On 7 May, ENS and other free education activists shut down a conference organised by Universities UK, the government’s Higher Education Funding Council and the “Association for University Research and Industry Links” — a conference held to discuss how to best hand over our higher education system to profit-making businesses.
The protest was planned at the 18 April student conference which grew out of the university Gaza occupations.
About thirty activists demonstrated outside the Westminster conference centre where the event was held. The centrepiece, though, was the dozen of us who dressed up smartly and went inside. We were pretty much the only students at an event dominated by university bureaucrats and business people. (Both in terms of the make up of the audience and the bland, corporate jargon hiding a sinister intent, it was like a lefty caricature of such an event.)
When the incredibly pompous head of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts finished speaking, but before union bureaucrat-turned-boss Diana Warwick of Universities UK could take the stage, we occupied it.
After taking the podium, we took turns to read out speeches denouncing the privatisation of education which business is so enthusiastically pursuing with the encouragement and sponsorship of the Labour government. When a few attempts to remove us failed, the organisers cleared the hall and temporarily adjourned the conference!
We left before the police arrived and took the demonstrators outside up to London Met for the UCU strikers’ picket lines and rally. But we’ll be back for more. UUK were clearly rattled, and as the struggle over the future of education hots up lots more such direct action will be needed.
• The next ENS (open) meeting will be Saturday 6 June in London. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org