Further statement from Defend LSBU! Defend our Education! campaign

Defend LSBU! Defend Our Education! first wishes to reiterate, as stated in Pro Vice Chancellor’s last statement, that we are a legitimate protest in defence against the cuts and the rise in fees. Not only this, but we will continue beyond the occupation to campaign and organise on campus to raise awareness and fight against fees and cuts. We condemn the actions of security on Wednesday 17th November in banning our meeting and hope that Phil Cardew will ensure that this does not happen again. We are pleased LSBU management recognises our legitimacy and that there will be no repercussions of any persons involved in the occupation of the Language Centre.

In response to the closure of the Language Centre, LSBU management have cut the right of students to access language facilities without looking into alternatives. One alternative to a language centre, which most other universities offer, is to integrate language provisions into the main structure of degrees, teaching students one additional world language, for instance Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish or French. This structure not only provides credits to students who wish to learn a second language but enriches their university experience and their post-graduation employability. We ask LSBU management to openly consider and discuss alternative routes for language development within the University, including the full consultation of students.

Despite appreciating the opening of communications between management and Defend LSBU! Defend Our Education!, we feel that written communication is failing to provide an open forum for discussion of students’ disagreement with current and future job losses and closures at LSBU. We therefore demand that the Vice Chancellor arrange a public meeting in which he can discuss how cuts and rises in fees will affect LSBU students and staff. This will not only provide space for students to air their views and concerns but also ensure that the Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor can openly justify their previous statements.

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University statement to Defend LSBU! Defend our Education! occupation

Response to issues raised by the ‘Defend LSBU’ Group:

General issues raised:

London Southbank University (LSBU) reiterates that we accept the right to peaceful protest and supports students in responding to national debates on higher education in whatever way best suits their needs. We would, however, always continue to urge students to use those means available to them as part of the ‘day-to-day’ operation of the University – the Students’ Union being a central pillar in representing the student voice. It is difficult for a large and complex organisation to respond to a large number of disparate (and sometimes conflicting) opinions, and thus some co-ordination and prioritisation of student concerns is always helpful.

We are operating in a period of increasing financial stringency in the public sector, with a clear indication from the Government that there is a finite amount of resources available. LSBU is a publicly-funded organisation, and is responsible to our funding agencies, as well as to our Board of Governors, for demonstrating that we take that responsibility seriously. This entails ensuring that we use funds for the maximum benefit for the majority of our students and, increasingly, this has caused us to have to re-evaluate our work, both as an academic institution and as an operational unit, to ensure that we use our funds wisely and to the best purpose. This has involved us in making some decisions which are unpopular with some groups within our student and staff bodies, but we have always made those decisions through correct processes and with communication and consultation with those involved.

To address the three specific issues raised by our students:

The Language Centre:

The Language Centre provided a certain amount of support for a very small number of students (less than 1% of our total student population) and was, in many ways, looking backwards to an older model of higher education, where the University itself delivered language-related courses and where other forms of language learning (online, for example) were not widely available. Whilst we recognise that by closing the centre, we have reduced the availability of language support to some students, it was uneconomical to continue to provide such a resource and, with our funding being reduced in many ways, we have (as iterated above) to use our resources to best effect.

Whilst we are sure that some aspects of the work of the Language Centre provided support for international students, there are other support mechanisms available to them – either with their courses or via such opportunities as ‘pre study’ courses during the summer. All of our academic courses have entry requirements which specify the minimum competency in English language of all international participants (usually expressed as a score within the internationally-recognised International English Language Testing System [IELTS]). The underlying premise of these entry requirements is that all students should be capable of undertaking work at the level of their terminal award using the medium of English. We do feel, therefore, that we are damaging the chances of international students through the closure of this facility.

LSBU recognises that a small number of students will wish to study a foreign language whilst at LSBU – for this reason, all of the online and personal study materials are being retained and transferred to the library. The room itself is being transformed into a quiet study area, which has been requested by a large proportion of the student body, so will be able to benefit more students overall.

