★ ISM - UK
The following is a report submitted by students on the ground in Ljubljana in July 2013.
Free University Week
Slovenia - April 2013
Following a series of budget cuts and other forms of pressure placed by the Slovenian government on higher education institutions, a coalition between professors and students of the University of Ljubljana prepared the Free University Week, a series of events that took place between April 15th and 20th, 2013. The intention was to use various lectures, workshops, round table discussions and artistic events to draw public attention to the dangerous and uncertain situation that public higher education had found itself in due to negligence of its importance by the government’s – and, more generally, European – fiscal policies and austerity measures. The current study regime imposed on higher education systems across Europe – based on the Bologna Declaration of 1999 – was called into question, particularly due to its prioritizing the market value of systematic knowledge, rather than the actual quality and depth of the learning process. In a situation where the government was selectively recruiting executives who favored the development of private education over the survival of public universities and the constitutional right of public universities to institutional autonomy was being transgressed by the Ministry for Education under minister Žiga Turk, such an intervention into daily life became inevitable.
The student association Iskra played a large part in forming and developing the 121 events that took place during the Free University Week. As cooperation between various faculties was difficult to achieve at the management level (and in many cases impossible), the simultaneous presence of Iskra in many different and diverse parts of the university, along with its political homogeneity, put us in a good position to create a coherent program with a clear message. Thus Iskra itself directly organized events at six different faculties.
The political foundations of the Free University Week are summarized in the Memorandum for a Public University, a document created prior to the beginning of the events and launched as a petition addressed at the Slovenian government and National Assembly. The Memorandum demands from them, among other things:
The entire Memorandum is available online (www.ipetitions.com/petition/su/) in Slovene.
Apart from the aforementioned political dimensions of the Free University Week, we raised awareness of a deeper, more fundamental problem, one connected to the fate of public education as a concept in the wake of neoliberal capitalism: the problem of the relationship between students and their teachers (or, more precisely, academic workers). In the famous uprisings of 1968, this relationship was unquestionable; if one went on strike, the other followed.
Now we are facing a deadly situation in which the students are no longer aware of their inferior position on the social ladder, nor of their potential in forming a sovereign body, capable of political influence. The lack of unity among those employed in Slovenia’s higher education is equally apparent. Most importantly, the relationship between the two groups has become entirely ambivalent. There are signs suggesting that, if the question of tuition fees was to arise in public debates, many professors and academic workers would agree to allow the pressure of neoliberal policies advocated by the European Union and global financial institutions, such as the IMF, to sink onto the shoulders of students.
As approximately one third of students in Slovenia working part-time jobs are forced to do so to survive (thus losing precious time and energy that should be devoted to their education), even a small tuition fee would potentially create a massive wealth gap, cutting off a portion of the population from higher education. For Iskra, the most important aspect of the Free University Week was that it gave birth to a kind of cooperation between students and academic workers, that has been new to the Slovenian academic sphere for decades. With the coming of the new academic year, the students of Iskra hope to create a continuation of similar events, as the government (now headed by a new, “left” coalition) has shown no intention of reducing the pressure on our public university system.
Transnational Student Congress
Oct. 28th - Nov. 3rd 2013
For the past few weeks some students have been meeting regularly at the University of Marburg to discuss the idea of organising and inviting to a Transnational Student Congress.
We decided to do it and hope that many of you will consider to come.
At this stage it is VERY important for us to get an overview of the number of participants. On one hand this is necessary to arrange the infrastructure needed, on the other hand it is essential to estimate the financial costs.
Therefore, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org before July 14th (with the number of participants from your group).
Your email will not be a registration! For that we will set up a registration form on the website as soon as possible.
To receive the latest information in connection with the TSC we suggest you subscribe to this newsletter.
This blog will be used to publish all the necessary information in connection with the TSC: transnationalstudentcongress.wordpress.com
For the past few years we have witnessed massive protests and uprisings around the world in which students played a fundamental role. At the same time there was never such great potential to connect and support each other on the transnational and global level as there is today.
