Petition Tag - he

1. Oppose the new system in UK Higher Education

We are approaching the first term under a new regime in UK Higher Education (and particularly in England), which represents a seismic shift in the nature of public provision, marked by the removal of the cap on tuition fees.

As academic staff we wish to declare our continued opposition to a system which will increasingly exclude working class students and others from non-traditional backgrounds and promote higher education as a privilege. The irony is that while students are paying hugely inflated fees (albeit as 'loans'), universities are making cuts in academic, professional and support jobs which will seriously affect the extent and quality of educational provision.

The scapegoating of London Metropolitan University as part of a government publicity stunt to bolster its immigration policies, at the same time as university support services are to be contracted out, exemplifies the political nature of the attack on Higher Education.

The entry of Pearson Education into ‘the market’ demonstrates the developing privatisation of Higher Education and, as in health and social care, the prospect of large multi-nationals becoming key providers.

2. Open Letter to Malcolm Grant: Say no to the 'New College of the Humanities'

On Sunday 5 June, a private college calling itself the "New College of the Humanities" (NCHUM was launched in the UK press. This college promises "one to one tuition" in humanities subjects at the University of London in return for an annual fee of £18,000 a year. Unlike the publicly-funded not-for-profit University sector, this college is set up as a private enterprise paying shareholders dividends.

Simultaneously, Arts and Humanities departments in universities across the UK are in crisis. Government funding for teaching has been cut by 80% and it is doubtful that ordinary working-class UK students will be able to pay £8-9,000 to study subjects such as Philosophy, History, Art, Language and Literature. Universities which specialise in Humanities subjects, or whose intake is primarily working-class, face bankruptcy.

The NCHUM is thus part of the problem, not part of the solution. Should this business model be successful it will likely create a market drive towards similar experiments at the expense of the public sector, in exactly the same way as private wards and BUPA have impacted on the NHS. For this reason the proposal must be opposed.

Vice Chancellors across the University of London have so far been slow to distance themselves from this venture. This petition, open to staff, students and alumni of University College London (UCL) asks that current Provost, Malcolm Grant does just this.

3. Manifesto for Higher Education

Please consider signing up to the manifesto for higher education that is part of a forthcoming Pluto Press book called 'The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance'.

As you know only too well, students and university staff are involved in a series of crucial campaigns not simply to oppose increased tuition fees and education cuts but also to challenge attempts by the government to impose a whole new ethic to university education in this country: one that is based, above all, on the marketisation of learning and teaching.

We have included below the very short list of manifesto demands that we believe need to be part of the public debate in relation to the future of universities. We plan to run a very public campaign focusing attention on the manifesto to make sure that it is widely circulated inside academic, student and campaigning circles.

Initial signatories include John Pilger, Paul Gilroy, John McDonnell MP, Nick Davies, Etienne Balibar, Michael Lowy, James Curran, Angela McRobbie, China Mieville, Colin Leys, John Corner, Wendy Brown, Graham Murdock, Mark Fisher, Andrew Ross, Bruno Bosteels and many other academics.

We would really appreciate your support and, of course, let us know if you have any questions about the project. You can email to sign, or if you have any questions.

With best wishes Des Freedman and Michael Bailey

4. Save Jobs at the University of Reading

The University plans to appoint a reader/professor in theatre and sack one lecturer specialising in film and one lecturer specialising in television. This is part of the University’s plans to both save money and to reshape the University ‘strategically’. The two lecturers who will be dismissed are most likely to be junior members of staff (the department has a high proportion of young lecturers) and the new reader/professor will certainly be on a much higher pay scale. Therefore, the cost saving objective behind this plan is not apparent. Neither does the ‘reshaping strategy’ (e.g. scaling back film and television while investing in theatre) have any clear reasoning behind it. Repeatedly, the University has claimed that the decision to favour theatre in the current plans is based upon perceptions of relative research strength. For example, early in the process of planning where to make cuts, the University management suggested that film performed less well in the last RAE (Research Assessment Exercise). It was pointed out that this was pure speculation (the RAE results are completely anonymous and do not identify individual lecturers let alone separate theatre from film or television) and they eventually retracted this claim (or, rather, stopped saying it). However, they continue to point to the perceived greatest value for the department of theatre as a research discipline as the basis for their decisions. Whenever they are questioned on the academic basis for their strategy, the University management is unable to point to any factual data, any objective or empirical evidence. We, the undersigned, point out that the University seems to be basing their continued strategy, which will destroy two careers, on gossip and innuendo.

