David Eastwood (right) suffers a grilling over his pay from students (Photo courtesy of Guild TV)
On the 25th of January, students at the University of Birmingham lambasted their fat-cat Vice Chancellor David Eastwood during his Question Time event. The room was filled with students rightfully angered by Eastwood’s role at the University. Since Dame Breakwell was shamed into resignation at the University of Bath, Eastwood is now the highest paid VC in the country with an eye-watering salary of £436,000 – almost double the average pay for VC’s nationally, that comes with a university-funded mansion and chauffeur-driven Jaguar. During his time, Eastwood has made it his personal mission to attack workers’ wages, pensions and conditions. Eastwood’s regime has placed over 70% of teaching staff at UoB on casualised zero-hours contracts, has cut the pay of many support staff (administrators, cleaners and caterers etc.) of up to £1,800 because he refuses to keep their wages at least in line with inflation, let alone offer the living wage universally. Not only this, Eastwood also receives £90k a year for chairing the USS pension scheme and has attacked the pensions of University staff nationally which forced UCU to ballot successfully for strike action.
It is no wonder then that students are rightfully disgraced by their VC and bombarded him with criticism. In addition to his role in increasing fees, students also questioned why Eastwood is pursuing an expensive vanity project and brand promotion exercise in opening a UoB campus in Dubai this September if he cannot guarantee the rights of female and LGBT students who will study there. Students were also furious that the University closed its mental health and counselling services recently which are clearly under-funded and under-staffed. In the context of an increasing mental health crisis of young people especially, it makes the VC’s greed in these respects even more damning. Eastwood was left squirming in a tirade of criticism on an assortment of issues that was streamed live by student-run Guild TV. This included a call from Socialist Students for his resignation who exposed conflicts with his business interests as he tried to deflect the more difficult questions onto his senior staff. This agitational mood was helped by Socialist Students and the campus trade unions who have conducted several demonstrations on these matters and distributed material before the event detailing some of the VC’s worst offences. Despite attempts from university security to prevent our completely legitimate and legal activity, almost every student in the room had a copy which ensured there was no let-off for Eastwood.
A burst of applause as a member of Socialist Students calls for Eastwood's resignation (Photo courtesy of Guild TV)
Whilst Eastwood’s drubbing provides a feeling of short-term justice for students and staff, it is clear that Eastwood’s situation, and of fat-cat VC’s generally, is a symptom of a broken capitalist higher education system that puts profit first. We cannot guarantee that any of this will change until we succeed in achieving our rights to a fully free university education and see the elimination of student debt so we can drive self-serving fat cats like Eastwood off our campuses for good. Kick out the fat cat VCs and university executives - and the Tory government which facilitates them!
Follow the link to watch our Socialist Students member ask David Eastwood the question which is on everyone's lips - when will he resign! - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_ADsBP3Vmk&feature=youtu.be&t=7099
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Theresa May admits tuition fees system is broken - organise to kick out the rest of the Tories!