Last weekend, I (dimitri) went up to Sheffield Hallam University where the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC for short) organised a Summer Training for SU Sabbatical Officers and student activists. There were sessions on ‘How to be a lefty sabb’ and ‘How to run a radical campaign for student welfare.’ Beyond the gloss of these workshop titles it made for an interesting weekend, meeting other SU officers from across the UK ready to fight for Free Education across the board.
First off, I travelled up to the training with a fellow SOAS student (Achille) who is also an activist in the Justice for LSE Cleaners campaign. On arriving we were immediately recruited to participate on the panel of the Opening Plenary for the conference on ‘Rebuilding the Grassroots: where we’re at’. I spoke on the importance of the struggle and victory by the SOAS Justice For Workers - End Outsourcing campaign; Achille spoke on the victory of the Justice for LSE Cleaners campaign, as well as their on-going ‘Justice For Daniel’ campaign in solidarity with an LSE cleaner facing homophobic abuse and managerial neglect. Both of us emphasised the importance of these struggles and victories as examples of how migrant workers, with student solidarity, are at the forefront of improving working conditions for all workers in our respective communities. We also pointed out that it was a diversity of tactics, especially through collective actions such as strikes and occupations, that these campaigns successfully fought back against (at first) intransigent bosses and managers. There is power in our union, between students and workers, was essentially the message we were getting across. The room was brimming with interest and excitement.
Hence, when we organised our workshop later that afternoon, ‘Fighting Campus Cuts 101: Building Student-Worker Solidarity’, there was a lot of interest in actually getting down to the nitty gritty of organising such successful campaigns, and improving the working conditions of everyone on campus. We also addressed such issues as challenging White Saviour Complexes and recognising that there are most likely people in our various campuses already organising against workplace harassment, exploitation and injustice; it is simply a matter of for us as students and Sabbatical Officers to do some research and reaching out. We all left the workshop with the hope and project of building the union between students and workers even more on our campus, and challenging inequality in our own communities.
Finally, this allergy to inequality was also the driver behind our discussions about the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF, which has nothing to do with teaching excellence as you might have guessed). These two metrics are key drivers of the marketisation of the Higher Education system in this country, and we are all determined to fight this process as it robs prospective students the opportunity to pursue the studies they wish. The intensification of inequality in the Higher Education system is a concern for all of us, whether students, siblings, parents, workers, or families. And fighting this inequality in order to create a free, democratic and liberated education system is a fight that is relevant, and must involve all of us.
In light of this, I look forward to working with all of you SOAS students so that we can be many and strong at the national Free Education demonstration on Wednesday 15th November. We also need to be working with other Students’ Unions and the National Union of Students to for the transformation of our Higher Education system, via a range of different strategies from a national campaign to discredit the TEF to growing the NSS Boycott so that students in even more institutions boycott the NSS in the year to come.
If you wish to be involved in our Free Education campaign at SOAS and beyond, please get in touch with me and Nisha:
If you want to get involved in the SOAS Justice For Workers - End Outsourcing campaign, e-mail them at:
Or find all of us during Freshers’ Fortnight!
La lucha continua!