Race, Identity and the Defence of Public Education


Dramatic events in Amsterdam have highlighted the way that creeping neoliberalism is converting Universities into degree factories. Jack Ferguson reports for Bella.

Recent months have seen a massive protest movement kick off at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), which has forced management to retreat from controversial changes, and the head of the Executive Board to resign.

The initial spark was the announcement last year of brutal cuts and bureaucratic re-organisation for the Faculty of Humanities. However, many felt the reasoning behind this was the commercialisation of higher education. Under this model, the only subjects worth investing in are those that can provide obvious profitable outcomes – which can be difficult for a historian or literary critic, whose work is virtually impossible to assess in financial terms. Academics and students both felt increasingly that the University was being managed by a distant bureaucratic elite, who cared little for what they thought.

“A different kind of logic began to operate in the University, one in which it began to be run according to ideas of efficiency” says Julie McBrien, an anthropology professor at UvA. “In Dutch they call it “rendements denken” – efficiency thinking. How do we get students through as fast as possible? Rather than, how do we educate students as best we can, and what is a good way of doing that? Or how do we research in a way that is productive and creative, rather than just get more money to do research? Right now research tends to be funded because it brings money, rather than it brings creativity, or innovation in thinking or new critical approaches. So you had policies that were oriented towards making money and getting people through as fast as possible, rather than the basic ideas of a University, which are of course education and research.”

This drive for speed and efficiency is demonstrated by UvA management’s self-expressed desire to attract “excellent” students. As another senior professor pointed out during a protest meeting, this is code for those students with minimal life commitments, such as work or a family, outside of study, who are best equipped to focus solely on learning, and will complete their programmes in the allotted time while needing minimal additional support. In other words, elite students, those from backgrounds that prime them for taking part in higher education, mostly likely white, male and non working class. Staff have condemned the effect this has on access to their teaching, saying it contradicts their mission of spreading knowledge throughout society.

Another flashpoint was the University’s management of its extensive property portfolio. After UvA gained control over many buildings in the centre of one of Europe’s most valuable city centres, it began engaging in complex financial deals and credit swaps, similar to the type of financial instruments that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. Many were outraged at the creeping financialisation of an educational institution, and the movement of campus locations to allow profitable sales of the former, much-loved locations.

One of these was the Spinhuis, a small social space and café in central Amsterdam that allowed teachers and students in the social sciences to interact as equals and discuss issues informally. When this was closed with a view to selling it off, students occupied, back at the start of the academic year last September. It was turned into a space of alternative education, with free talks, film showings and political discussions, and acted as an independent social centre until the occupiers left voluntarily at Christmas. It was to be the first of three buildings that have been occupied throughout the year.

In the New Year, activists moved on to a larger building, in order to escalate pressure on the University Board. Close to the palace of the Dutch Royal family at Dam Square, the Bungehuis was a symbolic location, home to the Humanities Faculty that was so threatened. Here, the ending was less consensual, as the Board pressured local authorities to deploy the police to evict occupiers, and demanded that the protesters pay €100,000 per day.

These tactics backfired badly, drawing many more people into the protest who were outraged at the heavy handed response. Protester and second year student Frake explains:

“I was there at the eviction. I saw that the board sent the police to kick the occupiers out, both teachers and students. It just seemed so bizarre to me, because the complaints and demands of the occupiers seemed, to me, so logical and fair. Then later I read in the news that if they would not leave the Bungehuis the occupiers would get a fine of €100,000 per day. This showed two things. Firstly, they totally do not understand or listen to what the protest has said. Second of all it proved that in their daily lives, the University Board have only been busy with such absurdly high numbers, that they can make a demand for €100,000 a day from a student. It just showed they had totally lost contact with the actual scientific community.”

For Frake, Julie and many others, this was the key turning point. The eviction was followed by a huge protest march in the centre of Amsterdam, at which those taking part took the opportunity to seize the University Senate building (known as the Maagdenhuis). With the third occupation of the year in place, occupiers branded themselves De Nieuwe Universiteit (the New University, DNU), and began a major campaign that was to grab worldwide attention.

