Last week, I was invited by the University of Leicester Students’ Union to speak on a panel debate alongside Aaron Porter; former NUS National President, Eben Marks; Amnesty UK and Kirsty Minnis to talk about activism – after hearty exchanges on what activism means to us and how the student landscape has changed, there was a heated debate on if protest is ever futile with at least half the panel making references to the November 9th Demonstration called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the NUS/UCU National Demo to support activists.
My position on this is clear; we shouldn’t be spending hundreds of pounds of anyone’s money on coaches until there is a political opportunity to influence – i.e. the national demo organised by NUS and UCU was called to influence Parliament on the increase of tuition fees. Student Unions across the UK, including ours forked out a lot of resources, not just on the logistics but also promoting the event and getting the numbers we needed. It took up a lot of sabb timeout of priority campaigns but I believe it was the right thing to do at that time. The same amount of resources cannot be justified for this demonstration.
Yesterday, I put forward a motion “Students as Partners, Not Consumers: Campaign Action” (click to read the whole thing) asking that Swansea University Students’ Union politically support the NCAFC demo, the national lobby of Parliament by education trade unions over pensions and the industrial action called for the 30th. The motion passed overwhelmingly.
I do believe that the national demo galvanised HE issues for an entire generation, but I think we can do more for our students in Swansea locally. It is crucial now, more than ever to win the hearts and minds of our peers and make the arguments against the chaotic white paper before the bill is presented.
Therefore, on November the 9th, instead of organising busses to London, we will hold a local rally to make clear to University management that students in Swansea do not want the consumer relationship. Instead, we want to be partners in education. We want the rhetoric on ‘putting students at the heart of decision making’ to mean something and actually work to improve the academic student experience.
Rhiannon Hedge, our education officer who seconded my motion made the analogy of buying a chocolate bar – once you’ve bought it, if you don’t like it; it’s too late to change it. All you can do at this point is complain. If students are partners then they actively shape the delivery of the education we want. This is far more efficient than getting a service you don’t want and then wasting more time complaining about it.
I look forward to seeing you at the rally on November the 9th. A month away, expect to hear more about this very soon. This won’t just end with a rally – it will be a sustained student-led campaign throughout the year.