**Noise Demo Outside Uni House In Support of the Strike**

Early this morning we supported the picket lines and engaged in a separate noise demonstration outside University House. We did this not only to express solidarity with striking staff and students taking autonomous action in support of the strike across the country, but also to make the strike as visible and impactful as possible across all sectors of campus.

University House is the focal point for power within the University, housing not only the Vice Chancellor’s Office and the senior management team, but also the departments responsible for the corporate and financial administration of the university. This is a fortress-like space, which has become even more securitized over the course of the strike: doors locked down, teams of security an ever-looming presence, the space insulated from any substantive democratic engagement. The barriers to the car-park today were even lifted such that cars did not have to slow down to engage with the picket lines: more and more barriers are raised to political engagement as the flows of business are eased. It is in this place the massive disparities in salary between the highest and lowest paid staff, the tens upon tens of millions of pounds earned by the senior officials of the university, are concentrated.

As masses of staff are on strike, the operations of these corporate hubs, undermining the potential of the strike, will not go unhindered. We believe that picket lines are not just symbolic, but political boundaries that must be enforced, and that the current legal restrictions imposed on trade union activity are draconian, repressive and unconscionable.  In the wake of negotiations re-commencing with UUK today, we believe taking direct action is necessary in order to exercise as much leverage as possible in complement to industrial action.

Though Stuart Croft has opposed the pension reforms publicly – we must recognize this is in itself a result of strong progressive struggles at Warwick over the years. This means maintaining such pressure is essential, especially to demand transparency over what Croft is doing to lobby UUK, to demand that pay is not unfairly deducted due to Action Short of Strike (and indeed industrial action itself), and to demand that any wages docked due to industrial action are redirected into student hardship funds. We have not forgotten that the trade union recognition agreement on campus still does not encompass casualized workers, despite the university administration pledging to fulfil this demand after our occupation of the Slate in late 2016. We have not forgotten that the 6 demands of Warwick Anti-Casualization have still not been fulfilled, that management accumulate ever higher salaries whilst staff lose out on pay, rights and contracts. We have not forgotten that Statute 24 and therefore academic freedom is still seriously under threat.

Collective struggle is how will win not only the pensions dispute but the broader campaign to redistribute power and wealth within our universities and within society at large. We will continue to take action to confront inequality, cuts and exploitation.  We agitate for a truly free education, in and beyond this dispute.

Victory to the Strike!

What is the marketization of Higher Education and how do we fight it?

The refrain cannot be repeated enough: pension cuts are simply one symptom of the marketization of the HE sector which harms students and staff alike.  But what precisely does it mean to say university fees, pension cuts, the casualization of work, and a myriad of other significant changes within HE are bound up together by the destructive agenda of marketization?  Reassessing the fundamentals of this argument seems essential to understanding the forces set against us and thus consolidating a vision of our common interests.  Without these common understandings, we will struggle to formulate a cogent case that the immediate short-term sacrifice of lecture attendance on strike days ultimately benefits all of us collectively in the long-term.  We also risk foregoing the development of a strategic orientation that recognizes the necessity of struggle, organizing and collective action: for it is marketization’s calculating and ruthless force, its undermining of any notion of democratic culture within university, that renders these means necessary and effective.

‘Marketization’, at its core, refers to the attempt to forcibly create a ‘market’ within HE: the restructuring of education such that it functions like a business.  It would be amiss to suggest this process has not been ongoing for much longer than simply the past decade; however the trebling of tuition fees in 2010, and the accompanying brutal austerity regime implemented with the recapture of power by the Conservatives, accelerated this process immensely.  Swingeing cutbacks in university funding were compensated for by a massive escalation of the debt burden on individual students, conspiring with the widespread privatisation of services and infrastructure on campus to form a cutthroat culture in which the imperatives of profit and competition now dominate over an impulse to service the public good.  The most recent bout of HE reforms have reinforced this, with programmes like the Teaching Excellence Framework explicitly subordinating teaching to the demands of employers, tuition fees further raised, and access of unaccountable private providers into the HE sector eased.

‘Unprofitable’ courses that do not conform to the demands of business have been cut; corporate expansion projects and landlordism proliferate as welfare services are underfunded and inordinate rents loom; ‘subsidiary’ companies such as Unitemps have been established by Universities to ‘internally’ outsource service work under poorer terms and conditions; teaching work is increasingly undertaken on piecemeal contracts with few protections or benefits, ever more regimented by untenable and constricting metrics; management salaries soar – resulting in scandal after scandal over exorbitant VC pay – as more and more students and early-career academics struggle to make ends meet; democratic structures are usurped by private-sector bosses and held hostage to the pressures of ‘financial pragmatism’.