“I was kind of thrilled by the idea, thrilled by the space that it opened up. A space for criticism, for debates for critical movements,” says Prof. McBrien. “We saw that one of the ways that they were occupying the building was by holding teach-ins, getting lecturers to come in and teach to keep the space being used. So a colleague and I thought, ‘OK, we’ll lecture,’ and we lectured on the first night. What we tried to do was set the students’ frustration and the students’ occupation into a bigger context in terms of changes that have been going on for a long time at the University. Changes toward neoliberal policies.”

“We tried to show the students that the teachers also had a lot of concerns, and that the concerns that the teachers and the students had were interwoven and came from the same place, even if they weren’t always identical issues. That was the moment when I and other colleagues tried to show the students, ‘You occupied, but really this protest is all of ours’.”

The Board was clearly taken aback by this escalation. Following the start of the new occupation, they decided to change tack somewhat. Issuing a conciliatory statement that expressed some understanding for protesters concerns, they promised to make changes through a process of negotiation and dialogue. This in turn led to extensive talks between the Board, the officially elected student’s and employee’s councils of UvA, and the protest movement, which was made up of an alliance of the critical staff organisation (ReThink UvA), the student protesters (De Nieuwe Universiteit), the Humanities Rally against cuts to their faculty, and the campus trade unions. Prof. McBrien explains:

“ReThink, DNU and the Humanities Rally are three independent groups, but we often work together, and we come out sometimes with a joint statement or a joint voice. We have managed to formulate and write joint demands, so all of our demands have been joint with the three groups up until now.

“We haven’t reached all of our goals yet, but we have won two important things. We won two committees that would basically investigate two main issues – one is the finance, and the other is what we’ve called democracy and transparency issues. But we, those three protest groups, decided that the committees should be set up also in conversation with the two officially elected bodies, and the unions. So those six parties already are meeting on a regular basis, in fact I just came from the meeting now, to decide things like, what is the mandate of the finance committee? What are they going to be doing research about? When they’re finished what’s done with it, what’s happening with that information? And the same thing with the democratisation committee – who’s going to be on the committee? What is their mandate? What are their tasks? How are their findings discussed and presented to the academic community?”

“And then what happens with that advice? We, those six parties together, were able to establish that we would make these committees, that they would be in constant conversation with the academic community, and that the advice would be binding. It’s not something that you give to the Board, who then says Yes or No. As far as we can see, that’s still happening, we’re going forward with the committees, to plan them, to create them. So we’ve won that.”

“Decentralisation and democratisation are the biggest demands we are making. It needs to change, there needs to be an accountability shift at the Board,” argues Frake. “There needs to be decentralisation, there needs to be more power in the faculties. Anthropology is so different from biology, you cannot have one system for all. There needs to be a bigger say in things like selling buildings, what the buildings should look like, because this is really stressing out everybody involved, except for the Board and higher bureaucratic layers.”

One very important aspect of the diversity of the movement at UvA has been the efforts of the University of Colour, a group which aims to highlight the issues of racism, exclusion from the academic community and the continued colonial ties of higher educational institutions. They supported the protests, but brought further demands to the table to highlight these issues, and strived to put them at the centre of the debates and discussions taking place at the Maagdenhuis and across the campus. Key among their goals are a widening of the curriculum to make the authors and works studied more than the current overwhelmingly white canon; the introduction of critical studies departments such as Postcolonial Studies, Women’s Studies, but also ones more focused on the particularities of race and empire in a Dutch context, such as Dutch black writers; disinvestment in the arms trade, fossil fuels and Israeli apartheid; and “radically transparent hiring practices”, affirmative action to create a more diverse teaching body, and free education for all regardless of immigration status.

After the occupation of the Maagdenhuis, the University Board put in a complaint to the police demanding action, which contained lines that were soon to become infamous. They said that “two young boys, presumably Moroccan, and clearly too young to be students of the University of Amsterdam, were in the Maagdenhuis.

“ Clearly, in the view of the Board, a Dutch University is no place for young men who are “presumably Moroccan” to be. Moroccan is often used as a catch all term in the Netherlands for Arabs or Muslims, and the phrasing is heavy with racist implications.