LLU+:

The former London Language and Literacy Centre (now LLU+) came to LSBU only a relatively short while ago, as a result of other agencies being unable to fund or to adequately support its work. LLU+ is, we acknowledge, a unit which performs some important roles, particularly in the fields of adult skills and offender learning, but much of this work is not at degree level, and that which is, tends to be very much focused in areas of our provision which are already stretched in terms of resources (the Education Department, for example, which has recently suffered from reductions in funding from the Training and Development Agency)

Other areas of the work of LLU+ is funded at pre-degree level, and whilst this was possible (though not easy) during the existence of the existence of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), it has become increasingly more difficult now that the LSC has been split into two separate bodies, the Young People’s Learning Agency and the Skills Funding Agency. This move has seen our overall potential funding dropping year-on-year, from something a little over £500,000 in 2006, to around £300,000 in 2009, and has both limited our opportunities to bid for additional finding and tied existing funding to performance measures which we have, at times, failed to meet (resulting in further reductions in funding). At the same time, the Skills Funding Agency has recently informed us that it will withdraw funding from all providers with an overall grant of less than £500,000, potentially cutting this source of funding off altogether.

Thus, whilst we are reassured of the value of the work accomplished by LLU+, it is not work which contributes to the mainstream, core teaching of the University (LLU+ has always operated very much as a separate entity outside other faculties and departments), and is not delivering outcomes which are at an educational level which allows cross-subsidy of this work through other funding mechanisms. The decision to close the unit was taken with the full consideration of the Board of Governors, and on the provision that we help LLU+ to seek alternative modes of operation – either in partnership with another educational provider, or as a separate operational entity. We are continuing these discussions in a number of areas, and will do so until perceived opportunities are exhausted.

Closure of the unit has no impact on the dyslexia support available to students at LSBU, which is provided through the Disability and Dyslexia Support Unit within the Centre of Learning Support and Development.

Emergency Loans:

Emergency Loans were implemented to support students who, for one reason or another, fail to have sufficient funding in place at the beginning of their courses. This has been particularly an issue in terms of the known problems with the operation of the Student Loans Company in previous years, but these problems have now largely been addressed, and there is little reason why a student who has made adequate preparations should not be able to secure funding in time.

The issue of whether or not to continue with the loans was brought to the Committee for Student Affairs in June 2010. The problem facing is was that, looking at the operation of the scheme during past years, we have faced significant problems in asking students to repay the loans made, with a large number of defaulters. As these funds come from a finite resource, also used for the Access to Learning Funds, other students facing hardship later during the year have been unable to receive any help, because those who we have helped already (and who have not returned their loans) have used all the available funding. Committee for Student Affairs, although asking us to keep an eye on the situation, agreed that the need for the emergency funding should be reducing, and that we should use all the available resources for Access to learning Funding.

Whilst there is no real evidence that a large number of students have been placed in difficulties through this decision, we do recognise that there may be continuing implications for first-year students (particularly those who enter the University through summer recruitment and thus may not have sufficient time to complete the documentation required for funding purposes). We will, therefore, look at other sources of temporary funding that we may be able to make available to such students and seek to implement a process for 2011 onwards which provides emergency support to a more limited number of students.

 Dr Phil Cardew, BA PhD FRSA

Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic)

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Teach-in Update

There has been a bit of a mix up with the teach-in schedule for this afternoon. After a meeting and vote earlier today, it was decided to hold an extended session from 4pm until 6pm, covering themes such as:

Lerning languages (German & Greek have been offered)
Discussion: The history of the student movement? (UCU Lecturer speaking)
Discussion: Why are Arts & Media important to education? (Open discussion)

We will also have other events and debates. Students and staff are invited and ecouraged to participate and suggest meetings. If you know a language, and would like to conduct a short lesson, let us know!