These are the tensions which underpin the current pensions dispute: it is a much broader struggle over the purpose of education itself.  When students and staff alike are relegated to sources of revenue by the university, exploitation abounds: worsening conditions and intensifying workloads for staff are reflected in gutted support funding and ever-more encumbering debts and costs for students.  The resources available to us are diminished as ever more is extracted from us.  Gambling staff pensions on the stock market is thus consistent with this logic: long-term employment security and benefits that would have been thought of as given decades ago have been decimated by an onslaught of deregulation.  The instinct towards the public good – such as affordable rent or the fair treatment of staff – is eschewed as a burden to the bottom line, deepening inequality in the university and in turn across society.

This culture is responsible for broad-reaching political pacification, as students are compelled to vie against one another to secure the most advantageous ‘returns’ on their fee ‘investment’, the pressure to advance economically overriding education as a creative and exploratory pursuit.  The demands felt by staff simultaneously intensify through the unremitting and nebulous imposition of parameters of ‘customer satisfaction’ upon learning.  We are thus pitted against one another as consumers and deliverers of a mere job-training service, rather than united as a community.  We become anxious, divided, and atomized.

These dynamics form the ideological framework in which we are played off against one another during industrial action.  We must refuse the narrative that poses staff as our enemies: but rather acknowledge the sacrifice many particularly casualized academics are making to uphold the ideal of education as a public good and protect our collective well-being.  This is not simply a functional argument that as marketization deepens teaching conditions will deteriorate, constraining learning conditions as a consequence – nor even just an argument of reactive urgency, that such drastic attacks on staff rights demand a visceral solidarity from students as striking is always a last resort.  Those arguments are important, and we should not undermine that people are desperate – that livelihoods are being gambled with, that the motives of profit are indeed callous and merciless, that if we are to be defeated a precedent will be set for the wholesale evisceration of employment rights across the sector.  However, we must not collapse into a fatalism which poses this strike as a necessary evil: but rather an unprecedented and courageous unleashing of union strength from the enfeeblement of decades of anti-democratic neo-liberal reforms.  We must be bold enough to follow through on the argument that employment rights can only be upheld and extended by an exercising of collective power and solidarity prepared to act combatively against the craven and aggressive impulses of profit – the very impulses that have made work more stressful, unstable and uncertain across the whole of society.

Ultimately, our collective conditions, and the future of education itself, depend on our acting and standing and banding together.  This is especially true because students are not only future workers but also are increasingly workers right now, forced to balance studies and part-time work due to heightening financial uncertainty: we all have a collective stake in fighting the race-to-the-bottom over working conditions. This must not be the end point – but a catalyst for a revitalized movement to reclaim power over our universities.  Action like this should indeed be understood as epitomizing the public educational ideal: a transcending of traditional boundaries of thought, an unapologetic testing of prevailing power structures, a resistance against impotence and disillusionment, a reassertion of the political against the economic, an experiment in how to relate to one another and organize ourselves differently, an enacting of an alternative and transformed vision of the university.  We must seize on this as a rupture of renewed possibility for organized resistance – not as a testament to retreat.  Marketization has sought relentlessly to fracture and disenfranchise us.  As a community, we must become powerful again.  We must join the picket lines because, quite simply, they are our picket lines too.

December 3rd: 3 years on

Today marks exactly 3 years since Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) activists were violently attacked by police during a sit-in for free education in Warwick’s Senate House building. This attack, facilitated and overseen by our own university, sent shockwaves across the sector.

On a local level, Warwick students held a historic 1000-strong “Cops Off Campus” demo the next day, which led to an 8-day long occupation. Beyond Warwick, there was a wave of solidarity protests and occupations across the country, an outpouring of condemnation from the student and academic communities, as well as media coverage at national and even international levels.

The events of December 3rd 2014 mark a critical chapter in the ongoing story of attacks on the freedom to protest on our campuses. But they also mark a painful yet formative moment in the history of WFFE, which served as a catalyst for 3 further years of bold, vibrant and effective grassroots free education activism.

And it is essential that we remember and commemorate this history. From the events of December 3rd 2014, we can extract numerous key lessons – about repression and state violence, about democracy and power within our institutions, about solidarity and community – which drive our activism forward and inform our ongoing fight for an education system which is free, liberated, democratic and accessible to all.

When university managements, backed up by the state, deploy violence and repression against student activists (as has been seen on several campuses in recent years), they hope that it will quell dissent, terrify people into disengaging with struggle, and crush movements into the ground. At Warwick, we have not let that happen. Over the last 3 years, we have seen some incredible campaigns, actions and victories which are a testament to the strength, hard work and determination of grassroots activists here. And going forward, we will continue to fight the insidious marketisation of our education system and the complicity of our own institution in that agenda.

