Yesterday saw dozens of trade unionists from UCU rally in support of students, staff and alumni occupying the Senior Common Room of Coleraine University. This comes at a time when staff and students are consistently pitted against each other to allow the government and university management to steamroll ahead with plans to make cutbacks to services, increase fees and to attack the pay & conditions of staff. Of course this is part of a wider agenda of creeping privatisation, corporatisation and marketisation of education which is aggressively being stepped up in University of Ulster over recent years.
The rally saw around 160 people, including leading trade & student union activists, come together to show solidarity to the occupiers. The platform of speakers which included UCU, NUS-USI, Chloë Gault one of the key organisers and myself. The message from the platform was clear, students are beginning to fightback against the profiteering agenda of university Photo: Tyler McNally
management up and down the country, that their education is not a market commodity.
Student union speakers spoke of the increasing pressures of student debt and the cutbacks/closure of services, including vital student support and counselling services. UCU offered their full support and solidarity and noted the conscious link the occupiers made between the ongoing union dispute for Fair Pay in Higher Education and the fight against the closure of the Senior Common Room.
Chloë Gault, a key organiser of the occupation and a member of Socialist Society in Coleraine closed the rally “we students could no longer sit by and watch our services being run down and eventually shut[…]” she recognised “the importance for students and staff to fight together to keep education accessible to everyone and to stop a haven from sectarian division and commercialisation being turned into a food court with teaching facilities.”