There will be updates on http://uloccupation.wordpress.com shortly!
Minutes from The Linc
The event, “University Question Time”, will start at 5pm at the LPAC and is open to all staff and students, however student cards are required for entry.
Also on the panel will be Chris Charnley, president of Lincoln SU, Richard Keeble, acting head of the Lincoln School of Journalism, as well as Jack Dobson, a member of University of Lincoln Occupation. Roger Buttery, university board member and SU trustee, will be chairing the discussion.
The meeting is a result of the student occupation at the university in December, in protest against the rise in tuition fees. The group spent 219 hours in the beanbag room in the Main Admin Building and finished following a meeting with Stuart.
Roger Buttery is setting up the format of the night, and introducing Mary Stuart, vice-chancellor, Richard Keeble, from the Lincoln School of Journalism, Chris Charnley from Lincoln SU and Jack Dobson from Lincoln Occupation.
Chris Charnley is starting. He says it’s clear what the SU’s view is – as they had over 400 people take part in their campaign. Talking about the importance of fighting against vicious cuts to the education sector – with other trade unions. “But we should also see this as an opportunity to bring people together”.
Richard Keeble has started his 5 minute speech – and is focussing on politics. How money is being spent on things like the military, and it’s important we take action now. He says that the state is very politicised – but professionals are told to remain unpoliticised and asks “why is that?”.
He stresses that everything in education has to be critical – “it’s not enough to say we engage in discussions with friends and colleagues etc … we must take a more political approach.”
“We must see ourselves as part of the community,” and says we must move outside the university. Work with charities, NGOs. The war is on the streets!
“At the heart of this is an attack on students.”
Jack Dobson’s turn now. He was part of the group that occupied the Learning Landscapes room back in December. Mary Stuart jokes “not stupid there, you had beanbags”. It’s the occupation that caused this event.
He points out that Hull is facing closure – and asks what is happening here? He points out that Lincoln was mentioned in a UCU report as being at risk.
Discusses the high cost of fees – the risks on students, and on lecturers.
“Some say the fight was over when the legislation on tuition fees passed. It’s not.” He wants a university forum to be formed to fight more – and states the importance of making the universities fight back.
Unity is mentioned again – it’s “time for a unified University of Lincoln campaign to fight back”.
Mary Stuart is here to talk on what she calls “the facts”.
Stresses that cuts have already happened. The budget last summer in June 2010 – reduction of £82 million in HE spending. On top of £320 million cuts from the previous gov, up until April 2010. “There have been cuts already, that’s really important to understand.”
Moves on to the Browne Report on HE that suggested a higher cap. But says “the most significant thing of all that happened” was before that, and that there were no protests – “The comprehensive spending review was when the universities lost their money.” The increase in fees is to combat the cuts already announced.
“We will lose £26 million” out of the teaching budget by 2015. But says that some humanities subjects will get funding – but not all.
First question. “In light of the increase in graduate contribution … how can Lincoln still attract students from a disadvantaged background?”
Mary Stuart says that we don’t know the exact regulation that will be put upon us. “It’s important to remember that people whose family income is less than £25,000 a year (1/3rd of students in Lincoln) are entitled to a national scholarship that will be matched by the university.”
“Widening participation for Lincoln is not an add on, like at Oxford or Cambridge”. Says they will find ways.
Jack Dobson says EMA is a big problem – and suggests the university gives some scholarships in replacement. Dobson points out how important it was to him personally.
James Mullet asks “what will the management do to justify increasing fees to students when it is likely that quality will decline?”
Mary Stuart says the hike can not be justified, but that education must be worth costs -says how her own life improved and salaries increased as she had a degree. “It’s a private good but it’s also a public good”
“We will not undermine the student experience”, she says, and says “there’s no evidence to say that [increasing fees] would” decrease the quality.
Richard Keeble says that “it’s going to be difficult to maintain educational standards”. “It’s difficult failing students already, but if someone has a debt of £41,000 by the end of three years – and you say you got 37% instead of 40%, so your degree is worthless – it’s going to be incredibly difficult to maintain standards. We’re moving in to uncharted territory.”
Chris Charnley says that “we should look at this as an opportunity to drive this forward”, noting that students will demand higher quality because of the higher costs.
Question from Alex Jones. She says “there are also significant cuts to FE funding as well as HE funding”, and how the university feels this will affect their further education (college) provisions.
Mary Stuart says: “There is a real issue about a new world in higher education. But in some ways I am more upset about further education. It cuts people off at the knees, people are unable to do in to higher education”.
The change in the provisions means that it will go from FE funding just breaking even to possibly HE funding subsidising it – but admits they don’t know what exactly they’re doing, as they don’t particularly want to tell people with more debt they are subsidising others. Mentions possibility of partnerships.
Other panelists have expressed agreement with importance of further education.
