Tag Archives: Oxford University

Funding cuts in Oxford next year: The Breakdown

This post is written by Sean Ambler of Workers Power and is taken from the Anti-Cuts Oxford blog, which can be found here: http://oxford.anticuts.com/

Oxford and Oxford Brookes universities face devastating funding cuts to their budgets for the next academic year. Teaching at Oxford will face a 12.16% cut in real terms (9.1% in cash terms), while Brookes will face 3.74% cut in real terms (0.37% in cash terms). This means that there is a shortfall of £8,333,000 for Oxford University teaching funding in real terms which to maintain current standards will have to be found by the university from elsewhere. Brookes’s equivalent figure is £1,141,000. If the universities are unable to find funding for cover this gap the student experience will decrease massively, meaning large class and tutorial sizes, less lectures, and less academic staff time for assisting students individually. For staff this will mean redundancies, pay cuts or freezes (real terms pay cuts) and high workload. For those wanting to enter academia it will mean the possibility of a total or near total hiring freeze by the Universities, meaning many will either join the dole queues or have to switch trades.

The Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE, http://www.hefce.ac.uk) have today released the figures for education funding for academic year 2010-11. Overall the budget has gone up in cash figures slightly by 0.4%, but with inflation running much higher this is actually a severe cut (Consumer Price Index at 3.5% and Retail Price Index at 3.7%, also these are government figures which are known to often underestimate real inflation).

Oxford and Oxford Brookes have both had a slightly higher total funding increase in cash terms than the national average, but this is still a severe cut overall.I will discuss the implications of this later, but first here are the figures and the percentage changes (some worked out by myself using figures from this year compared with the upcoming one).

Oxford University:

Teaching 2010-11: £60,195,000

Teaching 2009-10: £66,211,000

Teaching percent CUT: 9.1% in cash terms (12.16% when you include inflation at 3.5%)

Research 2010-11: £126,036,000

Research 2009-10: £119,434,000

Research percent rise:  5.53% in cash terms (a less impressive 1.96% increase when including inflation at 3.5%)

Total 2010-11: £188,131,000

Total 2009-10: £187,450,000

Total change: 0.36% in cash terms increase, 3% in real terms decrease with inflation at 3.5%

Oxford Brookes University:

Teaching 2010-11: £36,384,000

Teaching 2009-10: £36,520,00

Teaching percent CUT: 0.37% in cash terms (3.74% when you include inflation at 3.5%)

Research 2010-11: £4,273,000

Research 2009-10: £4,290,000

Research percent cut:  0.4% in cash terms (3.76% cut when including inflation at 3.5%)

Total 2010-11: £42,556,000

Total 2009-10: £42,516,000

Total change: 0.1% increase in cash terms however this is a  3.29% in real terms cut with inflation at 3.5%

The totals include research and teaching funding, but also other types therefore do not match up. See HEFCE website for more complete figures, although calculations will be required to figure out changes between years.

Conclusions

While surprisingly there has been research increases at Oxford University, the overwhelming trend here is negative and especially on the core teaching which is what students get from universities. The move towards research shows the government see universities as having the role of providing research for business rather than teaching for students.

Students and staff at both universities need to organise to resist these cuts. At both universities it will be possible even without the government altering these figures (which we should also demand) for cuts to be stopped. This also doesn’t require the cap of fees to be lifted as the Oxford Uni administration is pushing for as the money is already there, just misspent. The number of senior managers at both institutions with wages above £100,000 is ridiculous – we’re writing a post on this which will appear soon. If all management that earns these ridiculous sums had a pay cut to £100,000 or better yet £50,000 then it is clear these funding cuts would not be necessary.

These figures mask something however – other sources of funding. Oxford has millionaire and billionaire alumni who donate vast sums to the university, and it’s investments provide large dividends. It can weather the storm if it chooses to. Our job is to make sure it does! But for Brookes the situation is different and while cuts are by no means necessary or inevitable it is less able to weather the storm using other sources of income. We therefore demand that as a matter of emergency the government increase funding to Brookes to prevent the social catastrophe that cuts might cause to the staff and students at the university.

