We had a meeting with the Principal and the senior management to discuss the demands. They went to great lengths to make themselves sound sympathetic to our demands but in fact made no attempt to offer concessions. Sympathetic noises and empty platitudes are not enough.
Professor Layzell made two claims regarding the cuts. Firstly, he made it quite clear he would not guarantee the prevention of course closures, claiming they “happen all the time in all institutions”. Secondly, he spoke about the financial instability of the university.
The proposed cuts could mean a loss of seminar time, a reduced course portfolio, restructuring of whole departments, and the slow death of entire subjects. Additionally, the cuts would affect our lecturers and other support staff, who would see their pay and conditions attacked, union officials victimised, and jobs lost. This comes on the back of the news that students from 2012 onwards will pay £9000 tuition fees. Plans for privatisation have been granted on campus, with three companies, including publishing company Pearsons being given degree awarding power. Privatisation allows companies which don’t care about students, staff, and critical thinking, and just about profit, to use our facilities and teach students.
The cuts are not necessary financially, as Royal Holloway makes a considerable surplus. We have made a surplus of over £1 million a year since 2002. Since 2006, we have made a surplus over 2.2% of our budget, which is the HEFCE recommended target. Currently, our surplus stands at £6 million a year, which is 4.4% of our budget: double the HEFCE recommendation.
All departments at Royal Holloway cover their direct costs (the costs of running a degree program). It’s the cost of management – their huge salaries and the ever-increasing number - that is causing departments to run high costs. Ten members of the senior management team earn over £100,000 a year, which 9 times the wage of an employee on the lowest pay grade. This doesn’t include their other benefits – housing, company cars and other expenses – and the huge wastage that occurs in management. It is telling that more money was spent on senior management than the whole of the library budget this year.
Clearly the proposed cuts are neither part of the natural change that occurs in universities (as new research leads to different academic focuses), nor based on a financial necessity. The management is not forced to make these decisions, but is willingly choosing to. Layzell himself suggested that “calling for the withdrawal of the White Paper would put us in a weaker position”, and pointed to some elements of the White Paper, such as provisions for part time students, that we should support. We do not think we should be grateful for these breadcrumbs – the White Paper as a whole is corrosive to public education.
We are committed to a view of the university as a public good, something which should not be privy to the whims of the market, which should be funded by taxing the rich, and which offers courses because of an academic commitment to knowledge and research, not because some subjects make more money than others. If management refused to implement cuts and called for the withdrawal of the White Paper, and this happened at every university in the country, it would send an unstoppable message to the government.
Yet the management have refused to do this. Their negotiations with the UCU over cuts and privatisation were conducted over too short a period of time, and arguments made by staff and students were ignored. The UCU was denied the opportunity to present a case against the cuts at College Council, and the management has not engaged with our analyses of their own statistics. Management were not prepared to listen, or to negotiate further. They are committed to their cuts budget.
A General Meeting was held at around 18:00 this evening where it was decided that we would add the following to our demands:
- - As College have placed a security officer on the door to the corridor at all times, we demand that they are paid for any overtime they may have to do, are given proper breaks and are entitled to the same pay and conditions as under normal circumstances. We are willing to engage with security by talking to them, giving them food, recognising that their pay, conditions and jobs are also under threat.
In their offices, management plan to make cuts, and have not and will not listen to us. We are not consumers, not passive receptors of an education system, but a critical collective which is prepared to take direct action to stop the cuts. We will be outside their offices singing, chanting, playing music, performing theatre and spoken word, and so on.
It has been decided that for the duration of our occupation, the Principal’s Meeting Room has been allocated a silent study space. We will run a series of events during the occupation to educate people on the exact reasons we are here and ways in which we can progress from the point we are at. There will be guest lectures and workshops throughout the day, and a variety of entertainments (music, drama, spoken word and many other things) in the evening, as well as a communal evening meal.
Come join us!