TUC Congress backs November demonstration against education funding cuts
Delegates at the TUC Congress in Manchester have today backed a motion calling for a national demonstration through central London. The protests, on Wednesday 10 November, are being organised by UCU and the National Union of Students (NUS) against cuts to funding for colleges and universities.
UCU and NUS said the unanimous support for the demonstration reflected the anger among delegates in Manchester over the coalition government's planned cuts. During the debate, delegates highlighted the 200,000 students who missed out on a place at university this summer and the thousands more who could not secure a place in further education colleges.
Addressing the TUC Congress UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'For more than a century, the pledge made by each generation to its successor was to expand learning and increase opportunity. Our new political leaders appear ready and willing to rip up that covenant.
'More than £2.5 million was spent on the private education of just 12 members of Cabinet. Every single one of them then took up the opportunity to go to university for free. And every single one of them is now happy to deny hundreds of thousands of young people the opportunities that they themselves were given, by cutting £1.4 billion from further and higher education budgets.'
Aaron Porter, NUS President, said: 'Students and lecturers will bring together their communities on the streets of London to defend our education against the disastrous cuts that have been imposed upon us. Further and higher education have already borne the brunt of funding cuts and we will be the first to coordinate national action in protest.'
Sally Hunt's speech on the motion
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, representing 120,000 members in higher and further education, educating millions of people every year.
Conducting valuable research in hundreds of specialised fields, in humanities, medicine, arts, and sciences.
Like the study of olfaction.
That's the science of smell.
They can probably explain why, when we look at what this government is planning to do to education, we think it stinks of hypocrisy.
You see, some of my other members teach forensic accounting.
They calculated that more than £2.5 million was spent on the private education of just 12 members of Cabinet. Every single one of whom then took up the opportunity to go to university for free.
And every single one of whom are now happy to deny hundreds of thousands of young people the opportunities that they themselves were given, by cutting £1.4 billion from further and higher education budgets.
Of course these huge cuts mean that many of my members are deeply worried about their own future.
But they are also anxious about the effects of these cuts on their students, current and future.
Many of my members are economists. They'll tell you that there are few cuts more damaging to our future prosperity and to future generations than those made to education.
In cutting spending on education and learning the Tories and the Lib Dems close their eyes to the lessons of history.
They close their eyes to the fact that it was government investment that made British universities the envy of the world. That learning is important for its own sake, not solely as a driver for growth and prosperity.
They close their eyes to the fact that it is only through lifelong, adult and further education that people can retrain and reskill.
They ignore the fact that our society relies on what my union's members do.
Our teachers, nurses and scientists are trained in colleges and universities.
Our engineers and accountants too.
We even try to educate politicians. But we can only do so much...
For more than a century, the pledge made by each generation to its successor was to expand learning and increase opportunity.
Our new political leaders appear ready and willing to rip up that covenant.
This month 200,000 young people who want to go to university are joining the dole queue, not the students union, because there are no places for them.
The majority of further education colleges are axing courses, and cutting staff.
At this most challenging time for our students; for our members; for our movement we must act.
Our predecessors fought to win access to education for all, and now we must fight to protect it. To defend jobs, and to defend education.
And we can start by fighting to make education funding fairer.
Some of my members conduct research into the human mind. They study self-delusion. At how people can say one thing, even whilst doing the opposite.
Here's a good example:
The Government says we're all in this together – yet one of their first moves was to slash tax for the companies enjoying the biggest profits.
UK corporation tax is already lower than in the US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada, yet George Osborne wants to reduce it further.
UK businesses rely on the knowledge and ingenuity of the graduates produced by our universities. They depend on the skills and the training offered by our colleges. And they get it for next to nothing.
By restoring corporation tax to just the G7 average we would raise enough funds to abolish university fees.
Congress, we can't let business get away with it any longer.
It's time for us to act.
Many of my members also teach trade union studies. And they teach us a valuable lesson – that our movement is at its strongest when it is united.
That's why I end by calling on all of you here, and all of your trade union brothers and sisters, to join with UCU and NUS at our joint national demonstration on Wednesday 10th November to defend jobs and defend education.
Join with us to send the Government our message.
Don't you dare cut education.
Don't you dare close down opportunity.
Don't you dare gamble with our children's future prosperity.
Don't you dare.