“Students and workers, unite and fight!” was chanted by hundreds of students as they marched around Bath University campus last week. Before the demonstration even gathered, the joint campaign of students and staff had already won a significant victory. Glynis Breakwell, the country’s highest paid university Vice Chancellor, had announced her resignation the day before.
She had attracted anger for her £468k wage packet which saw her earn more than the lowest paid university worker in just 12 days. She also had a rent-free house paid for by the university but not content with that she had agreed to an £18k pay rise this year while most university staff have faced a 1% pay cap for years. She had also claimed £20k in expenses, including £2 for a packet of biscuits, leading to chants of “Books not Biscuits” and confectionary thrown at administration buildings.
While the lively protest was celebrating “Glexit”, for the demonstrating students and the staff joining them it was too little, too late. Her resignation deal will see her being paid up until February 2019, pocketing another £600k from the uni. This was about more than just one person, high executive pay reflects the marketisation of universities, making them more about business than education. Speakers addressing the demonstration explained how the out of touch vice chancellor was a lightning rod for anger on fees, cuts and high rents. Results of a survey were announced that showed 87% of students had no confidence in the vice chancellor and 86% had no confidence in the whole university governance.
Around 100 students entered a university building, occupying it for several hours. The occupying protesters danced and chanted outside of a meeting where the VC and governors were presented with a damning report into their management by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and a list of demands. The protest went on until the vice chancellor and senior management left a few hours later behind a wall of security staff. While university bosses may have hoped Breakwell’s resignation would mark an end to the saga, they have now been forced to concede they will listen to the campaigns demand and look at further changes.
Socialist Students will continue to fight against the marketisation of our places of education - let's fight for fully funded universities which are democratically ran by students and workers, and fight for socialist change!
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