This sparked a new campaign, Wij Zijn de UvA (We are the UvA), in which staff and students have their photo put online holding a sign in which they describe how they would commonly be stereotyped based on their appearance. Examples so far include “Presumably an Immigrant” and “Presumably Arab”. In their statement, the campaign wrote:

“The stereotypical image of UvA students that the Board holds is outdated and condemnable. Is being young, Moroccan and male incompatible with studying at the University of Amsterdam? Is looking like a Moroccan boy in itself a reason for exclusion? Are young people with a “presumably Moroccan background” automatically considered a threat to order and safety?

These comments must be seen in the context of a polarized public debate in which negative stereotypes of Dutch citizens of Moroccan origin are key. By their choice of words the Board has revealed its uncritical stance toward the stereotyping and criminalization of a group of citizens. Indeed, by making use of this stereotype the Board actually supports and strengthens it. This form of institutionalized racism is absolutely unacceptable.”
After the progress made in the negotiations, the protesters agreed to leave the Maagdenhuis on Monday April 13th, after a final event, a Festival of Science and Humanities, followed by a large voluntary clean up to leave the building in a fit state. In a move that seems baffling in its tactical ineptitude, the Board declared that this was not fast enough for them, and chose to evict the protesters on the Saturday who planned to leave on the Monday anyway. Nine were arrested, and when some refused to give their names were held in detention normally reserved for foreigners for around two weeks. When video emerged of the police violence on the day, the mood at UvA radicalised again, and when Monday came it saw a march of over 1000 people demanding the Board’s resignation.

“It rejuvenated the movement,” says Prof. McBrien. “It sparked a lot of action, immediately afterwards. It was I think, tactically, incredibly foolish of the Board. If they wanted to keep their power the best thing they could have done is come to the festival and participated, or at least allowed it to go on. I am still in disbelief that they made this decision. But they did, and it led to the resignation of Louise Gunning [President of the Board]. It galvanised a lot of people who were previously more moderates.”

In the week following the eviction, pressure on the Board continued to build, and when the officially elected representative bodies of the University, along with hundreds of teaching staff, publicly voiced their lack of confidence in their continued leadership, the President, Louise Gunning, stepped down. In her statement, she called for a new leadership to be appointed that could move forward on the negotiated process of reform and discussion with the confidence of staff and students. For now, it seems the process continues, and people are optimistic about the prospects for real change.

“Now we are back on track,” says Frake. It was a large misstep by the Board, calling the Police to violently evict. But now they are backtracking again, and we can get to work again on this process of democratisation. There’s two commissions that are going to come into existence and they are going to lead the process towards these fundamental changes.”

“I am optimistic. But at the same time, I think the rest of the Board should also step down, because I still do not have any trust in them. But I do think that change is inevitable. If there was even any kind of minor thing that happened now, people would be in the streets again. Any little thing that can go wrong in the coming weeks will immediately go public, and everybody is tensed. A lot of people expect change, so I’m positive. It’s inevitable.”

His reactions point to the uncertainty and cautious optimism of many here. Although there is an agreed process for bringing change to the University structure, it’s clear more action and vigilance from the various groups will be necessary to deliver it. For their part, DNU’s next planned move is to hold an impressive academic festival7 in a (temporary) venue next weekend. But they also recognise that to progress even further it may be necessary to tackle Dutch national, and indeed international politics. In light of this, it is especially encouraging for them to hear of other Nieuwe Universiteit groups being formed at institutions across the country, as the example set here shows what is possible.

The dramatic events in Amsterdam have highlighted the way that creeping neoliberalism is converting Universities into degree factories inaccessible to many, and indeed constraining the process of generating knowledge itself. In the process, the progress made by protesters has provided much needed inspiration to the international student movement, which has also seen renewed waves of occupations in England, and the ongoing massive struggle over higher education in Canada.

“What we hope is that we’ve started an actual process of reform and change in the University, and if that’s true that’s an incredibly inspiring thing for other people,” says Julie McBrien. “Their way to that will not be easy. But if you see that somewhere else it happens then you’re more inclined to try it.”

