On Monday, I wrote that it was starting to feel as if a debate on the future of higher education was finally starting to open up. Today, I have a post on Research Fortnight’s blog, Exquisite Life, about the way academics are (in their own way) starting to campaign on this issue.
I bashed out that post at the end of the day yesterday, and then went off to have a 3 hour meeting at UCL with a group of academic-activists (photos taken outside their History department). At the end of the meeting, we saw the news that MPs would vote on the raise tuition fees in England on 9 December. So, my conclusion that campus life seems to be moving little faster than usual at the moment might feel quite true over the next week.
I mention in the piece that I’d seen drafts of further letters to the press. Today, the Times published one from the Campaign for a Public University, signed by 165 academics, stressing that students are not the only ones angry at the governments plans for education. You can read it here if you have access through the paywall (edit: now liberated). Though I don’t know if this tweet from Brian Cathcart proves my point about academic back-biting (sorry, I mean disagreement, critique and open debate) being a problem in terms of building a united front.
Something I didn’t have space for in the piece is the ways in which the students are utalising materials from their studies to better understand, build and articulate their protests. I visited the UCL occupation on Monday, and spoke to a PhD student there, Aaron Peters:
They’re savvy in terms of conceptualizing the protest, which is a key point. I mean some of the books these kids are reading: Foucault, Derrida, Barthes… You see Lyotard, you see Deleuze, you see Guttari. You see the canon of critical theory and it’s 19 year old people, and they actually practicing it. They want to engage with it politically, in the streets. It’s no longer some sort of intellectual masturbation. It’s being used for something.
I didn’t use this on the Research Fortnight blog, because I thought a focus on academics was most appropriate on that post. However, it is a thread in the story worth bringing out, and I may well go back to it. There’s a lot more to be said about the way students are using their degrees in the protests and, perhaps, augmenting their eduction in the process. Above all, I think the student protests demonstrates quite how much students think, know and care about their degrees. If we do unlock a larger debate on the future of UK universities, it’s going to be very hard to students keep students out (not that I would have wanted to in the first place).
If you are in the area, I can recommended dropping in on the UCL occupation (before they get evicted). David Colquhoun has a post about his visit there, and there is a video on the Guardian. Or read about them directly on their blog.