By Claudia Howick
For students across the country, the final weeks running up to Easter are a case of cramming in last-minute revision, stressing over deadlines and frantically catching up on missed work. At this crucial point, our teachers abandoning the classrooms and striking could not have come at a worse time. HOWEVER, we shouldn’t direct our blame and frustration at the lecturers. Here’s why:
The fault lies with the system, NOT with the lecturers
While it may feel as though students are being used as a mere bargaining chip in the ongoing discussions about pay rises and pensions, this isn’t the lecturers’ responsibility, but those with the power to enforce drastic, actual change.
At a time when tuition fees are continuing to rise excessively, the debate surrounding whether universities are still an institution of learning or just capital-producing businesses is a hot topic.
On one hand, the price we pay to attend university is evident in our state-of-the-art facilities, with constant refurbishments being made to improve our learning (well, at my uni anyway).
The irony, however, is that the actual SOURCE of our education – the fountain of our knowledge – is the one thing that our money isn’t being used to fund: our lecturers.
In the last ten years, university teaching staff have seen a decrease in their wage by 16%, while administrators and Vice Chancellors revel in a continuously increasing salary.
Most students value the incredible teaching provided by lecturers above any new addition to the library, campus coffeehouse or extra seating in the student bar – and that’s why we shouldn’t take their exploitation lightly.
It affects all of us
Just like we’re all part of the Students’ Union, lecturers are all part of the Teaching Unions. If tuition fees were to escalate even more, we would take to the streets to protest, write angered letters to our government and local councils and exercise our right within our Union to oppose it.
And it’s no different with our teaching staff. The anger directed to the government by students has had a profound impact: whilst lower tuition fees have not yet been implemented, opposition parties have used this as an opportunity to promote gratuitous higher education and the current government have issued reviews to evaluate the subject. This is an example of positive change that comes from uniting and standing together.
If students get behind their lecturers and support them whole-heartedly, the Teaching Union could see positive results soon, which students would undoubtedly benefit from. It’s a simple case of maths: the more people that back the strikes, the farther the debate around pensions will spread and the more likely negotiations will be to take place.
This would then result in a sooner end to the strikes and therefore a more rapid return to crucial lectures, seminars and revision sessions.
Plus, a secure future for our lecturers means an equally defended future for students during their time at university. The accredited level of teaching will no longer be at stake, which means that lecturers can return to the job that they love and encourage students to pursue their own achievements.
So what can I do?
- Talk about it
It’s essential to continue the dialogue; talk to your friends and fellow students. If university management know that staff and students are united in backing industrial action, the pressure will intensify, forcing them to take action.
- Write to your Vice Chancellor
There is no denying the fact that universities have become a business over the years. So, what would you do in a situation where you’ve paid for something that’s not come through? Demand a refund, and to speak to the manager.
It’s not so much the money that will make a difference, but the principle of writing to management. When Chancellors across the UK see the vast number of students in agreement with their lecturers, it’ll put pressure on them to address the issue.
- Join the strike!
It’s understandable that students will not want to miss out on any more valuable teaching time than they have to due to the strikes, but nothing makes a statement like physical action!
Not attending lectures that you feel you can catch up on and joining the protest with teaching staff will make a statement. When people see that it’s not just staff on the picket lines, more will be inclined to join and the fight against the rising financial demand on higher education will become a collective one.