By Alex Falconer, anti austerity campaigner at Falmouth University
On November 5th Falmouth University announced the closure of Contemporary Crafts, Theatre and Digital Media as of next year, taking on no more applicants and allowing the courses to run until their end. This is all part of the universities on going campaign to move Falmouth away from an arts university and into a more profitable, business orientated university!
For the last few weeks I have been working closely with Contemporary Crafts, a heavily process lead course, which takes up a larger amount of space than say a business degree, something the university deems a negative connotation. Angered and upset by the decision, the students from crafts, in solidarity with students from other courses, members of the UCU and the wider community, have begun a campaign to prevent the closures.
So far we have been in the awareness stage of our protest, a huge amount of student support is behind us which has been culminated into a petition opposing the closures, with the student union also soon to hold a referendum on whether or not to support the protests.
Of course an Students' Union should be supporting such things straight away, but unfortunately that's not how things work so while they go through their bureaucratic process we’re getting on with things. A demo was recently held on the campus, despite the rain we had a strong turnout, around 50 people mainly from crafts but also from other courses marched through the university campus, chanting and getting signatures. It was a colourful and peaceful demonstration which helped to create a huge amount of awareness about the campaign.
Following on from this a sit in was staged outside the office of the Vice Chancellor whilst other members of the campaign were situated outside chanting at the window for 3 hours in the rain again. There is now a deadline in place for the management to reverse their decision, which if not adhered to will result in a escalation on our protest efforts to more disruptive tactics.
We’ve spent the last few weeks gathering students and staff support in order to have clear validity if we are forced into more direct protest in the coming weeks. Students from the affected courses and in general are extremely angered by the decision to close courses.
We are under no illusion that they decisions have been made for purely business reasons, not educational, that they are profit driven and exist purely to continue the marketisation of our university.
It all comes back to tuition fees, making students pay more whilst universities have less, forcing them to look at ways to make the university more profitable and employable, which usually means getting rid of process lead, usually art courses.
We will continue to fight for our courses to stay open and for our university to remain an educational institution not a profit driven one, but if this fight is really going to be won, we need a more sustainable funding system for universities that doesn’t create neo-liberal thinking. Course closures will continue to happen as long as universities are viewed as businesses, we must continue the fight to change this.
To get involved in this campaign join the facebook group here.