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Greetings... this blog is a higgledy-piggledy pile of social-political stuff, pictures I like, and general ramblings.
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Posts tagged UK

Mar 4 '12
Mar 30 '12
Tags: police racism uk
Jun 3 '12

Anti-Raids campaign: Solidarity with migrants checked on the street!


What can you do if you witness UK BA and police coordinated checks and raids of migrant workers in the streets and workplaces of London and other UK cities? As part of the anti-raids campaign we have produced an info leaflet on the law and practicalities.

The anti-raids campaign is supported by a growing coalition of groups: Lawas, Precarious Workers Brigade, Stop Deportations and Southwark Action, The Prisma, No Borders, South London Solidarity Federation. More info here.

Get in touch if you, your community or your organisation would like to support the campaign!

Jul 12 '12

The Right To Protest

Waves of occupations in recent years over Israel’s bombing of Gaza, the threatened closure of departments (early occupations in 2010 at the universities of Sussex and Middlesex were key here), the fee increase and cuts to arts and humanities funding have once again revealed the campus to be a serious site of political contestation. This time around the increasing privatization and securitization of the contemporary campus, combined with the desperation of universities to secure high-paying students and avoid negative press, perhaps make the campus an even more complex nexus of forces than it was in the 1960s. The banning of protest at Birmingham and Sheffield universities in recent months is a worrying sign, as is the proposal circulating at various institutions to use police officers as security guards on campus (this was thankfully vetoed by teaching staff at Goldsmiths). The already existing instructions for teaching staff to monitor and report Muslim students exhibiting any signs of ‘fanaticism’ to the authorities were extended to incorporate ‘domestic extremists’ under a broader definition. On a related note, counter-terrorist police were heavily involved in the investigations and arrests of student protesters from 2010 onwards. Such arrests are often used partly as information-gathering exercises, as the revelation of ‘protester databases’ have revealed, after students and others started to receive letters before protests, warning them not to engage in criminal behaviour: Big Brother is watching you. Back on campus, some management-circulated instructions as to what to do in the event of a student occupation were as bizarre as they were chilling: ‘do not try to reason with them … do not engage them in political discussion’.

From this article by Nina Power

Emphasis mine.

Also, can i take a moment to boast that this makes me feel proud of being part of the 2010/2011 early occupations in Sussex Uni.

Jul 12 '12
Jul 13 '12

Series 2 - Program 1: ‘Some Thoughts on The Graduate Without a Future’


To begin the second series our first show looks at the theme of the ‘graduate without a future’ with James Butler @piercepenniless and Aaron Peters @aaronjohnpeters. While broad-ranging the parameters of the discussion will include this piece by Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC Newsnight, and this response by Butler.

What does the future look like? Is there a future for the university and will it change? Has it changed? What is the relationship between  education and the social democratic compromise now in free fall which permitted unprecedented numbers of people access to university and other social goods, and, the very category of the future itself? Will new political subjects, such as the graduate without a future, become political agents?

In conclusion, to quote Butler, “…now we know there’s no future, what are we going to do about it?”

Here are some thoughts on the future and here is a book

Show is on Resonance FM 104.4fm and starts at 2pm on Tuesday, repeated on Sunday at 10pm.

You can also listen online here and follow us on twitter on @novaramedia

Good stuff but it’s easier to listen online here

Nov 29 '12

Housing Speculation, Student Debt, Fees and Dispossession - a 21st Century Love Story - Communique concerning UCL Stratford


There are several questions we have all been asking over these last few years. Where will we live? How will we be able to afford such expensive rent in London? How will we find jobs that pay enough to enjoy ourselves and live in comfort? When will we pay back our student debt? How?

We must be clear from the beginning, all the questions articulated above maintain a certain tie to one another. They are not unrelated problems, haphazardly assembled by the hands of mundane serendipity, the chaotic and capricious whim of fortuna, the inevitability of everyday life. No, we insist that they are all preciously constructed, maintained and reproduced in order to cultivate a certain set of social relations and a particular way of doing things. What ties them all together is debt, your debt, and the surplus that it creates being appropriated by Swiss private equity firms, Gulf state sovereign wealth funds, US and Japanese pension funds.

The Financial Times writes with earnest regularity on how the London student residential market represents a major source of income in these hard times for our mendicant investors, now on average making ten times the returns when compared to residential property from elsewhere in the UK. The student housing sector has ballooned from a fringe investment 10 years ago to a global market worth $200bn today with it becoming a ‘must have investment for most large funds’.