Exactly one year ago yesterday, WFFE activists initiated an occupation of the Slate – Warwick’s brand new £5.3 million corporate conference facility – demanding the withdrawal of the uni from the Teaching Excellence Framework, better rights for hourly paid teachers, the removal of the protest injunction and an apology for the events of December 3rd 2014. This occupation won some key concessions, notably the lifting of the draconian protest injunction put in place after the 2014 occupation, as well as an apology from the university for their handling of the events of December 3rd. This marked a huge victory for so many of us who were directly and deeply affected by these events, as well as for the protection of the right to protest for all students at Warwick both now and in the future.

The pain and trauma of December 3rd 2014 will always stay with those involved, but so will our resolve to fight against the injustice and oppression which exists within our education system. Though university management wish to brush what happened 3 years ago under the carpet, we will not stop remembering our history.

It is the history of WFFE.

It is the history of activism at Warwick.

It is the history of the student movement.

As always, the struggle continues.

WFFE’s Third Year: A Brief History

Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) emerged from an earlier group, Protect the Public University (PPU), in October 2014. Flying into national headlines only two months after our formation, when police violently broke up a sit-in at Senate House with CS gas and Tasers, we led an 8-day occupation of the Rootes Building in December 2014, brought the previous Vice Chancellor, Nigel Thrift, into widespread disrepute, and involved ourselves in actions, campaigns and solidarity work from detention centre demonstrations to picket lines to anti-fascist mobilisations. You can find a history of WFFE’s first and second years here and here. Now, we lay down a short summary of a similarly explosive third year.

foto_no_exif-3Term 1: Facing an ascendant far-right and conservative backlash nationally and globally, we started the year on the attack. Jack Hadfield, a far-right student with links to the fascist Alt-Right, put himself forward for the October elections to the SU’s Development Executive. We published a widely-read blog exposing some of his racist, sexists pronouncements. Hadfield writes for the far-right site, Breitbart, has described feminism as a “cancer”, and wrote a creepy article called “campus crazies”, mocking the body weight of women’s officers in the UK. Hadfield had also ‘liked’ posts on Facebook which joked about “slapping” women’s “uppity little asses down” and which celebrated far-right gangs beating up refugee children in Sweden, and had also argued that the horrific racist incident on campus in April 2015 was a hoax. Hadfield lost the election.

We spent the first few weeks of term on two things: recruitment and selection of campaign priorities. We also helped the SU mobilise for the national demonstration for free education in London in November 19. We headed up the organising of the Disorientation day, which brought together several other liberation and activists groups on campus, including Pride, Anti-Sexism Society, Enable and Anti-Racism Society. Backed by the SU, Disorientation featured talks on various issues and campaigns on campus. We had lunch at the Allotment, and were addressed by Shelly Asquith of the NUS in the evening. 

After introducing several new activists into the organisation, extensive internal discussions resulted in three priorities for the year ahead: migrant solidarity work, defeating the government’s destructive higher education reforms, and defending the right to protest – including continuing our efforts to scrap the authoritarian High Court injunction against occupations. Running through all these was a commitment to student-staff solidarity efforts.

photo_2016-12-02_14-44-42We brought the latter two of these priorities together in spectacular style in December, when we occupied the entirety of a huge brand new corporate conference facility, the Slate. We demanded that the University opt-out of the Teaching Excellence Framework, part of the state-imposed marketisation of the sector, drop the injunction, apologise for the police violence of Dec 3, 2014, and agree to Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s six demands around work casualisation for hourly-paid tutors.

The occupation was a massive success, with hundreds of students passing through the luxury facility – replete with an industrial kitchen, multi-room speaker system and eight projectors – to hear talks on free education, the history of activism at Warwick, Prevent, decolonising the curriculum, direct action, evictions in Jakarta and more. There were film screenings, workshops, presentations and meetings.

Our tactics caused serious financial disruption to the University, forcing lucrative corporate conferences to be cancelled and – bolstered by an excellent supportive sabbatical team at the SU – driving management to the negotiating table. After two weeks of controlling the entire building and turning it into a transformative space, we won significant concessions and were out just before Christmas. The injunction was scrapped, a major victory for the legitimacy of the time-honoured tactic of student occupations. Warwick agreed to implement a recognition agreement for hourly-paid tutors, allowing them to be represented by Warwick UCU, the academic staff union. The VC, Stuart Croft, declared his “deep regret” over the University’s actions in December 2014, which had caused, he said, “enormous upset across our community”. Croft also wrote a scathing letter in the Times Higher Education declaring that the government had universities “over a barrel” with the TEF, which has been cited several times as evidence of university opposition to the government’s plans.


