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Mike Finn (University of Exeter)

31 January 2020

Election address

I am Senior Lecturer in History and Director of Liberal Arts at the University of Exeter. A higher education policy expert, who recently published a book on the impact of Brexit on Britain's universities, I am also a longstanding UCU activist who has previously served as Branch Secretary at Liverpool Hope, Warwick and Exeter.

This background of activism, scholarship and frontline experience as a HE worker informs my current research and campaigning on academic freedom issues in British universities. This year, I called for a new Concordat with the state on academic freedom in a History and Policy paper, and in a co-authored USS Brief reflected on how UCU can embed academic freedom at the heart of all its endeavours.

I seek election to the NEC because I believe in the transformative power of further and higher education, and because I want to fight to save it. It is no exaggeration to say that the university as we know it is in mortal danger. The first in my family to attend university, I have seen first-hand the ways in which the university has changed. Casualisation is rampant, marketization has reduced education to a transaction, staff and student mental health is in crisis, and - as workers - academic and academic-related professional services staff are too often treated with contempt and disdain by management.

Universities have found themselves at the heart of a 'culture war', targets of bad faith attacks from the right seeking to delegitimise expertise in the Brexit moment. Serving on the NEC I would seek to facilitate our membership playing a key role in shaping the idea of the university and developing a newer, more inclusive definition of academic freedom which defends the rights of all groups, and encompasses all HE workers and students. If elected I stand in solidarity with all members of our union across sectors, and in defence of our union's positions on equality. Academic freedom is only really meaningful in a world where all are respected as equals, and this means an unequivocal commitment to the rights of the trans community, and I stand opposed to those who would cite academic freedom in order to marginalise our trans comrades.

A committed opponent of Brexit, I am an advocate of a further referendum to settle the question, and as a former adviser to a past President of the UK European Movement, I will campaign on the NEC for the rights of EU27 staff and for the union to take the strongest possible measures in their defence. Our community should know no borders.

I believe passionately in workers' control. Universities can model a better way of living and working, but we have to fight for it.

Last updated: 30 January 2020