To advance this positive aspect of globalisation the Transnational Student Congress (TSC) will take place in Marburg, a cosy city in the middle of Germany.
The TSC will be a place for students around the world involved in emancipatory struggles; people who struggle for issues such as equal access to education, women empowerment, student empowerment and gender equality. Two main focusses will also be on the general developments within educational systems as well as concepts of democracy. Another main topic will be the ongoing political transformations in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
Besides being a platform to come together, network, exchange experiences and ideas and learn about the current situation elsewhere, the TSC will be a place to work on a common ground for a transnational network of emancipatory forces.
The congress is open to all identifying with emancipatory struggles and depends on everyones active participation. In order to allow for a maximum of interaction, the number of lectures will be kept to a minimum, instead workshops, discussions and other paticipatory forms of communication will shape the program. Participants themselves are encouraged to initiate contributions on topics related to emancipatory struggles of their choice. These might range from giving inputs to a discussion to offering workshops or other activities.
Furthermore people are encouraged to announce their contributions on our website. For a chance of it to be included in the congress guide this has to happen before October 14th. All participants are kindly asked to register on our website as soon as possible, in order to help the organisational team with the planning.
Though financial support for everyone cannot be guaranteed, we will try our very best to make it possible for everyone interested to be able to participate. Participants in need of reimbursements for their travel expenditures or an invitation letter for the visa have to register before August 15th.
Congress attendance will be free of charge, there will be free meals and places to sleep will be offered.
We ask groups to consider that we strongly encourage women to participate.
Feel free to contact email@example.com for any questions related to the TSC.
The following eMail was sent to the global ISM mailing list on June 21st:
An Appeal for Solidarity:
State Repression in Nigeria -
Police killing Students
June 13th: Riot Police Raids University
following Mass-Demonstrations across Chile
Like in many other parts of the world also in Chile the struggle against the increasing commercialisation of education and for free emancipatory education continues. More than 100,000 students, teachers and parents took to the streets of Santiago and other cities for another in a long series of protests calling for a radical shakeup of the educational system.
Besides the Confech university students confederation also high school student associations CONES and ACES, the Student Federation of Private Universities (MESUP), a parents’ group and a group representing teachers across Chile were involved in the protests that day. Riot police used batons, water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd towards the end of the rally in Santiago, which resulted in dozens suffering serious injuries and hundreds being arrested.
Following the march, Carabineros, Chile’s uniformed police, violently entered into the central campus of Universidad de Chile which — alongside 25 other university buildings — has been occupied by students as part of the struggle. The police intrusion even drew fierce condemnation from university chancellor Víctor Pérez.
More than 20 students were injured and 20 others arrested during this attack alone. Nonetheless students remained in control of the premises, according to activists on the ground.
Protesters also clashed with riot police in Valparaíso and Concepción, amongst others. Arrests across the country totalled up to 360, according to involved students on the ground.
“They say they want to move forward on getting business out of education, but they allow the continued advance of a Superintendency of Higher Education that legitimizes profit instead of ending it,” Vela Diego, president of the student federation at Catholic University, said of the administration.
Among others people resist tuition fees and the fact that private institutions are subsidised by the state even as public schools in poor areas struggle.
Chile’s public schools and universities were neglected during the 1973-1990 rule of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Private schools mushroomed under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 70s and 80s. The trend continued after democracy was restored, also during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
Students and parents want the elimination of school fees, an end to for-profit universities and a reduction in the high cost of college, which forces many to take on large debts.
Reclaim Education - June 2013
an ISM newsletter
These past few weeks people decided to re-launch Reclaim Education - an ISM newsletter. And now the first issue since September 2011 is finally really to be published!
It consists of two A4 pages and can therefore be conveniently printed onto one sheet of paper. Download the .pdf here (~ 6mb).
In case you are interested to work on future issues of Reclaim Education, then subscribe to this mailing list.