“If we can actually have some serious transformation of the structure of our University, the way we think about ourselves as a University, then that will also mean that we will have a different voice in the Dutch public, so that we can say to The Hague, ‘No, we don’t agree with the way that you are spending money in education, we don’t agree that all the money should go to an external body that we then need to fight over for funding, or that certain kinds of research are valued over others.’ We can then fight against The Hague to try and get them to make better policies. If you get enough countries doing that it begins to change the international environment. That’s a big thing – it’s fighting against broad trends of neoliberalism. But it has to start somewhere.”

Comments (13)

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  1. Hey plater says:

    Thanks Jack for this illuminating article.

    I must admit I was taken aback at the authoritarianism you describe. This has set back my notions of the Nederlands as a tolerant, liberal society.

    Still, the corrosion of capitalism creeps in everywhere, and I must remember that.

    1. Jack says:

      The Netherlands is a wonderful place in many ways, don’t get me wrong. Moving to Amsterdam from Glasgow, it was palpable how much better many common social problems are tackled publicly in this society. For someone that’s grown up in the UK, there’s much to admire here. But as you say, all these kinds of comparisons are relative, between societies that are all part of a global capitalist economy and subject to the same trends.

      The Netherlands has felt the same winds that hit other countries, and has its own austerity programme. The health system here was basically privatised fairly recently, and the contrast with the NHS is plain to see. One of the things that seems to have been more significant in recent years is a tremendous rise in racial anxiety and racism among many Dutch people. The papers here are always about Islamic threats etc., and politicians aren’t shy of using that kind of language either.

      And specifically on the issue of occupations and squats: there was a tremendous tradition of politically and culturally engaged occupation of vacant buildings here for decades. There still are many squats, but the governments have for the last several years been on a relentless programme of cracking down on them, with the aim of gentrifying Amsterdam and leaving it only for private property. The police have a specially trained anti-squatting squad, which was deployed at the Maagdenhuis eviction.

      So overall, it’s not a liberal utopia, even if the government has got some things a lot more right than any UK one ever did. Cops are the same in every country – if their bosses say crack down that’s what they’ll do, and they’ll not be shy about it.

  2. Darien says:

    19 higher ed uni’s in Scotland mostly now working as corporates, with top level mega salaries to boot. Focus for decades at ‘our’ ancient uni’s is to take more and more students from outside Scotland who can pay the big fees, hence few places left for Scots. And 90% of postgrads at Edin uni are from outside Scotland, similar at St. Andrews etc. which means very few scots will become academics in future. Recruitments of academic staff from outside Scotland has been the norm for years. Ethnic cleansing? And much funded uni research is PR dross stating the bleedin obvious, e.g. useless research on dolphin’s at the likes of St. Andrews. Meanwhile our economy is going doon the pan. Many of these postgrads from elsewhere also end up staying and running Scotland’s quango’s and institutions – as we hear nightly on the TV news when ‘experts’ discuss everything from golden eagles to wind turbines. Has Angela Constance got a handle on this? A hae ma doots. Discrimination against our ane folk nothing new for Scots. Big link here to the class issues raised by Loki. Oor ancient uni’s especially are rotten – they should either go completely private or face total reform.

    1. Hey plater says:

      ”And much funded uni research is PR dross stating the bleedin obvious, e.g. useless research on dolphin’s at the likes of St. Andrews”.

      OK Darien – what is ‘much’? Why is it PR dross? Why is it bleedin’ obvious? Why is it useless? What’s the ‘likes’ of St Andrew’s? You’ll need to tell us Darien or sound like the Daily Mail.

      One small comment – if we know about dolphins and their environment, surely you agree we’ll know more about how we are damaging the planet?

      ”Oor ancient uni’s especially are rotten – they should either go completely private or face total reform.”

      Why are only the ancient unis rotten? Your privatising solution is ridiculous.

      1. Darien says:

        “Why are only the ancient unis rotten? ” Because, to a very large extent, they exclude the Scottish people – as students and as academics.

