Crunch decisions over cuts at both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities over the past week have yielded mixed results for the anti-cuts movement in the city. With, in particular, Humanities subjects under threat at both universities, a huge amount was at stake.
Since February, when course cuts were revealed at Glasgow University, a mass campaign has been mounted across the city in defence of education, coming off the back of the tuition fees protests late last year. A focus of this has been the Free Hetherington at Glasgow Uni, which enters its 150th day of (near) continuous occupation this Thursday, although a large-scale campaign has also been mounted across the city at Strathclyde which has similarly hit national headlines.
Demo at Glasgow Uni last week
At Glasgow, staff, student and external pressure was able to achieve a massive climbdown from management, who had initially proposed slashing nursing, adult education, anthropology and nearly all modern language teaching. All are now saved – or have at least gained reprieves – although last Wednesday’s vote will see Slavonic studies, the Centre for Drug Misuse Research and humanities courses at the university’s Dumfries campus go. Following a decision yesterday, Strathclyde is set to lose music, geography, sociology and community education, in line with Principal Jim McDonald’s vision of transforming the university into a ‘centre of technical excellence’ on par with MIT. In reality, this is of course a neo-liberal realignment of the university towards profitable, business friendly research, being achieved under a smokescreen of austerity savings. At Glasgow, the equally unaccountable, and equally contemptible, Principal Muscatelli has even stated, having last year fear-mongered about the ‘university going bust within four years’, that the cuts are not – after all – about financial necessity, but purely ‘strategic’. Which does help explain the huge surplus the university recently announced.
Ahead of the court meeting at Strathclyde, students and anti-cuts activists entered into occupation on Monday morning. Although an attempt to seize the senate suite, in which the actual vote would be taking place the following day, was foiled by security, the soon to be closure-hit Sociology and Geography floor of the Graham Hills building was occupied overnight, with a packed public meeting taking place in the evening, which heard from local trade union activists and community campaigners. Early the following morning a picket was then held as the University Court met, with the occupation coming to an end.
The battle is far from over, and nor will these be the last cuts that Muscatelli, McDonald and their counterparts across the country attempt to force through. Over the past few months, Glasgow Uni in particular has witnessed the emergence of a mass movement against the cuts, with upwards of 2000 joining a march on the uni court in February, and hundreds rallying to the occupation following the well-documented eviction attempt in March. The new term presents real opportunities for continuing to build and strengthen this movement against cuts and fees, as part of the wider fight across society against capitalist austerity.