At the same time that we observe huge speculation on student accommodation and the ferocious entrance of private equity into the sector, we also see universities, now both sides of the Atlantic, issuing bonds secured against future earnings from tuition fees. The primary example here is the University of California which is presently in $13 billion debt as a consequence of various bond issues over the years and now, much as is the case with the sovereign debt of Greece and Spain, has to issue new bonds to ‘roll over’ the repayment of old ones. For institutions such as UCSC within the University of California the fact that there is no cap on fees, combined with the perpetual demand for college degrees (this is after all the only way one may enter the labour market for the overwhelming majority of ‘well paid’ jobs) means that despite their status as heavily leveraged institutions which for potential investors would not seem like a particularly good bet - they remain investment grade.

Subsequently the capacity of UCSC to raise tuition fees to whatever level it likes is advertised in every bond prospectus. Despite its high levels of debt UCSC is still seen as investment worthy precisely because it can charge what it likes, and as is meant to be the case, there are more applicants than places. This is not regarded as academic competition by university management however, rather it is seen as a situation of over-demand and insufficient supply, and hence the signal to further increase tuition fees until equilibrium and the ‘just’ price is found. Market equilibrium magistra vitae est.

We feel it important that students are in full receipt of these facts and are confronted with the inevitable outcome that the present cap of £9000 on tuition fees will not remain with us for long. Already we expect that the Russell Group of universities is lobbying to have it removed. Elsewhere those institutions such as De Montfort who, like UCSC, have begun to issue their own bonds will also need the cap to be abolished in order to guarantee the lowest costs for the debt-financing of future projects - a necessity in light of government funding being all but scrapped.

The present cap will soon go, and institutions as disparate as Cambridge and De Montfort are now issuing their own bonds. The university increasingly resembles little more than a debt factory. This is not glib comment, a casual and speculative refrain, but merely a statement of observable fact. Our future looks like Santa Cruz, only without the beach.

University College London have recently embarked on a £1 billion project - the extension of their London campus into Stratford. The fact that an institution which is failing to balance budgets in the short-to-medium term amid the most volatile period for higher education funding in decades is choosing to embark on such a large and unprecedented expansion is remarkable. Remarkable, but also of its time, in so much as it brings together many elements of the present moment and various catalysts for future crisis and present suffering. The dispossession of the land of those 300 people who still live there and the debt-financed investment in real estate and speculation on student housing, primarily for wealthier non-EU students. Social housing replaced by student housing funds run by private wealth managers, education no longer about capabilities and learning but merely a means by which to create returns from a relationship of debt.

UCL Stratford thus brings together many of the problems that you yourself face - impossible rent, debt, high fees. As a fee-paying student you are a cash cow - not just when you study, but even when you live in student accommodation. The institution does not serve your needs, rather you serve its need to service its debt and finance an ever larger number of managers who wish to ‘invest’ in land speculation and high-end residential buildings and perhaps even a few research centres. You may think of yourself as a part of the student body, but for the ‘bond guys’ and the more intelligent ones in university management you are simply thought of as what creates ‘returns’.

    Universities are increasingly disposed to entering into what can only be described as PFI agreements with private equity and these ‘student housing funds’ to fund the construction of housing that students can live in throughout their university ‘experience’. We see this in the recent £1billion development in Cambridge that will see 3,000 new residential units for students  - paid for in part by a £350 million 40 year bond - in partnership with private capital.

As UK universities increasingly employ financial instruments like those seen in California such as long-term bonds (which should really be called securities) students will be seen as no more than producers of the means of repayment, their debt the axis that produces the wheel turning for private investors seeking safe and strong returns and keeping the university afloat as public funding contracts to the point of an almost infinitesimal gesture that borders upon nothingness. This is your future as a debt, a debtor, the guarantor of returns for private equity and pension funds. You will be the assurance against loans that will pay for building facilities and housing that will mean more students who can pay more fees and more rent in order to secure yet more facilities and housing. And so on. All the time fees increasing in order to find equilibrium, rent increasing as there is quite literally nowhere else for you to live and the sons and daughters of the wealthiest families from across the globe are willing to pay.

UCL Stratford represents an active act of dispossession, taking people by force from their homes if necessary. It is pure, unadulterated violence. It has a direct relationship to your debt and the fact that rent in London is increasingly untenable for all but the very wealthiest individuals. Like the university, student housing is a debt factory. UCL Stratford, much like this whole miserable future on offer, can not be allowed to happen. If it does, if these projects and this system continue unimpeded, our lives will be miserable, brutish and shit - make no mistake about it.

Find each other. Educate, Escalate, Destroy.

Courtesy of the Imaginary Party Collaterized Loan Obligation Escalation Working Group (IPCLOEWG)

Apr 26 '13