After a year-long campaign of direct action to defend courses and teaching staff at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL), education activists, including members of Staines Anarchists, have won in their battle with senior management.
The campaign has seen students, lecturers and other staff coming together as stakeholders to decide their approach to cuts on campus. The group, ‘Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance’ (RHACA), has campaigned tirelessly this year since the news broke in summer 2011 that courses and departments were set to be axed, with the added implication and discussion of compulsory redundancies.
Working against the grain of a culture of apathy and indifference at RHUL, RHACA have held open assemblies which have initiated lobbies of the College Council and a high-profile occupation of the senior management corridor and Principal’s office in solidarity with the November 30th lecturers’ strike called by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU). The occupation lasted 8 days before disbanding due to victimisation and High Court notices being issued on behalf of the senior management team. Acting as a platform to raise awareness over the proposed cuts to departments such as classics, modern languages and computer science, the occupation also put pressure onto management over incomptencies such as wasteful spending and a failure to engage the stakeholders affected by the proposed cuts and redundancies.
Though senior management tried to warn the activists against any future protest, with the implicit threat of imposing a year-long court-enforced ban on such activity, such as those attempted at Sheffield and Birmingham universities, RHACA have continued to lobby the College Council with the support of the RHUL UCU branch. Now they have received confirmation of their achievements: a halt to department closures and compulsory redundancies, down from thirty to zero, and a commitment to putting money into expanding the library.
The news has been welcomed by activists within both RHACA and the UCU branch, who have campaigned often at a personal cost out of a commitment to the cause. However, efforts are now being turned to demanding greater transparency, accountability and democracy in the university structures and processes which initiated the debacle in the first place. The tangible results of the year’s campaign look set to continue into the next academic year, with the RHUL students’ union now committed to supporting direct action including occupations in defence of education.