Greater Manchester YCL: 9K4WHAT?

YCL Manchester’s statement on the recent negotiations between University of Manchester management and the Student Union:

Last Thursday, University of Manchester Rent Strike (UoM Rent Strike), supported by the student-led 9K4WHAT? campaign occupied Owens Park Tower as part of the fight against the continued marketisation of universities in Britain.”

Young students from the YCL are fighting as part of 9K4WHAT? alongside students from all across the city, and are proud to be joining the Rent Strikers in occupying the Tower. The occupation has seen overwhelming support from University staff and the UCU, with lecturers gathering at the foot of the Tower on the afternoon of the 17 November 2020 standing in solidarity with the student occupiers. The dispute is between the University management, students, and staff due to the poor treatment and lack of communication on behalf of the management during the pandemic. Students – particularly first years – have been confined to cramped halls where COVID-19 has spread like wildfire, given no medical or mental health support while isolating, and fenced in like animals, all while paying through the nose for their learning and their accommodation. Students have finally had enough and are fighting for their voice with a coalition of student groups and unions prepared to voice their concerns to Westminster.”

On the fifth day of the occupation, the University of Manchester announced a two week rent reduction for the first semester of this year. Despite this being a step in the right direction, this amounts to a 5% reduction, which falls pathetically short of the 40% reduction that the student strike campaigns have continuously and clearly called for. The decision came after University management refused to communicate with the Tower Occupiers, instead conceding to meet only with the Students’ Union. In failing to consult the student strike campaigns the University of Manchester Students’ Union has neglected their duty to represent the student population, instead conceding to an offer of approximately 5-6% rent reduction for the whole year in their ‘five-point plan’. The offer of the two week rent rebate fails to acknowledge the conditions and experiences of the student population that have led to the rent strike in the first place.

The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted the inefficiencies of neo-liberal capitalism, this is particularly evidenced in the marketisation of higher education in Britain. The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on the working-class and students, both of whom have borne the brunt of the pandemic with little support from the Tory government. Despite this, capitalists continue to seek profit regardless of the consequences it has on people’s livelihood and education. The University of Manchester has been no different, making the clear decision to continue to capitalise on rents during the pandemic as students find themselves fenced inside accommodation on campus, without access to facilities, often hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home, and cut off from their coursemates and support staff. The blatant disregard for students’ wellbeing illustrates how vapid and dangerous the ruthless marketisation of universities has been for students. The most recent development, as of the 17 November, highlights how this marketisation has left students behind.

University management have continued to ignore the students’ demands and are instead committing only to the token gestures and flimsy statements. This is unacceptable and students will continue to stand up for themselves with the rent strike until their demands are met with a predicted 800 students to go on rent strike in January. Now more than ever, student solidarity is vital to show that students will not stand idly by as their interests are ignored by a university management intent solely on squeezing profits out of them. We must demand a Students’ Union that is ran by, and democratically held accountable to the wider student population and not the profit-driven university management. We must transform higher education from glorified hedge-funds with seminar rooms into public institutions for social benefit.

Challenge News Desk

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