Term 2: Our group expanded greatly during and following the occupation. Two campaigns dominated the second term: the boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS), and the SU elections. The former, called by the NUS and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC, to which we are affiliated), was an attempt to create an industrial strategy to leverage the government over its plans to raise fees, privatise higher education and impose arbitrary, market-driven metrics on the sector. The SU did most of the heavy lifting for the campaign, and successfully pushed participation in the survey down from 81% to 57%, whilst we supported with some grassroots engagement and the occasional publicity stunt. The boycott itself was received in the national press as a success for students, and won some concessions from the government. We agree with NCAFC that it ought to be extended for another year at least, particularly as Labour’s stomping performance in the General Election on a free education platform has significantly shifted the national conversation around fees and higher education (thanks, in no small part, we add, to years of work by student activists). The SU elections resulted in further victories for WFFE. A core member, Hope Worsdale, successfully ran for President in a heated campaign against the chair of the Tory society. Emotions ran high on all sides throughout the campaign, and we held some internal reflective discussions once the dust had settled regarding how we had conducted ourselves as a group. All in all, however, we continued to get legitimacy from the student population for our actions and politics.

Term 3: Expecting that most of our activities were finished for the year, some of our activists focused on supporting Corbyn’s Labour during the General Election in Leamington and Coventry, helping Jim Cunningham and Matt Western sail to victory (we picketed the old Leamington Tory MP’s office in 2015 – good riddance!).

19402276_949937378482596_2419729437263332815_oWe were shocked out of our complacency, however, when management dropped a bomb shell: they were trying to gut key employment protections for academic staff, imperilling academic freedom and job security across the University. We launched a campaign to save Statute 24 in support of the staff union, UCU. Revelations that Warwick had planned to dismiss politically active staff in the late 1960s – with at least one more recent case in 2014 – gave a serious urgency to the campaign. We passed a motion on the issue through an SU Referenda and held a silent march across campus during the Open Day and disrupted the central Oculus building, taking our message to hundreds of prospective students and contributing to management pushing its decision on Statute 24 back until next year. This campaign will continue to be a major priority for us in the coming year.

The year was littered with other events: we held extensive discussions with an Indian student leader, Shehla Rashid, about the crisis in Indian universities, showed solidarity at staff meetings, joined protests on campus against the Muslim ban, held discussions on the vision for a National Education Service, and helped fill coaches to demonstrations against the Yarl’s Wood migrant detention centre.

We continue to play a vital role in campus life, politicising events, driving forward our ideas, intervening in elections, criticising and fighting management malfeasance, and mobilising students in support of national struggles. Three years down: here’s to the next three.

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Statute 24 campaign: context, progress so far and where we go from here

The foundation of the strength of the Statute 24 campaign has been staff-student solidarity.  After initially forging alliances in 2015 to successfully combat the university administration’s attempts to casualize academic staff through Teach Higher, we have since preserved and fortified these relationships through regular meetings, concerted efforts on campaigns against TEF, Prevent and insecure and exploitative conditions for hourly paid tutors, and lending our solidarity to strike action, staff Assemblies and pressuring Senate and Council.  The significance and reach of these alliances was embodied in our occupation of the Slate, where we explicitly called on the University to concede to the 6 demands of Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s fantastic campaign for fair teaching conditions at Warwick and ultimately won union recognition for hourly paid tutors.

Through our combined resistance as students and staff over the past few years, we have achieved significant victories that could not have been won if we had remained divided and atomized.  It has been through harnessing and further cultivating these alliances that the Statute 24 campaign has drawn strength and borne fruit – with the plans to reform the Statute successfully delayed after a series of motions of opposition were passed in departments, the Student Union and UCU; a staff Assembly occurred and overwhelmingly voted to oppose the reforms; and awareness-raising and social media campaigns, public meetings and demonstrations of strength were staged.

A key facet of the strategy to delegitimize Teach Higher was negative press – exposing the scheme for the programme of casualization that it truly was, belied by the university narratives promising an overhaul in the conditions of hourly paid staff to streamline bureaucracy and introduce more parity.  The language of ‘efficiency’ – a deceptive and ubiquitous pretext for the kind of deregulation fundamental to the neo-liberal agenda – was dominant in the rhetoric around Teach Higher, and through effectively dismantling this coded language and exposing the real nature of the scheme, we began to reclaim control over the narratives.  The same was true of the Statute 24 reforms – except that, this time, there was even less pretence from university management that this was anything but a power-grab, another flagrant attempt to shift institutional power away from workers in favour of bosses.   Locating this set of proposed reforms as an attack on academic freedom, and perhaps even more importantly as one element of a series of broad ranging assaults on the protections, job security and conditions of workers, was essential.