Both universities are likely to attempt to use these funding cuts to reduce staff pay, and Brookes is likely to make cuts (Oxford uni clearly prefers arguing for higher fees while attempting to maintain staffing levels – although may well cut too). The reason for the governments cuts is ultimately the debt they gained by bailing out the bankers. The question therefore is: Who will pay for the crisis? Our answer has to be: Those who caused it, not us! Profitable banks should be nationalised without compensation to pay for those that were bailed out. There should be ban on bonuses to bankers and a strict pay limit including mass reductions for those earning six-figure and higher salaries. Higher tax bands should be increased. This will provide the necessary funds to reduce state debt while still paying for all our current public services including education, without having to raise the cap on tutition fees (which could also be abolished).

Our task is to ensure this happens. Our fight is first with the university management but also with the government – victories on a local level can force the government to raise funding nationally. When cuts are announced we will argue for UCU and UNISON to ballot for strike action and for students to support them. If the universities cut we will raise the question – who decided this? Where is the democracy when unelected management has control over our education? We will take all necessary action, inspired by campaigns at other universities such as Sussex, to prevent cuts and fees and to democratize our universities. In Oxford this means demanding mass congregations open to all staff and students.

We can win! Leeds UCU strike has won the concession of no compulsary redundancies already before the HEFCE figures were even announced! Join the campaign: OCCUPY! STRIKE! RESIST!

All views expressed in this post are by the author and not necessarily the position of the campaign.

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Men’s societies in universities and colleges have nothing to do with promoting equality

Macho revanchism hides an ugly face, argues Chris Strafford

Over the last few years there has been a growing trend of reactionary moves against women’s representation and the women’s movement, and this has been reflected in universities and colleges.

A common argument now being put forward by everyone from the far right to a gaggle of peculiar libertarians is: ‘Women have their own groups and student societies, so men should have them too’. This has resulted in the abolition, merging or downgrading of women’s officers posts in student unions, to the extent that only eight universities now have a full-time women’s officer in student unions that are largely dominated by men. Over the last few weeks ‘Man Collective’ (Oxford) and ‘The Men’s Society’ (Manchester) have been accepted as recognised student societies, resulting in national media coverage. Rightwing commentators have dubbed this ‘men’s liberation’, a supposed reaction to ‘positive discrimination’.

These developments must be seen within the wider context of a growing macho revanchism and the recent attacks on women, such as through the Welfare Reform Bill, which essentially seeks to impoverish single mothers, new measures against sex workers, the continuing inequality in pay and life opportunities, not to mention the increasing trend to blame women for provoking sexual violence and rape, resulting in a low rate of convictions.

What some are saying is that it is men who are now oppressed – not because of class, ethnicity, sexuality or disability, but because the women’s movement has ‘gone too far’ and now it is not misogyny, but misandry (discrimination against men), that is the problem. To back up this assertion a variety of different ‘facts’ are employed – male underachievement in education, higher rates of suicide, poor investment in male-only cancers …

But these phenomena are produced by class oppression, not misandry. Schooling for the working class is still centred on creating a significant number of semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Most of my school friends never went to university and ended up working in shops, as labourers, on apprenticeships or spent months at a time on the dole. Suicides are undoubtedly higher amongst the working class – unemployment, poverty, alienation and the constant stresses of capitalist society drive individuals to despair. It is also obvious that workers with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses are less likely to survive than the rich. The NHS ‘postcode lottery’ is not actually random – life expectancy for men in working class areas of Glasgow is 28 years lower than those living in the lush suburbs.

Another common argument used by supporters of the ‘male backlash’ is that men need to discuss masculinity and to build a ‘positive male identity’. even supposed communists like George Waterhouse of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain has been defending these groups, writing on Facebook: “The main aim of the men’s society is to counteract what we refer to as ‘the fall of man’. Too long have we listened to that serpent and munched upon his proverbial apples.”1

In the abstract there is little problem with men discussing masculinity. Indeed there have been men’s caucuses doing that in order to aid the movement for women’s liberation in parallel with ‘women’s only’ meetings. In other words, male debate may be useful and play a positive role in strengthening the women’s movement. However, the new groups have been formed on a rather different basis.

