Friday along with academics and students at Warwick, Oxford, Sheffield and Cambridge.

The petition states: “We the undersigned have no confidence in the Higher Education policies of this Government.” At the time of writing, the petition had 784 signatures from a variety of students and staff at universities all over the country.

The Oxford petition of no confidence was published on the day of David Willetts’ famous U-Turn with regards to the possibility of the rich buying ‘off quota’ university places at higher prices. The no-confidence motion was passed through Oxford’s democratic body on June 7 with 283 votes for and 5 against. Cambridge is currently undertaking a similar process.

Warwick’s own petition opposing David Willetts’ higher education policies has gained considerable attention and support, with around 400 academics signing the online petition, which is currently totalling 1,052 signatures overall.

The government’s White Paper on education is due to be released soon. Campaigners from the group of universities will oppose this in the hope of pausing it. They remain opposed to the direction of the higher education sector including the expansion of private providers, cuts to teaching grants, higher tuition fees, and an overall move towards a US-style university system.

After communication between the universities amongst attempts to spread the petitions further, the universities have together launched a national campaign and have plans to write an alternative White Paper. They hope to gain continuing support at other universities, in particular from academics.

Warwick Students’ Union Education Officer Sean Ruston, who has been engaging in communications, with other universities commented: “We aim to show that students and lecturers are uniting in opposition to the government’s higher education reforms that if carried out would leave a chaotic privatised and two-tiered system that would do nothing to promote access or help the sector compete against its international peers.”

Professor of History Robert Gildea from Oxford University, who proposed the motion of no confidence, described the coalition’s policies as “reckless, incoherent and incompetent.”

He said: “Our aim is to build university-wide support for a petition of no confidence in the higher education policies of the government. After the much-publicised vote in Oxford on June 7 we are hoping that similar moves will take place in other unions ”.

The campaign is encouraging everyone to sign the petition, propose motions of no confidence at their own universities and spread the word. The collaborative petition currently has signatures including academics and students from Cardiff, London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

David Barclay, President of Oxford SU, who addressed the lecturers on behalf of students, said after the vote: “Whatever the pressure from the outside world, we are an institution living by our values. We are the first university to take public leadership in opposition to the government.”


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