Through this we anchored our campaign in the ideals of protecting a vision of education as a public and social good, conceptualizing this not as an isolated campaign but a sustained resistance against damaging institutional changes within Higher Education which have presided over service and course cuts, wage suppression and unprecedented privatisation and casualization nationally and locally.  This enabled the formation of broad coalitions, and rooted the campaign in the sustained infrastructure and collective power generated by students and workers on campus in the fight back against the Higher Education reforms, maintenance grant cuts, pay cuts, Prevent, precarity, etc.  Our struggles must be broad-ranging, unifying, and robust, emboldened by a horizon of the more just, emancipatory and democratic education system we are striving towards.  We must not simply struggle against the removal of a particular Statute – but for a fundamental shift in the balance of forces within the university, a democratization of its opaque and privately-controlled structures, and fair working conditions and dignity for all staff.

With swathes of job cuts announced on campuses across the country, and perhaps soon threatening Warwick, this infrastructure and ideal – and not simply a reliance on fire-fighting which situates us always in a position of scattered retreat – will become ever-more important to ensure we continue to expand our resistance and advance forwards.  The recent inspiring victory of SOAS Justice For Workers – a complete end to casualization across all sectors of the University – should hearten us in this context, and offer a pressing moral and strategic insight into the important potentialities of organizing service as well as academic workers, uniting all sectors of the university community against the common enemy of management.

This control of narrative was one of the reasons we staged the protests on the university open days at the end of the year.  Whilst the sleek branding and glossy PR campaigns of the open days would have prospective students believe Warwick University is an enlightened, dignified and progressive institution, we know this image is false.  When students have been resituated as ‘investors’ and ‘consumers’ by disastrous neo-liberal reforms in education, we recognize threatening the illustriousness of the university’s reputation, expressed chiefly through the ‘sales pitches’ of open days, is a particularly significant point of pressure.  Indeed, it was the looming threat of open day disruption, as a culmination of sustained campaigning efforts, that eventually forced the university administration to scrap the Teach Higher plans.  Year on year we have disrupted university open days – for a variety of reasons and causes – and we realized that continuing this tradition would impact considerably the scales of calculation of management in pushing through the reforms to Statute 24, and embed the alternative narrative of a free and liberated education further into the everyday culture of campus.  Through both exerting pressure on management by interrupting their otherwise immaculate marketing strategies, raising awareness amongst parents and prospective students about the dangers and injustices of such reforms in Higher Education institutions, and reclaiming campus as a space of militancy, resistance and dissent – once a common sense of student life – we hoped to express the power and creativity of our campaign.

As such we engaged in a noise demo in the Oculus building on the first open day, specifically targeting the Why Warwick? events orchestrated by management to further their marketing ploys.  We distributed thousands of leaflets, engaged in many conversations with parents and students around the importance of opposing the reforms to Statute 24, and effectively countered their ‘sales pitch’ of league table rankings, employment statistics and satisfaction survey results.  We are students, staff, social agents, members of a collective and a community, not instruments of metrics, markets or management: both morally and strategically we believe our presence on open days is powerful and necessary.  The central position we occupied in the Oculus entailed our banners emblazoned the windows of the building for all passers-by around central campus to see, whilst our earnest chants of student-staff solidarity reverberated through the space and beyond, galvanizing attention and conversations and infusing campus with an incendiary political energy.  Later in the day we dropped a banner off Senate House, further fostering the exciting militancy that had – rather than the university’s branding – marked the first impressions of prospective students.

The following open day we engaged in a silent march around campus, after hearing rousing speeches from SU representatives, workers and activists, to symbolize the repression of free expression and dissent that would result from the reforms of Statute 24.  We donned co-ordinated clothing, released flares, distributed flyers, dropped banners and marched through various buildings key to the university’s image and reputation.  At the end of the march we tore the tape from our mouths, entered the Oculus building then marched to central campus in a flurry of flares, chants and vibrancy, unshackled from inhibitions and constraints on free thought and expression, and unleashing finally and fully our collective strength.  We again garnered much attention, with all of campus aflame with our narrative, our actions embodying the significance of free expression and dissent in a context where those principles are under threat.  This ended the term’s campaign on an empowering note which would signal things to come in the new academic year.  Despite people being bound up with exams, lower numbers than we might have hoped on the actions, and the end-of-final-term-political-inertia setting in, these actions were a success, and set a precedent for the scope and escalation of resistance in the new term.

It is important that we are not recuperated by, nor tether ourselves to, the bureaucratic machinations of the Senate and Council as we enter this new cycle of struggle.  As discussed in a previous blog post, there has been some opposition to the reforms by members of Senate, and under pressure from concerted student-staff campaigning changes have been made to the proposed reforms, with the amendments under review by an internally formed working group.  Another Senate meeting has since passed, and it appears still that little has changed, with the elucidation of the proposed amendments to the reforms pushed back to the Senate meeting in October.

