Today, Saturday 19th December, activists across the country participated in UK Uncut’s call to peaceful direct action against what it sees as corporate irresponsibility, in this occasion in the form of Barclays bank.
UKC Anti Cuts, along with students from other universities in Canterbury, local residents including a mother with her two children, occupied a space in Barclays Canterbury branch and turned it into a library.
Our action was simple, direct and peaceful and we received cooperation from the employees and police officers as we remained for an hour and a half in an attempt to highlight tax avoidance and the lack of a tough taxation structure to deal with banks.
We received positive feedback for our actions from those passing by as well as from some of the people in the bank for transactions.
Our action (the librarytisation of their space) is to emphasise the fact that while so much money is going in the wrong direction with corporations, the public sector is being destroyed by cuts. With news last night that Barclay’s had managed to pay only 113 million (1% of profits) in corporation tax in 2009 when it had paid out 3.5 billion in bonuses the protest was extremely relevant.
Watch this space for further action
Education: New “Solutions”
Over the Christmas period I was one of the students who remained in occupation at the University of Kent in protest against my Vice-Chancellor’s peculiar endorsement of the tuition fee rise and the governments short sighted cuts to education. I believe that education is a public good that should remain accessible to as many as possible, but also that its quality should be maintained as it is in itself a national treasure. The plans to significantly reduce public spending and then to stem the gap with commercial interest as well as higher fees do not present a sustainable solution. Our education system, in the face of these reforms, will suffer immensely.
On the 19th January the University of Kent unveiled proposals for a grand development of a large portion of its campus. These plans specify accommodation for 800 students, a conference centre, a 200 space car park and to pay for it all a four star Holiday Inn. The plans are of great concern for the students and residents of Canterbury, but also more generally to our education system as a whole.
Local residents are in uproar; Chaucer Fields is in close proximity to a number of homes and the addition of students, businessman and tourists, not to mention the impact of construction, terrifies them. Students are appalled at the lack of consultation and the idea of such a large portion of their campus being sold off to the highest bidder. The land includes a space – allegedly overlooked by developers – given, by Estates, to the Conservation Society who have used it to plant over 100 trees. In light of these it is difficult to see where our Universities interests lie.
The gap left by the Governments cuts are forcing Universities across the country to turn to private solutions, prostituting their land and services to investment from the private sector. This is not a solution to the inflicted cuts, nor the diversification towards a new business model, this spells a deep mortal threat to the education system as we know it. This idea of commercialisation will not stop at the bottom of Chaucer Fields; it will stretch to the rest of our campuses as institutions struggle to keep their doors open.
People need to be looking beyond the initial concerns that reduced services and fees of up to £9,000 immediately suggest. Fees may rise beyond the new cap, courses will cease to exist, staff will lose their jobs and the quality and reputation of British education will be greatly diminished. The hole left by the cuts will not be stemmed by a trebling in individual student investment. When this becomes clear we will see our national treasure sold off to the highest bidders. What we are witnessing is not solutions to deficit, but the true commodification of education.