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Teach-in timetable: 25th November

This is the timetable for tomorrow. Time slots that are currently free will be updated as the day goes on. We encourage all students and staff visiting the occupation to suggest meetings, or to offer their skills in teaching languages or other subjects:

10am: Wake-Up: Organiser meeting
11am:
12pm:
1pm: Mid-day organiser meeting
2pm: Why are arts and media important in education?
3pm: Guitar lesson
4pm:
5pm: Where next for the student movement?
6pm: Greek language lesson
7pm: German language lesson
8pm: Film showing – ‘Bread & Roses’

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Statement from LSBU student occupation in response to Dr. Phil Cardew, Pro Vice Chancellor

Further to our previous statement, we condemn the University’s decision to cease the operation of LLU+ next year. LLU+ is a national centre for staff working in the areas of literacy, numeracy, dyslexia, family learning and English for Speakers of Other Languages. These areas of expertise are directly relevant to a core mission of this University – widening participation to higher education.

We reiterate the value of languages and the language centre to our education and employability – the University prides itself upon its high graduate starting salaries, to which this contributes. With the Language Centre shut, we will be one of the few higher education institutions without provision for foreign languages, in a particularly diverse university. Therefore we are constructively using the Language Centre for its intended purpose, learning languages and improving our own education while we are here.

As stated previously, the petition we submitted to the management of the University, mentioned not only the closure of the language centre, but also the scrapping of emergency loans. Dr. Cardew did not mention this in his response. These loans, formerly provided by LSBU, enabled students in financial difficulty to continue their studies in higher education. Our student base contains a high proportion of students from lower income backgrounds and many are also parents or full time carers. These students often relied upon this vital service; also crucial to making this a University for all.

We feel Dr. Cardew’s statement fails to respond to our demands directly – much of his statement reflects the corporate language and reasoning that the University promotes to students and staff in its communications. Furthermore the statement suggests that the Students’ Union is the focus for student concerns – this should not be the only route to raise the student voice. For instance, we submitted a petition of over 1,100 signatures regarding the Language Centre and emergency loans – this received no response from the University. Similarly we invited the Vice-Chancellor to meet with us prior to the occupation, but he declined.

The premise that underpins Dr. Cardew’s statement is that the University’s first principle is that of a business rather than an educational institution. Defend LSBU! Defend our Education! reject this idea. Education has value in itself and should be available for all. Our demands call for the University to reject the idea that cuts are inevitable and that the free market can provide the best education for our students, a public position held by our Vice-Chancellor. We should not, as the statement suggests, show solidarity with other Universities which accept the implementation of higher education cuts, but rather stand with those who fight back.

We need a direct response to our demands. We are not customers, we are students standing up for the value and independence of our education. We will not accept the marketization of education as a rationale for job losses, department closures and service cuts.

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Statement from the occupiers at London South Bank University

Today has been a momentous occasion for the student movement and the wider campaign against the coalition government’s ‘austerity cuts’ across the country.

We offer our solidarity to all those students protesting today including those ‘kettled’ in Central London, the thirteen students arrested in today’s protests and those students from Rednock School, Gloucestershire, excluded for walking out, all in protest to the cuts in education funding and rise of university tuition fees.

We thank the following groups and institutions for offering their solidarity:
·         London South Bank University, University College Union
·         LLU+
·         National Union of Journalists Left
·         Leeds University, Occupiers
·         Birmingham University, Occupiers
·         Essex University, Occupiers
·         SOAS, Occupiers
·         University College London, Occupiers
·         Lincoln University Students
·         Southwark National Union of Teachers
·         Newcastle University Students
·         Southwark Save Our Services
·         Lambeth Save Our Services

In turn we offer our solidarity with all of the above mentioned groups and institutions in their campaigns against the cuts.