We must be vigilant, maintaining pressure and not letting up with our actions until these proposed reforms are thoroughly defeated.  Such tactics of postponement and tokenistic review are repeated time and time by such formal bureaucratic committees: adjust the proposals largely superficially and cosmetically so as to appear responsive to the democratic demands of trade unions, student unions and the pressure of activists, thus placating these efforts and jamming them in lumbering processes of prolonged tinkering until the pressure subsides.  Again, in this context of obfuscation, we must be clear in our narratives: no superficial alterations or accommodations of ‘stakeholder concerns’ can realign these reforms in the collective interests of students and staff.  As with policies such as TEF and Prevent, these reforms to Statute 24 are fundamentally damaging, intrinsically designed to attack the rights of workers.  These vague ‘working groups’ and opaque bureaucratic procedures are located entirely on the terms of management, and we should not be taken in by them – our opposition to the reform of Statute 24 at the behest of management must be firm and absolute.

As such, the horizon of struggle is clear: we must continue to pressure Senate and Council to oppose the reforms outright, as the motions passed in numerous democratic forums and departments within the university mandate.  We have won concessions and delayed the implementation of the reforms, but we have not yet won.  Warwick UCU have recently passed a motion to consider the potentialities of industrial action against the reforms to Statute 24 – this is incredibly significant and a development we wholeheartedly support, particularly as the power of trade unions has been dramatically enfeebled by neo-liberal reforms and this would signal the expansion of trade union resistance beyond narrow pay disputes.  Alongside agitating for such industrial action to occur if necessary, we must continue to broaden and strengthen alliances and the reach of our campaign, pursue a series of creative stunts, demonstrations and militant actions to maintain pressure, and convince broader layers of campus of the necessity of opposing these reforms through forums, public meetings, open letters, flyering etc.

We must do so with optimism, acknowledging that victory is possible, that the forward march of casualization and marketization is not inevitable and we can develop the collective power to resist and overcome.  We must do so with confidence, expanding the infrastructures of struggle we have already formed, taking stock of our previous victories and drawing inspiration from them.  We must do so with hope, that a different kind of education and society is necessary and within our power to enact together.


Many of you may have learned that the Senate, which along with Council is the supreme governing body of the University of Warwick, was supposed to vote on June 14th on whether to support the proposed reform of statute. This vote did not happen due to objections to the reform. While some may see this as a victory, the tactics that senior management used at this Senate meeting, and the position that the Senate adopted make it absolutely clear that those who oppose the draft statute need to continue escalating the fight to stop it from becoming reality.

Thanks to the extensive lobbying of members of Senate by students and staff members, along with multiple large mobilisations of staff dissent (like the Assembly and the UCU Emergency General Meeting) opposition to the changes has achieved a foothold in the Senate. However, members of senior management were aware of their weakened position and came prepared to this Senate meeting.

At one point a small group of senate members proposed a motion to completely reject the proposed changes to statute, but senior management managed to make sure that this new motion was not voted on and instead forced a “compromise”: a small working group of Senate members would review the draft statute.

We have seen again and again that senior management have been unable to give legitimate reasons for why the proposed changes to statute will improve the university. This was most blatantly seen at the recent Assembly where administrators did not put up a single person to speak up in defense of the proposed changes; instead, their strategy was to ignore the Assembly.

Management have tried their best to push the battle on to another day by forming a working group which will most likely propose cosmetic alterations to the proposed changes and then claim that staff and student concerns have been resolved.

 While we are grateful for the courage of those members of Senate who tried to kill the draft statute outright, we must recognise that we did not win anything tangible on June 14th. We have not defeated the proposed changes, we have only forced Senate to promise to discuss the proposed changes amongst themselves. We have still not been heard.

 That’s why it is crucial to continue lobbying members of Senate to completely drop the proposed draft statute and to join the Emergency Action on June 24th called by the Protect Academic Freedom at Warwick coalition.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.



Students and staff to hold emergency action to defend academic freedom at Warwick University Open Day

  • Warwick University trying to gut Statute 24, which offers academics protection from managerial influence and legal representation during disciplinary appeals
  • UCU is considering industrial action over the issue
  • Student and staff plan to demonstrate to defend academic freedom and save Statute 24 on Saturday June 24, during a University Open Day

Student and staff are planning to gather at the Koan on Saturday June 24 to protest against the University’s plans to gut Statute 24, a part of the University’s constitution that protects academic freedom and job security. Warwick For Free Education, the student group which called the action, will only go ahead with the action if the University fail to immediately its reforms to Statute 24.