To understand what they are about and where they are going we need to know who is behind them. In Manchester we have been very successful in exposing them. For example, the founder of the new society is Ben Wild, a rightwing evangelical Christian. Whilst well spoken and polite, Ben thinks that ‘straight pride’ might be a good slogan for a men’s society. Two of the Manchester committee belong to Conservative Future, the Tory Party’s student organisation. Unsurprisingly it is Conservative students who have been at the forefront of attacks on women’s officers posts.

But the Manchester committee also boasts a couple of individuals with links to the Orange Order, who have been quite happy to show their support for Ulster unionist extremists. After pointing this out we were threatened with libel action and violence, and the membership of such Facebook groups seems to have ended. The committee also includes a UK Independence Party supporter, who is notorious for choosing Goebbels as a favourite historical character!

All this may look like name-calling and silly student politics, but it is obvious that this group represents a coalescing of rightwing forces determined to undermine gains women have made over the last few decades. Their opponents have been labelled “feminist Nazi dykes”, “lesbians” and that age-old favourite of rightwing idiots everywhere: “men-hating feminists”.

In response to these moves students across the country have begun mobilising to counter the influence of men’s groups. At Goldsmiths University a move to accept the ‘Gentleman’s Club’ was defeated by a meeting of students. In Manchester supporters of Communist Students, the Socialist Worker Student Society, the Commune and the Anarchist Federation have met to discuss a plan of action for the new term. We are intent on winning the argument on campus. Those of us based in Manchester are looking to link up with other groups in order to present a united response to these attacks.

Notes

  1. th-th.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=75303762887&topic=8079

Freshers report

Many students are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system, write Ted North and Dave Isaacson

Communist Students stall

Communist Students stall

Members of Communist Students held a stall outside Oxford University freshers fairs on October 7 and 8.

It was easy to predict the reactions of some of the scions of the traditional upper classes. Yet a few sniggers and bemused looks aside, there were no particularly sharp arguments coming from those that see communism as their worst nightmare. One piped up with “What crisis?” as he scurried on by, not waiting for an answer. But most people were not so stupid as that.

We gave out a large number of Communist Student and material from Hands Off the People of Iran. In all, just over 50 signed our contact sheet. There were perhaps, relative to other universities, somewhat fewer students with some background or prior knowledge of far-left politics. If anyone did display an acquaintance with the left groups, it came in the form of questions like “You’re not anything to do with the SWP, are you?”

Comrades from the Socialist Workers Party were present on the first day, along with Workers Fight and a comrade from the Enverist Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), who was leafleting for a meeting on “democratic renewal”. On the second day, the Socialist Party and the Spartacists were also in town. The point we often repeat – that if the ostensibly Marxist left was joined in a single organisation its strength would be far greater than the sum of its parts – was well demonstrated. Students who are sympathetic to the aims of socialism would have been less confused and more likely to commit themselves if there had been a single Marxist organisation present. And we would be taken a lot more seriously by our enemies too.

The standard economistic ‘Fight for jobs’ type leaflets were being handed out by the SP, one of whom became a touch aggressive when a CS comrade insisted that a workers’ militia is a basic democratic demand and not lunatic posturing. Most of the SPers were friendly enough, though – unlike the comrades of the SWP, who refused even to make eye contact.

Many who spoke to us are completely inexperienced politically, but are beginning to question the system (as are young people in general). We expect a good turnout to our upcoming introductory meeting at Judges room, Oxford Town Hall on Thursday October 27 starting at 7.30pm. We have Mike Macnair, leading CPGB member and author of Revolutionary strategy, speaking on the capitalist crisis and the communist alternative. There will, of course, be plenty of time for discussion. Indeed, as we have repeatedly stressed, open debate and democracy are not just good ideas: they are in fact crucial in building both the Communist Party and the wider working class movement. And for us this is about now, not at some hypothetical date in the future.

