Anastazja Oppenheim reports -This week we’ve learned that, without any consultations with students or trade unions, the management of University of the Arts London decided to cut over 800 places on our Further Education courses. Dozens of staff woke up on Monday to an email informing them that they’re at risk of redundancy. Students and sabbs were quick to react – on Thursday, we started an open-ended occupation, taking over management rooms at Central Saint Martins (King’s Cross)
Foundation has been the first step in the careers of countless artists and designers. It’s a multi-disciplinary course where students are encouraged to explore different techniques and develop a portfolio before they apply for an undergraduate programme. Completing a Foundation degree is required to access many BA courses What’s more, Foundation is free for home students aged 19 and under, therefore being an opportunity for budding creatives to pursue their passions without worrying about student debt. This attracts many students from a working class background, who might otherwise not have considered continuing their education.
However, Foundation courses are not as lucrative as other, more expensive qualifications. Therefore our university’s management doesn’t see them as a priority, and the government’s recently announced cuts to Further Education budget (under which Foundation falls) provide a convenient excuse for course closures and redundancies. However, UAL’s plan to cut back on Foundation predates the news, and the extent of the cuts is far bigger than the decrease of funding. Furthermore, we believe that FE courses (and all other arts courses, for that matter), are valuable for the opportunities they provide, not for any profit they might bring.
UAL makes enough of a surplus to easily be able to subsidise 800 student places. Instead, it chooses to spend it on “state-of-the-art” buildings, which only the Vice-Chancellor seems to be impressed with, as well as ubiquitous advertising.
Our resistance to Foundation cuts is a fight in its own right, as well as part of a bigger struggle: for a free and public, not profit-led education. For financial transparency within our institution. For a more democratic university that listens to students and staff, and not just the sound of money.
These demands apply not only to UAL, but to colleges and universities across the country. Please show solidarity. If you can’t join the occupation, please sign and share our petition: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-the-arts-london-stop-the-cuts-to-foundation-courses and tweet your support using #OccupyUAL.
Education is a right! UAL – not for sale!