A graduate teaching assistant and UCU campaigner has criticised the UUK and Vice Chancellor Ed Byrne for ‘digging their heels in’ over upcoming strike action. Speaking to Roar, Joe Attard, also Secretary of the KCL Marxist Society, called senior management ‘parasites’.
‘These people don’t teach you, these people don’t contribute anything to the university.’ Attard said, asking senior management: ‘When are you going to take a pay cut?’
These comments come on the eve of strike action at the College and and universities nationwide. KCLSU came out in support of strike action on Monday after a petition to the SU gained the required 150 signatures in just two days.
Vice Chancellor Byrne released a statement on the 5th of February saying ‘our priority is to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged by this action. Your education is of the utmost importance to us’.
Attard called the statement ‘non-descript’ and claims the UCU strike is being used by the government to further categorise students as ‘consumers’, another step down the path of marketisation of the education sector following the recent introduction of the teaching excellence framework (TEF). The TEF is seen by many students as opening the door to higher fees and reduced working conditions for lecturers, but has previously drawn controversy after ranking universities according to a Gold, Silver and Bronze system.
Following on from government assessment and policy, in a recent ‘Andrew Marr Show’ interview, Education Secretary Damian Hinds called for students to ask for refunds for lost contact hours due to strike action. However, Attard maintains that by making this ‘consumer demand’, students push themselves against university staff, and could be used as leverage against the UCU. While Attard did not grudge students trying to gain reimbursement, he urged them to ‘respect the strike’ and to not attend classes ‘even if your lecturer isn’t striking.’
Attard also asserts that students can do more than striking in solidarity. They should, in his opinion, ‘send angry messages to Ed Byrne and ask him why he is not supporting the UCU, why he isn’t supporting his colleagues and their pensions. They should demand he comes out in support of striking lecturers.’
‘Students have a vested interest in supporting strikes,’ he concluded, ‘After all, it is your education.’