The action was announced on Tuesday to coincide with an emergency UCU meeting passing a motion to ballot for industrial action over the issue, just weeks after Warwick SU passed a similar motion condemning the proposed reforms. [1]

Activists and academics warn that removing employment protections from Statute could have grave consequences for academic freedom and job security at the University. They point to similar statutory changes at other universities, which they say have led to severe job cuts in the past. Salford University removed its employment protections from statute in 2006, and 13 waves of job cuts followed. [2] With Aberystwyth, Manchester and several other universities facing massive job cuts this year, many fear Warwick’s academic community could be next in line. [3]

Already, eight departments at Warwick have passed motions condemning the reforms. [4] The History Department said that the changes represent “a severe curtailment of academic freedom”, and the Centre for Applied Linguistic and the Centre for Education Studies warn that the reforms will “expose individuals to job insecurity if their academic priorities and/or ideologies differed from those of their line managers”. [5]

The Warwick Globalist recent published documents from the University of Warwick’s early years in which managers complain that statutory employment protections prevent them from dismissing politically “difficult” staff. [6]

“Academic freedom is crucial to the fight for a free, accessible, liberated and democratic education,” said Warwick For Free Education activist Ali Griggs. “The gutting of Statute 24 will suppress the voices of academics whose research may be controversial, and especially academics critical of the University – this is bad for students, bad for staff, bad for society, and ultimately will backfire on the reputation of the University.”

Nathaniel Panda, Post-Graduate Officer at Warwick SU, said: “Actions such as these are crucial in building resistance to management’s absurd reforms. It is vital to extend our solidarity to staff whose jobs may be at stake, whilst simultaneously acknowledging that erosion of academic freedom would be detrimental to students’ learning conditions. We cannot let academic freedom be endangered at Warwick University.”


Contact details:

Connor Woodman, cdwoo333@gmail.com, 07954402113

Background: Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) started in October 2014 to provide a grassroots campaigning organisation to fight for a free and liberated education, and for the democratising of the university. On Dec. 3, 2014, police entered Warwick campus and broke up a WFFE sit-in, spraying students with CS gas and threatening them with tasers; following this, WFFE gained national media coverage. They fought and successfully defeated the proposed implementation of a postgraduate work-casualisation scheme, TeachHigher, later in the academic year. In December 2016, they occupied the Slate, a campus conference facility, for two weeks, winning significant concessions from the University. This protest will be part of a long heritage of political campaigning at Warwick and of Warwick For Free Education’s ongoing history of campus-based activism.

WFFE is affiliated to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC); a national organisation geared towards fighting the government’s cuts to public services, neo-liberal policies, and privatisation of higher education.


[1] https://www.warwicksu.com/democracy/all-student-meeting/results/2016-17term3/, https://www.warwicksu.com/pageassets/democracy/all-student-meeting/Protect-Academic-Freedom-Defend-Statute-24.pdf

[2] http://warwickglobalist.com/2017/05/12/statute-24-how-warwick-plans-to-jeopardise-academic-freedom-and-how-we-can-stop-it/, https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/6654/More-jobs-to-go-at-University-of-Salford

[3] http://anticuts.com/2017/05/11/tory-teaching-excellence-in-action-uom-cites-tef-as-motivation-for-massive-cuts/, http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/third-welsh-university-announced-huge-13009184

[4] https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/warwick-law-school-condemns-proposed-statute-24-reforms-for-infringing-upon-academic-freedom/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/centre-for-applied-linguistics-and-centre-for-education-studies-condemn-statute-24-reforms/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/history-of-art-slams-statute-24-reforms-for-infringing-upon-academic-freedom-and-intellectual-independence/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/institute-for-employment-research-warns-statute-24-reforms-will-lead-to-curtailment-of-academic-freedom/https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/statute-24-reform-will-cause-severe-curtailment-of-academic-freedom-says-history-department/

[5] https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/statute-24-reform-will-cause-severe-curtailment-of-academic-freedom-says-history-department/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/centre-for-applied-linguistics-and-centre-for-education-studies-condemn-statute-24-reforms/

[6] http://warwickglobalist.com/2017/06/06/warwick-managements-plot-to-dismiss-politically-active-staff-stopped-by-statute-in-the-1960s/


Academic freedom is under unprecedented threat at the University of Warwick. Statute 24 the key component of Warwick’s constitution which commits the University to uphold academic freedom, prevents politicised removal of staff, and offers a clear appeals process for disciplined academics is being gutted by Warwick’s management. Similar reforms have occurred at universities across the country. At some – like UCL – the proposed reforms have been fought off by a united student-staff campaign. At others – like Salford University – the statute has been smashed, and wave after wave of job cuts have followed, decimating the academic community and wrecking teaching quality.

We refuse to stand by whilst job security and academic freedom is squeezed and suffocated by the whimsical dictats of a managerial elite. We call for an emergency action during the University open day on Saturday 24 June, to stand in solidarity with staff and dig the last ditch for the defence of liberty at Warwick. We call on all students, staff and sympathetic observers to descend on campus and tell management in no uncertain terms: hands off Statute 24!