The purpose of our occupation is not only to protest against national and local cuts to higher education but also to utilize the Language Centre for its intended purpose and is now in disuse due to a management decision.  We intend to use the space in a constructive manner which will demonstrate our alternative vision of higher education with seminars, lectures, workshops and film showings which are conducted without a clear student/lecturer divide. Today we have held democratic discussion, language lessons and debates.

We have now received a response from the university management to our demands and we are currently drafting a response. It is worth noting that we have previously submitted a petition signed by over one thousand students with regards to the closure of the language centre and the scrapping of emergency loans. We have received no response. Similarly we offered the Vice-Chancellor the opportunity to meet with students prior to the occupation. He declined to take the opportunity, resulting in our actions today.

We aim to raise awareness of these issues and we call upon fellow South Bank Students to join us in protesting against all cuts to education, the extortionate rise of tuition fees and local cuts at London South Bank University.

We reject the Coalition Government’s ‘logic’, endorsed by our Vice-Chancellor, that public services must be cut in response to a crisis caused by greed in the financial sector. They should be made to pay, not us!

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Response from the University

In response to the demands made by the group of students participating in an occupation at LSBU on Wednesday 24th November, Dr Phil Cardew, Pro Vice Chancellor, London South Bank University (LSBU) says,

“The University recognises and supports its staff and students’ right to protest in an undisruptive manner, as is currently the case with the sit-in. In addition, we have well-established and effective processes for both staff and students to voice their opinions and concerns; the Students’ Union provides a particular focus for student concerns with University policy, the President being a member of the Board of Governors and Students’ Union representatives being full members of Academic Board, Quality and Standards Committee and Learning and Teaching Committee.

Over the past year, amidst major funding cuts, LSBU has undergone a university-wide review of its business in an effort to safeguard its future and its student’s education – the key priority of the University. As part of this process the University has been unable to avoid redundancies completely and has concentrated on keeping these as low as possible.

In the case of the Language Centre, as part of the University’s business review and after a three month consultation process, the decision was made to close the unit and all staff were successfully redeployed. This decision was not taken lightly but deemed necessary as the unit did not align well with the University’s core business – to provide professional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to its students. It was also accessed by less than 1% of the student body and was running at a significant deficit. The University is necessarily committed to sensible financial planning – to reverse this decision would not be sensible or responsible.

The language and literacy centre, LLU+ has also been included within the business review and was deemed to fall outside the University’s core business of providing professional degree courses for  both undergraduates and postgraduates. At a recent meeting of the Board of Governors it was decided to cease the operation of LLU+ with effect from September 2011, whilst ensuring that all current students were cared for appropriately until their individual courses finished. The University continues to explore opportunities to enable LLU+ to continue operation outside the University, either through association with another educational provider or through establishment as a self-funding entity. The University is supporting senior staff within LLU+ in considering and exploring these possibilities.

The University is in solidarity with other higher education institutions in facing this difficult period of funding cuts. We recognise the challenging financial climate across the entire public sector, not just in the UK but also throughout Europe. We will continue to act in the interests of our students and staff, developing new cost-effective and financially-sustainable models of operation to help minimise any negative impact these external challenges may have on the student experience here at LSBU.”

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Solidarity with the students at Rednock School in Gloucester

We have just received information that secondary school students at Rednock School in Gloucester who stood up and walked out against education cuts earlier today have now been faced with expulsion.

Ealier today a determined group of students in the small town of Dursley in Gloucester, walked out of their lessons to stand up and resist the coalition Goverments cuts. As they walked out, the fire alarm was set off, seemingly by school management in an attempt to hide and undermine the students action.

Students who were identified as having walked out before the fire alarm were then told that as a result of their action, they are facing explusion periods of 2 weeks. Students have been informed that only sixth formers are permitted to take part in such demonstrations.

Defend LSBU! Defend our Education! stand in solidarity with these students, and all students who have taken action against these cuts. We offer our full support to the students of rednock School.

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Watch the occupation live

http://justin.tv/southbankuniversity

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Occupation update

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