Unfortunately the first left meeting our Oxford comrades planned to attend – a Stop the War Coalition rally featuring Jeremy Corbyn MP and Tariq Ali on October 12 – was cancelled at the last minute. But we will continue trying to engage with the left as it is currently constituted, as well as building our own organisation and carrying out educational and agitational activities. We will be launching a study group reading David Harvey’s book on Marxist economics – Limits to capital – to begin on Saturday October 31. And before that we are encouraging as many people as possible to attend the Stop the War Coalition demonstration in London on October 24. We are also planning, alongside other comrades, to get a Hopi branch established in Oxford.

csbanner-300x225Many would not consider what is, on the one hand, a traditional bastion in ensuring the continuity of British capitalism, as fertile ground for communist growth. But on the other hand, Oxford University also attracts many sincere and bright young people who, looking at global poverty, ecological crisis and capitalist greed, want to radically transform things. Our challenge is to equip them with politics, theory and organisation.

Communist Students at freshers fairs

Communist Students have been winning supporters at freshers fairs across the country. On October 7th, 8th, and 9th we will be holding stalls at Oxford University. Chris Brandler reports on our activities in Manchester

communist students stallManchester Communist Students have gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months. At this year’s freshers fair we recruited three times as many students than the previous year, with nearly 170 signing up to the society.

For three days comrades staffed stalls inside and outside the University of Manchester Students Union, handing out thousands of leaflets, as well as the new edition of Communist Student, and selling the Weekly Worker and other leftwing papers, including The Commune. As well as getting through a mountain of literature comrades spent hours discussing and debating with freshers on topics ranging from ecology and the English Defence League to sexual liberation and the legalisation of drugs.

We were situated next to the recently established ‘Men’s Society’ and saw first hand the true nature of this new formation – members of Conservative Future staffed the stall and its members were calling for the abolition of the students union women’s officer position. The CS Manchester secretary has written for the women’s magazine The Riveter polemicising against the society and we will also be laying out our opposition to this misogynist club in the paper Student Direct. CS comrades will be standing shoulder to shoulder with women’s rights activists against any attacks on the women’s movement and the gains it has made over the last few decades.

Many freshers wondered why the left was so varied and fractured – there were stalls from the Socialist Worker Student Society, Socialist Students and the very dull and ultra-sectarian International Students for Social Equality, which is the student front of David North’s post-Healyite International Committee of the Fourth International. Alongside the organisations of the left, many campaigns were also present and out in force, including Action Palestine, which led the month-long occupation at the University of Manchester at the beginning of the year, Stop the War Coalition and Unite Against Fascism.

Manchester CS was the only left group to hold a meeting on campus during freshers week. We invited Mark Fischer from the CPGB to speak on Karl Marx, his ideas and the relevance of Marxism today. In a varied discussion we managed to get to grips with Karl Marx and ecology, the Spanish civil war and how to avoid another catastrophe like the Soviet Union. A member of the Socialist Workers Party was forced to admit that he secretly is a communist, but that we should not tell those outside the movement – after all, communism is associated with Stalinism, isn’t it?

In the next few months Manchester CS will be inviting speakers from different organisations, including Israeli socialist Moshé Machover, who will speak on November 4.

CS comrades also helped other supporters of the Hands Off the People of Iran, taking shifts on the Hopi stall and signing students up to the Hopi Society. Hopi showed Marjane Satrapi’s wonderful film Persepolis during freshers week, which drew over 40 people.

Peter Grant from the train drivers’ union, Aslef, and Ste Monaghan from the Anarchist Federation spoke of the importance of Hopi’s work in view of the current situation in Iran. The brief discussion we managed to have ranged from whether it is right to support the Iranian ‘reformists’ against the conservatives as the lesser evil to the massacres of the 80s in Iran.

Manchester CS is now looking to the future and has set out an ambitious timetable for study and action. We will be reading  Gramsci’s Prison notebooks over October, culminating in a public presentation and discussion. To facilitate this comrades have devised study packs and guides for all those interested. In November we have a French series, which will be kicked off with a study of Karl Marx’s The civil war in France, followed by a look at ‘The French Resistance and the Communist Party’ and the ‘Lessons of 1968’, and finishing off with a discussion on the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) led off by Tina Purcell. Comrade Purcell was at the NPA’s founding congress and reported on it for Permanent Revolution.

We have stalls planned over the coming term and will be helping other anti-war activists on campus get as many students down to the October 24 demonstration to end the occupation of Afghanistan.

We still have a long way to go in fleshing out our organisation, but we are firmly rooted on campus and have a new generation of young Marxist organisers preparing to study and educate, agitate for our politics and organise struggles on campus and beyond.