Moreover, by singling out film and television specialists, the University is effectively undermining the interdisciplinarity of the department, which is one of its renowned features. For example, the BA in Film and Theatre is a single-honours degree. The disciplines are substantially integrated through the department’s teaching, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as through the department’s research. Moreover, the recently advertised post of reader/professor in theatre would be the replacement of a retired member of staff whose job title was ‘professor in film and drama’.

We note that the department has been unable to appoint at reader level or above in theatre on two separate occasions (the post was last advertised in August 2010 and the University was unable to draw up a shortlist of a sufficient calibre). In effect, this means that the University will fire two (almost certainly junior) academics in order to have the ‘research leadership’ of a person who they cannot find. This is not only morally indefensible but is also severely misguided. The department is a very young one (in terms of the age of its lecturers), the University having repeatedly invested in the long-term potential of junior staff. Neither the University nor the department has ever suggested junior staff are not fulfilling this potential, so they should have the patience to realise the long-term vision their previous appointments demonstrated and reward the excellence in teaching and research displayed by this vibrant department. The University has also invested in an £11 million building for the department (opening Easter this year), which will contain state of the art facilities for theatre, film and television, and we, the undersigned, suggest the University should better value the staff who will work in its new buildings.

In the current climate, many will feel that financial savings must be made at Reading and at other universities. However, here as elsewhere, savings can be made by voluntary redundancy and the non-replacement of staff. We do not accept the University pursuing a misguided and short-termist agenda that will destroy careers, staff morale, will weaken the diversity of research and teaching in the department and is part of a ‘strategy’ that is ill-conceived and lacks an objective grounding in fact.

Please read on...

To those signing the petition, we ask if you would please email as many of the senior members of the University of Reading management that you can in order to protest against its mistreatment of staff and to demand that it withdraw from its plans for a new appointment in theatre so that it can save existing posts.

The email addresses are below and we have also included a suggested template for the email at the bottom. Please use/don’t use as you see fit. We would be so grateful if you can show your support for the staff in Reading FTT in any way you can and protest against the sacking of two lecturers in order to get in a new, more senior member of staff. This is all part of a severely misguided (not to mention callous) management agenda.

Thank you so much for your support!

Gordon Marshall (Vice Chancellor):

Christopher Fisher (President of University Council):

Tony Downes (Deputy Vice Chancellor):

Rob Robson (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning):

Sue Walker (Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities):

Jonathan Bignell (Head of School of Arts, English and Communication Design and member of FTT department):

Dear *,

I call on the University of Reading to withdraw its plans to make two lecturers redundant in its Film, Theatre and Television department (FTT) while appointing a new reader/professor in the same department. The University says that its ‘intention remains of course to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy where this is possible’ yet these redundancies are clearly avoidable here – a reader/professor clearly costs a lot more than the lecturers the University plans to dismiss. These redundancies will not only potentially destroy two careers, they will undermine the interdisciplinarity the FTT department is known for and the diversity and vibrancy of its teaching and research.

In the current climate, the University management clearly feels that financial savings must be made. However, here as elsewhere, the savings can be made by voluntary redundancy and the non-replacement of staff. I contend that this would be a much less divisive and much less destructive way of coping with the current funding crisis and would therefore prove to be a much more effective management policy in the longer term.

Thanks for your time in reading this.

Yours *

5. Help Get a Skatepark for Harleysville Kids

Hello. I am a resident of Harleysville, PA. This petition is directed in the direction of kids everywhere, skateboarders, and people fed up with the annoying sound of skating, rollerblading, or biking and the crowds that come with these sports.

I would like to propose a skatepark be built in Harleysville in order to keep skaters from damaging local property. It would also help to keep local authorities focused on crimes and more important things rather then just trying to bust the skateboarders in my town. I believe it will be a free public park for the people, by the people, and a skate at your own risk establishment. Money can and will be raised at local stores, in schools, and also from donations. Materials and labor will also somewhat be handled by donation as well as funding.

If you are a skateboarder or would like to help give us kids somewhere to go without getting fined, arrested, or yelled at, please sign this petition.