Despite the protests, the publicity and the occupation: the management of Sussex University has still decided to outsource it’s catering and housing services. Today we have found out that Compass catering company will be full filling the role . From the ethical argument that this decision has been made without consultation or much support from the academic body. Firstly monopolising catering services on campus to restrict the choice of students makes the cost of living more difficult to finance for most. Sussex, being one of the most liberal and alternative universities in the country does not attract students and academics would who endorse and support a monopolistic system the university management seem all so keen to enforce. Having small locally owned restaurants, stalls and cafes would be more in tune to the ethos of the university.
But one can not say that outsourcing may give employees of Sussex University’s catering and housing services a stronger opportunity to advance in their careers than what Sussex University can offer as their employer. As I have alliterated before, this outsourcing protest movement should not be political, it should be orientated around the needs and concerns of the workers who have been affected. Now this decision has been made, it is them who decide whether they are better off or not; not the student or academic body of this university.
In response to Gabriel’s response to this news, I do agree that the company may have a shady history. But no matter how the company has attained this contract, fairly or otherwise, this decision has been made. From experience of working in venues that are managed by Compass, they seem fair and operate to the law. Again this movement is about the employees and their confidence in their employers, we should only be here to support them as a token of appreciation for all the work they have done for us and the community.
The interests of the people who simply want to live their lives are put on the back-burner as those who pledge to represent us try to run this country as a business. This goes from the constant belief that the balance sheets have to be evened out, even at the cost of the livelihoods and standard of living of those they are meant to be acting on the behalf of. This is not just judgements made by government bodies but by other public institutions.
British universities, long before the cuts to higher education, have been stretching far and wide for potential international students to profiteer from. There are so many universities these days that public funding is not enough to run all of these costly institutions, and funding has to come from somewhere. And to that extent I understand the need to at least break even. The optimum level of income should be at normal profit for contingency reasons, for instance higher running costs or maintenance in the future.
But this is not what universities are doing. Sussex alone made £13.8 million in the last academic year, yet tries to justify making cuts in the services sector for money saving purposes. Sussex is a very small university relative to the lights of Nottingham and Manchester. Nottingham University beginning in 2000 began to outsource their education to international branches in Malaysia and China, giving local students a taste of British education without leaving their country. These students are still charged international fees and have the opportunity to go to Nottingham to study as a part of the degree, it is effectively an in-house twinning programme. These programmes are not rare in this part of the world.
In a way, it gives talented students a means into the British education system, which before hand they would have never been able to afford. But it still attracts an elite, unless one is extremely lucky to receive a scholarship. But it shows that a public institution such as Nottingham University that accepts government funding are trying to run their institution as an expansionist business. Students are now seen as clients instead of a source of intellectual ability. It does not harness the pure purpose of university: To provide an education beyond the textbook and to allow the individual student to research and come up with innovative, new ideas. The only way universities see themselves able to survive is to run as a business, and demand is ever-growing due to lack of alternatives.
The solution is to simply have less universities and more access into employment for the youth in the UK. Universities are essentially a place of research and innovation, not a assembly line of identically minded young adults to exit with a piece of paper. It should be industry and other public institutions specialising in specific skills that supply vocational skills to those who are not academically inclined or interested. At the moment, for many there is no alternative to university.
With this those who are serious about learning and what to contribute to their field of study can study at a university free of charge, and hopefully will not have to be too concerned of that university’s reputation. Whilst the rest can do what they want to do without being in debt for the rest of their working lives.
For once the social sciences is not dictated by western ideals. Yes, a group of Asian IR and ID students are setting up a society to discuss problems that are facing us today from a eastern prospective. With an array of potential speakers, film viewings and debates, we hope that everyone will see culture from a different perspective. It is not going to be all serious, there will be lots of food of course; and the odd silly film and discussions.