        “Your privatising solution is ridiculous.” Their charitable status is a masquerade – much like public schools. They are asset rich businesses.

        I assume you must be a (green) alumni?

  3. Alastair McIntosh says:

    This is the same kind of agency capture that managerialism has effected in the UK too – universities stuffed with administrators, who call themselves professor this and that, but have long since professed any genuine vocation or calling, and sap pen-pushing resources through their bloated salaries. It is part of a wider culture of compliance that makes it hard to teach and do creative thinking work if one is in the system these days. In particular, it devalues and destroys the humanities.

    Last night I spoke to a friend from a small town Scottish housing scheme. His son has impressed me since he was a child – a bard in the making. I asked him how his boy was doing in his first year at one of our leading schools of art. “He’s dropped out,” said the father. He found himself surrounded by others of a social class who “were just not taking it seriously.” Many of the teachers simply didn’t or couldn’t teach. As I heard it said recently of a different Scottish art school, “Water colour is too hard to teach these days,” The youth has decided he’s better just living life, avoiding debt, and educating himself. Art school has become too much a finishing school for the middle classes who can’t see real art, because their senses are deadened by the languor of their privilege; privilege that they use to fester rather than to serve (as in the Russian Itinerants or Wanderers school of “art as service”. There are important exceptions and some real points of life in our art schools – but such is my son’s friend’s general experience – art destroyed by the artsy fartsy – and this is tied in with an academic culture. It has been forced upon universities going back at least to Waldegrave’s Science White Paper, “Realising our Potential”, of 1993 – see my New Scientist critique of this at http://goo.gl/BezUrf . What matters is not your creativity, but your ability to pull in the grants and churn out papers that hardly anybody reads.

    I am a freerange academic – foraging what I can. Self-employed, I have loose academic associations including various visiting professorship and fellowship positions. I love university life but like a great many lovers of learning who try to hold on in there, deplore what has happened to it in recent years. Such experience is constant. I’m not talking odd anecdotes. I can cite 2 from within the past 24 hrs. To give just one, this morning I was contacted by Routledge who wanted permission to use a couple of pages from one of my books in a major edited collection they’re doing on environmental education. No problem – an honour. However, the woman who contacted me was very apologetic. They couldn’t offer the usual freebie copies. Only 125 copies of the 4 volume collection will be printed. The cover price – £840. I kid you not. $1345! I said: “Who’s going to buy it – Saudi princes?” And we all get caught in the mincer. My Canadian colleagues and I were dismayed a few years ago when Ashgate put a tag of £80 on one of our books. Nobody we knew could afford it. You’re left constantly trying to subvert the system, hoping your own publishers won’t notice that you’ve scanned as much as you dared and plonked it on the web. This happens because universities lack core funding for propagation of their research through university presses and therefore have to rely on whatever business models the free market can make to work.

    One prophet of this commodification of knowledge by the values of the business world is Prof Richard Roberts, a sociologist of religion at Lancaster and, laterally, Stirling. Interesting that it becomes an almost religious issue – as if universities need to be reconnected back to their monastic origins. Richard was a prof of divinity at St Andrews and I came to know him through our shared interest in human ecology. His seminal paper, “The End of the University and the Last Academic,” can be downloaded in pdf from http://goo.gl/QoQVJJ . Here’s hoping it might do the rounds in Amsterdam. What is at stake as business values rack the academy is epistemology itself; and with it, ontology, or what it means to be a human being. I want to see a Scottish higher education that is stuffed with people like my friend’s son, or Darren/Loki in another Bella post today, and where the sons and daughters of the more privileged come to have the privilege of learning at their feet. As John Stuart Blackie, Edinbugh’s professor of Greek (and a friend of the crofters) said in 1855 in On the Advancement of Learning in Scotland: “We demand a scholarship with a large human soul, and a pregnant social significance.”

  4. Alan says:

    Terry Eagleton has a savage little bit in the Chronicle of Higher Education this month:
    The Slow Death of the University.

    Having waxed lyrical about his gleaming new business school and state-of-the-art institute for management studies, the president paused to permit me a few words of fulsome praise. I remarked instead that there seemed to be no critical studies of any kind on his campus. He looked at me bemusedly, as though I had asked him how many Ph.D.’s in pole dancing they awarded each year, and replied rather stiffly “Your comment will be noted.” He then took a small piece of cutting-edge technology out of his pocket, flicked it open and spoke a few curt words of Korean into it, probably “Kill him.” A limousine the length of a cricket pitch then arrived, into which the president was bundled by his minders and swept away. I watched his car disappear from view, wondering when his order for my execution was to be implemented.

  5. Hey plater says:

    Alastair. As much as I am in tune with your comments over time, including most of what you say here, I am uneasy about the importance you give to second-hand anecdotes – ” Many of the teachers simply didn’t or couldn’t teach. As I heard it said recently of a different Scottish art school, “Water colour is too hard to teach these days,”

    Students who struggle with learning often blame teachers – I’m sure you have experienced this. Caring parents then repeat this as fact. It may well be that the lad in question, as you suggest, ended up in an establishment whose culture was frivolous and alienating. And if this is true, then the fault does not lie with the teachers involved but with a whole system. It is a mistake to focus on symptoms rather than causes.

    Here you do find fault in the right place -” universities lack core funding for propagation of their research”. Of course we could go further and focus on a deeply corrupting capitalist system whose effects are all invasive. You may be aware of the short contract academics in North America, and the effect on them and learning of such an exploiting, antihuman system. .

    You mention ”as if universities need to be reconnected back to their monastic origins. ” Of course we don’t want this at all. This is learning for the few and often in the narrow service of religion;women excluded until relatively recently. Lecturers being sacked for marrying. And so on. I am aware of the benefits to society even from these severely limited institutions, but I speak against rosy-eyed visions of a Golden Age of quiet cloisters and learning. No shipyard tradesman such as I would even get past the door if mediaeval values prevailed. I hear Rab C Nesbitt’s ”scruff” being invoked, though millions like me paid for the universities.

    That said, I’ll sign up for this;

    ” As John Stuart Blackie, Edinbugh’s professor of Greek (and a friend of the crofters) said in 1855 in On the Advancement of Learning in Scotland: “We demand a scholarship with a large human soul, and a pregnant social significance.” I was fortunate enough to find this at Ruskin College, but that’s another story.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Hello Plater

      It’s not so much about second hand anecdotes, more a question of wanting to raise the issues in a general way without pointing the finger too directly. I could give sources and name names but that would be neither appropriate nor necessary. Scotland’s several art schools (to focus on them, in the light of my discussion with the said student’s father the other day) have been very open to my work and invited me both to speak and examine. I have no personal complaint about them. But I do talk, first hand, with a lot of their students as well as staff and they have not been immune from pressures elsewhere in the tertiary system to play the academic game. The result is a bias towards the conceptual at the expense of mentoring and hands-on teaching, because the resources are just not there, and sometimes (though this part is second hand anecdotal, therefore less reliable) the ideological commitment at the top is lacking.

      Why name these things? Why cause discomfort? Because we’re living in a Scotland just now where we have a chance to do things differently. The lid has come off the cultural pot. We are in the midst of one of those rare moments in history of a cultural awakening. The fluidity and eloquence of many of the grassroots voices being heard on Bella and elsewhere, including in the comments, is testimony, I think, to the breaking of some kind of a dam. It’s like for decades, generations, we’ve been feeling blocked in our cultural expression but had internalised the realities we had to live with. Internalised our own cultural oppression. Now, everybody’s talking freely.

      I come from a middle class background – it is important to acknowledge that. I think that much of the said oppression is of a class nature, and that this is something that has not been innate to what I’d see as “authentic” Scottish culture – certainly not to the Hebridean culture of my upbringing – but which has come in from the outside. The English suffer it too: oppression by their own class system that the Normans, especially, imposed. I saw it strongly when I was in Edinburgh University in the 1990s. I remember getting back from one faculty meeting in the mid-90s and my boss being told that “Alastair has just shot himself in the foot by raising the spectre of a Scottish Parliament.” What that meant, is that I’d suggested that certain things needed to be more sensitive to Scottish culture as it was possible that we might, in the future, have our own parliament restored.

      Now we’ve got it, we must use it, and for the emancipation of all. The “monastery” is metaphorical. A sense of questioning where we take our values from. We may not reach the stars, the heavens, but they do guide our course. Given that we now have the opportunity to chart out Scottish values, and given that there also seems to be considerable interest in a similar process elsewhere in the UK, what are our values? From where do we derive them? How do we test their resilience? How do we measure ourselves up against them (and why can that be hard)?

      As you conclude, Plater, Blackie rules! His Advancement of Learning in Scotland is a century and a half old and not a document that would speak widely to today. However, it does contain some gems, and a certain direction of spirit that makes it still worth a read. Because of that I scanned it a few years ago and placed it on the web. You can download it if interested from: http://goo.gl/RlPgNL .

  6. Darien says:

    For how Scots universities, especially the 500 year old variety, do not work in the best interests of Scots, read:


    These universities are mostly run by folk from elsewhere, and teach folk from elsewhere. We(e!) Scots are very altruistic (naïvely so). We Scots applaud our own societal and intellectual demise and call it success.

  7. Hey plater says:

    Thanks Darien. I’m sorry you avoid all the questions I put to you. I’ve seen politicians on TV avoiding answering and now it’s happening to my questions . Sigh.

    I have to say that when someone responds to a point I’m happy to read a supporting link. However, you want to use a link to make your argument for you. So (as they say) , for that reason, I won’t be reading it.

    I want to know what you think; links are ten a penny.

    I take your point about who runs and studies at Scots Unis. It’s a worry, not that we don’t need new ideas and people, but simply on the sheer numbers.I reject your notion that Scots are very altruistic. Is it genes or environment which causes this? (any links?) You really should tell us. It’s a bit Daily Mail again, and I say that like it’s a very bad thing.

    Here are my questions again….

    ””And much funded uni research is PR dross stating the bleedin obvious, e.g. useless research on dolphin’s at the likes of St. Andrews”.

    OK Darien – what is ‘much’? Why is it PR dross? Why is it bleedin’ obvious? Why is it useless? What’s the ‘likes’ of St Andrew’s? You’ll need to tell us Darien or sound like the Daily Mail.

    One small comment – if we know about dolphins and their environment, surely you agree we’ll know more about how we are damaging the planet?

    ”Oor ancient uni’s especially are rotten – they should either go completely private or face total reform.”

    Why are only the ancient unis rotten? Your privatising solution is ridiculous

  8. Jack says:

    There’s a new occupation at UvA today in preparation for the celebration of May Day.

    “We are a group of students and university staff and we have occupied the UvA’s Service and Information Centre in the run-up to the first of May.

    We have seen that the University of Amsterdam is structurally and deliberately mistreating and exploiting its employees – from professors and PhD students to the profi-sec security. The working load has become so high that university staff is forced to choose: either sacrifice quality of education or sacrifice their own wellness. Performance incentives pose the same impossible dilemma: between good research and the promise of a paycheck. Flex-contracts have become the norm: university staff cannot be sure their contracts will be renewed and academic freedom becomes subordinate to meeting management-imposed targets. When their period of high pressure labour is over, the employees can simply be disposed of. These policies put the profits of the corporate university before the agency and interests of its workers.

    As students and staff, we realise that the policies that attack workers’ wages and social security, and those that destroy our education system, come from the same source: the insatiable lust for profit.

    The UvA used to give its students and staff the day off on the first of May. Not any more, as of this year. The abolition of this international day of worker solidarity is yet another sign of the university’s blatant marketisation under the managers’ neoliberalism. This must be reversed. As a first step, the holiday of Labour Day must be reinstated. We demand that university staff be treated not as labour-machines, but as people; that they be given secure contracts instead of disposable ones; that they be freed of the shackles of time-efficiency and corporate interest.

    Students’ 1st of May Committee
    Binnengasthuisstraat 9
    1012 ZA Amsterdam.”


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