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Taking action in higher education

UCU Scotland Congress 2008

UCU Scotland Congress 2008

Friday 4 April 2008

Presidential address to UCU Scotland Congress

In his speech to UCU Scotland Congress 2008, Terry Brotherstone the first elected president of UCU Scotland, told delegates that they must be at the heart of any debate about the future of higher education in Scotland. He warned university principals that a plea of poverty would not wash when trying to justify redundancies and that the fight against privatisation had just begun.

He addressed the issues of funding, redundancies, privatisation, the Future Thinking Taskforce and the National Conversation. Excerpts from the speech include:

  • on funding - 'The funding settlement was worse even than expected, though subsequent one-off funding announcements mean there should still be real-terms increases each year. So no nonsense about a need for redundancies, Principals, please!'
  • on the Future Thinking Taskforce, set-up by the government in league with the principals - 'The idea that the principals should be seen as the sole voice of "the universities" in planning the longer-term future and that a committee on which none of those who actually do the teaching and research, no trade unions and no student body is represented can determine strategy for higher education for the next twenty years is a democratic, intellectual, and planning absurdity.'
  • on the wider Scottish debate - 'If the current National Conversation is to be something more than a contribution to ephemeral political point-scoring between "nationalists" (or "separatists") and "unionists", it should include an interrogation of what the myth of the "democratic intellect" might mean in practical terms in an "independent", or even in a more effectively devolved 21st-century Scotland. The education system, and higher education in particular has to be a vital part in the ideological equation at the centre of the Scottish debate. That's where Scotland's universities should be, and by universities I don't mean the vice-chancellors. I mean those who make the universities what they are and fight to defend them against the marketisers, privatisers, and cutters. I mean the colleagues we represent.'
  • promising to step up the fight against privatisation of higher education services - 'I congratulate our union colleagues at Glasgow Caledonian on their successful demonstration on Tuesday against the secret deal between their management and the predatory private service company INTO. They are launching a fight that must be stepped up, through vigilance and local action wherever necessary, so that scrutiny of this and other such enterprises informs a UK-wide anti-privatisation campaign.'

The meeting was also be addressed by James Alexander, president NUS Scotland.

The full speech is available below.

Last updated: 4 March 2009