UCU, the staff union, today voted to move towards taking industrial action over the issue. At least eight departments have slammed the reforms, warning in the darkest tones that the era of academic freedom at Warwick hangs on a knife edge. The staff Assembly, the largest democratic body of staff on campus, condemned the proposed reforms with a majority of 97 percent. Management failed to even defend their reforms, and subsequently worked their age-old propaganda tricks to conceal the overwhelming mandate from staff to end the reform process.

Already, academics at Warwick and elsewhere operate in a shockingly stifled environment, reluctant to voice light concerns or put their head above the parapet for fear of an army of HR hacks, PR propagandists and branding bullies descending upon them to protect the University’s corporate image. As universities are forced into revenue-generating activities, protecting the University’s brand identity increasingly trumps intellectual honesty, rigor and free debate. Relentless sectoral competition, imposed by artificial league tables, attempts to cram the qualitatively multi-faceted educational experience into a series of crude quantitative metrics. You will find few outside government circles who believe British higher education is heading in the right direction. Academics and administrators on the continent watch the British experiment in HE marketisation with trepidation, fearing that their country might be next in line for catastrophic neo-liberal ‘reforms’.

It is in this context that the gutting of Statute 24 at Warwick must be viewed. Warwick seeks to make it easier to fire dissenters, those academic thorns-in-the-side-of-management with their pesky views and political engagement. When the vagaries of the market call for it, Warwick wants to be able to wipe legions of academics off the books, alleviating the University of the responsibility to pay them and leaving them to fight poverty.

Well, when management places its brand image above the livelihood of staff, above the principles of higher education, then we will respond by ruining Warwick’s image. We will disrupt, we will tell prospective students that they are coming to a University which cares not for open debate, free exchange of ideas, and job security. And if management think they can weather this storm by waiting it out until term ends: they are mistaken. We will come back in October and double down on our campaign to save academic freedom. If they gut Statute 24, we will fight until we get it back. We are prepared to use the full range of tactics available in our historical repertoire. For three months, UCU and others have tried to speak sense into management. Sadly, the University does not hear them. We are forced to speak the only language it does understand.

Warwick management: abandon your plans to smash Statute 24. Commit to leaving the Statute exactly how it is now. If you do, we will cancel our action and abandon our plans for an ongoing campaign. If not, you have a long fight on your hands.

To find out how else you can get involved in the Statute 24 campaign, see here. To find out more about the reforms, see here.

Staff union call emergency meeting to discuss industrial action over Statute 24 reform!

UCU, the academic staff union on campus, have called an emergency meeting for 12:30PM on Tuesday June 13 in OC0.03. Staff will discuss a motion to take industrial action against the University over the proposed gutting of Statute 24, which will severely imperil freedom at Warwick.

Industrial action could include a strike, marking boycott, or other tactics to place pressure on Warwick’s management through material disruption. Warwick staff embody a long tradition of such tactics, from a week-long strike of service staff on campus in 1973, to a marking boycott over pension reform in 2014/15.

The meeting will not be able to make the final decision over industrial action, but will move the union closer to making it a reality.

Email your tutors and let them know about it! We need as many staff there as possible to send a big message to management that academics are serious about fighting them on this. They also need to reach quorum to be able to go ahead with industrial action.

Defend academic freedom at Warwick! #SaveOurStatute

Statute 24 reform will cause “severe curtailment of academic freedom” says History Department

The Department of History has passed a motion against management’s proposed changes to Statute 24 at a recent staff meeting. Rejecting managements’ claim that the changes are to “simplify and modernise” governance, History staff stated:

“We believe that this represents a severe curtailment of our academic freedom. Statements about academic freedom carry very little weight unless academic staff (meaning those engaged in teaching, the provision of learning and/or research) are afforded the additional protections currently contained within Statute 24.”

The department’s motion comes in addition to 97% of staff across the University voting against the reforms in the staff Assembly, and at least five other departments issuing strongly-worded motions opposing the reforms.

Pointing out the disingenuousness of managements’ claim to be “standardising” the employment conditions of all staff, the Historians pointed out that:

Applying the same policies to all staff represents a ‘levelling down’ that is neither necessary nor fair, given the distinctive nature of academic work which requires extra protections due to the fact that our research may lead us to ‘unpopular’ conclusions and findings that might challenge the status quo and the views of our university management and/or government. Moreover, there are many areas of the University in which different policies and procedures have applied to different staff groups, most notably in relation to probation, which is five years for academic staff but only six-months for other staff.

Senate is a decision-making body that may have the capacity to reject these changes. The academic members that sit there should represent the interests of their faculties. Realising this, the History motion demands that the representatives on Senate and Council “oppose the changes to Statute 24”, and call “for a longer period of discussion, bearing in mind the magnitude of what is being proposed”.

The full text of the motion can be found here.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.

#SaveOurStatute! Defend Academic Freedom at Warwick!