Jonathan Holmes, liberation officer for Lincoln SU, asks if they forsee Riseholme may have to close. Stuart says: “Yes, it is a possibility. Am I doing my damnest to make sure it doesn’t happen? Yes.”
Stuart says they are still working in to sums so cannot say exactly what they’re doing, but stresses importance of it.
Question: “Is the degree of the future simply to be seen as an instrument for a job?”
Richard Keeble says that “it already is” – saying higher education has had to legitimise themselves and “think in terms of jobs, rather than education from education’s sake” – and points out this came in when the job market was falling. He says that industry should be considered in courses but not driven just for it. He brings up “academic autonomy, we should not be working for anybody.”
Chris Charnley says he agrees on many points – and points out the importance of the life preparation, so people “better themselves”. “A degree doesn’t offer you that,” but says at Lincoln they don’t just do that and also give life skills.
Jack Dobson thinks that what he believes the point of university is has been lost. “It’s important that we don’t adhere to this idea that degrees are only for getting a job”, particularly as we’re seeing a huge reduction of jobs.
On the same question, Mary Stuart says: “it’s something we’ve been fighting for a while, and this intensifies that fight.”
“Maybe I’m just an idealist, but I’m so excited about the program we’re taking forward with Student as Producer – as it turns on its head the student as consumer”.
Student as Producer is the University of Lincoln’s strategy to involve students more in production and research that is being introduced.
Discussion regarding the message being seen by potential students as seen in the media.
Chris Charnley says that a lot of the information hasn’t got through to new students, such as the importance of education, “we need to get above the media’s message” – “public good and public money has a real benefit. This Institution has revolutionised this city.”
There are numerous references to a campaign that Mary Stuart will mention fully at the end to promote the good of education.
Next question. “How the increase in undergraduate fees should influence the fees we choose for postgraduate and research programmes?”
Mary Stuart says it’d be sad after riddling people with debt to then put them off by charging even more for postgraduate study. “We’re going to have to think about how we support students to do postgraduate study, but we haven’t got there yet.”
“We haven’t had this discussion in the university yet.”
“It’s particularly our own graduates, how can we support them and what can we do to help?”
Question to Chris Charnley on a leaked document from the NUS – suggesting that unions should not campaign against fee rises now, rather discuss internally with their universities.
“I hadn’t seen that document, and if I had it’d gone straight in to my delete box. It’s an inappropriate conduct and it’s something that Lincoln Students’ Union does not support.”
Stresses they are fighting for the lowest fees and the best student experience – and that he will hold any NUS representatives that say it to account at the national conference.
Jack Dobson agrees, saying that the fight is not over – not just fees but the education cuts. “The NUS may have given up now but I hope that we haven’t.”
Next question is on how Lincoln is kept distinct from private institutions.
Chris Charnley says: “The stuff we get in Lincoln is the relationships” – the tutors, catering, the management – stresses how communication with students is key. “Student as Producer is a key USP for Lincoln.”
Agreeing on the subject, Richard Keeble adds: “We had a management meeting last week, and we discussed what made Lincoln distinct. I felt quite strongly is that how we have integrated students in to what we do is very exciting, very proper and quite unique.”
Keeble praises the NUS and SU, and how they are integrated in to top level meetings.
We now move on to Mary Stuart’s main presentation.
“It does feel like there’s an atmosphere in the room that there’s interest in this, and I’m feeling very energised and incredibly proud of all of us.”
“Over the last few weeks I have been increasingly feeling uncomfortable about VCs and Universities who have been rubbing their hands in glee about higher fees,” and says many colleagues feel this too – including VC of University of Salford.
“We are starting to feel really uncomfortable with people saying they represent all vice-chancellors. They don’t.”
Says they are going to have a campaign where they do what universities do well “like this, a debate, seminars – about what higher education gives people in society as a whole.”
Stuart continues listing the importances of universities, health benefits, the live benefits, the knowledge – graduates are less likely to be victims of accidents and abuse, less likely to be obese, less likely to smoke.
“David Cameron’s talking about the big society – graduates are the ones who are out there in society!”
It’s a very passionate speech from her – saying “people don’t know about these things.”
“Back in 2003, someone said why should plumbers pay for middle class kids to go to university. We need to talk about all those things university does.”
Says they want to get a group of people – group of universities, students, lecturers – “to make sure the media, who currently have a polarised view of people who through fire extinguishers at the ground”.
“I want to know if you’re up for that, because if you are, I’ll talk to other vice-chancellors and we will get this campaign going.”
“We’re clever people. Let’s be clever.”
Mary Stuart finishes her speech to applause. “Let’s rewin the argument for the state paying for teaching. That’s the big argument we’ve lost. Are you with me?”
The panellists show their agreement. Jack Dobson notes the “strength with unity.” Chris Charnley says: “it’s hard to follow that! Just tell me where to sign”.
Richard Keeble notes the influence of the media – and says universities should be pushing students to criticise everything.
The debate comes to a close as Roger Buttery thanks everyone for coming.