Latest: The “Academic Board” has recommended that the Politics and International Relations courses be closed. Steve West will be making the final decision no later than 1st March…
Students and staff at the University of the West of England in Bristol have been met with unwelcome news from the Vice Chancellor’s office that management are considering a proposal to scrap the university’s entire Politics and International Relations department. Students campaigning against this absurd proposal released the following statement:
“As students of the University of the West of England Bristol, we reject the Vice-Chancellors posturing to cut politics and international relations at UWE. We recognise that these courses received 92% and 90% student satisfaction in the recent national student survey, they maintain a good level of recruitment, also 90% of politics and IR graduates go onto employment within six months of graduating.
As such we call for the Vice chancellor to withdraw this proposal and continue to support Politics and International relations at UWE. Cuts such as these would damage the services students receive at this educational institution.
We feel that these proposals would serve only to damage the academic integrity of the university and the community in general.
As students we will seek to work closely with our lecturers and support staff.”
It is telling that despite the department’s high ratings in student surveys, its higher than average intake, its balanced finances, and the fact that 90% of its graduates go onto employment within six months – a trait becoming increasingly rare in Britain – management is still posturing to cut it completely, after already making cuts to staff over the last couple of years. Vice Chancellor Steve West has framed the proposal as a consequence of an inability to compete with other universities in the region, but this is quite clearly nonsense as the above statistics show; the department is healthy. The university is perfectly capable of “competing”, it is simply choosing not to. (although whether universities should have to compete at all is an open question)
The UWE Vice Chancellor doesn’t care if humanities departments are thriving – social sciences, the arts and humanities don’t fit into his vision for UWE in the first place. This is a vision of a two-tiered higher education system in the UK, a system that many during the protests at the end of 2010 warned would occur if fee rises went ahead. This is a system that would make subjects like politics and international relations, as well as others like history and philosophy (surely next on management’s hit-list) the preserve of the rich, accessible only to students of the elite Russell Group of universities. This is indeed a consequence of the ‘marketisation’ of the university education system – which the Vice Chancellor unconvincingly laments – but not, at least for Mr. West, an “unfortunate” consequence. This policy is deliberately designed to place UWE at the top of the bottom tier, positioning the uni in the lead in the race to commercialise and privatise British universities.
UWE management’s priority is not critical subjects like politics and international relations, but vocational and training orientated subjects, and intensifying the training and disciplinary aspects of whatever courses remain once it is through with its “portfolio review”. This growing emphasis on what is essentially job-training in an emerging bottom tier of universities, reflects a crisis in the UK labour market with its ever rising unemployment rates. What universities like UWE are trying to do is capitalise on this crisis by intensifying their output of graduates suitable for an increasingly demanding job market. In this job market workers are squeezed more and more, just as students are being squeezed by being forced to pay more for degrees that are worth less. It is for this reason that UWE is so concerned with its “student experience” – the brand of the product it sells to students – as opposed to the actual quality of the education it offers. The actual quality of education is, of course, ever diminishing.
This is education for the sake of the market. This is what fuels such anger in a student body that sees education as being valuable in and of itself. It is clear that Steve West, who has stated that he will make a final decision on the fate of Politics and International Relations no later than March 1st, has no interest in education for the sake of education. The department, and other departments likely to be under threat in the future, can only be saved by students and staff mobilising to defend it, by making any other decision untenable and by bringing the university to a standstill if the management attempt to go ahead with their “strategic plan.”
A general assembly has been called for Monday for those who wish to get involved in the campaign ( http://www.facebook.com/events/480612638654881/ ). Please also sign the petition, which has already received several hundred signatures: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/defend-politics-and-international-relations-at-uwe/
You can also send messages of solidarity and photos of yourself holding this sign ( http://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/842944_10151297639081194_163534762_o.jpg ) to the campaign’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DefendPoliticsAndInternationalRelationsAtUWE
Video – ‘Nuclear Steve’ on why he wants to ‘nuke’ politics and international relations: