Queen’s Students Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Size and Shape Review’

As reported by The Last Round, Queen’s University Belfast have massive plans in place to cut back on courses, jobs and student places in the coming years. Bradley Allsop reports on the fightback that has been spearheaded by students and staff, who are opposed to these changes.

It’s been a great week for student activism at Queen’s. Senior management have faced sustained pressure from students to reverse the plans detailed in their controversial ‘Size and Shape Review’, a proposal that looks set, in the word of the Students’ Union referendum, to usher in “course closures {sociology and anthropology}, cuts to student places and the arbitrary increase of A-level entry tariffs”. Spearheaded by the newly formed student campaign group ‘Save Our Schools’, practically every democratic avenue has been explored this week to challenge the decisions of senior management.

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Over 2000 people signed an online petition calling on Queen’s to reverse the cuts to Sociology and Anthropology courses, with around 800 students signing a hard copy too. Over 200 students crammed into Mandela Hall on Tuesday for an emergency general meeting of the Students’ Union, the first of its kind in five years, to vote nearly unanimously to oppose the Size and Shape Review. Many of those attending then occupied part of the main Lanyon Building later that day to listen to poetry, music and Queen’s lecturers talk about marketised higher education and why to oppose the loss of key academic disciplines that seek to challenge it. Yesterday, 2676 students voted in an online referendum (the highest turnout in years bar a vote on Irish Unity), with just shy of 9 out of 10 students agreeing with the call for Queen’s to reverse the cuts to courses and student places.

Heads of various schools appear to be on damage control in the wake of this week’s mobilisation, emailing students to tell them that the review is a positive thing or inviting students to meetings to discuss their concerns. Queen’s were reportedly calling in every hour to find out what the turnout for the referendum was, with them informing the Students’ Union that they were using this as a gauge of what students thought about the plans (something that probably should have been done beforehand)- with such a high turnout achieved it remains to be seen whether this will prompt Queen’s to change any of the proposals.

The activists are certainly taking nothing for granted, with a demonstration organised for 1pm this coming Tuesday outside the Lanyon building to continue to pile pressure on Queen’s to reverse the cuts laid out in the review. Speaking to The Last Round, Vice-President at Queen’s SU Sean Fearon spoke of where the campaign will be heading next: “Few campaigns or popular issues in the recent history of the student movement have received such unequivocal, overwhelming support from so many different quarters… The coming weeks will bear witness to more expressions of opposition to the Size & Shape Review, but also of an eagerness to forge a cooperative and positive relationship between staff, students and senior management”.

This action comes at a time of both growing activism amongst Queen’s students but also of growing assaults on the welfare of students and their education. Along with the occupation of a university administration building by the campaign group Fossil Free QUB back in December, the Save Our Schools campaign is evidence of deep student frustration with the ideology of senior management at Queen’s and, increasingly, a willingness to act to fight it. Cuts to courses are just the tip of the iceberg- cuts to counselling services, reneging on promises regarding the naming of the building replacing the SU, ignoring calls for fossil fuel divestment and the Senate blocking policy passed by the elected student council- senior management have been busy this year, meaning students have a real fight on their hands. With the growing pool of activists willing to challenge the status quo however, it might just be a fight they can win.

 

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4 responses to “Queen’s Students Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Size and Shape Review’

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Queen’s Students Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Size and Shape Review’·

  2. The standard UK Model, (actually the English Model), is being imposed yet again on a leading Irish University. Chiefs who are overbearing, Banana republic dictators, with huge Rock star salaries, and a severe deficiency of culture and intellect, forcing the University into being an industrial production unit, where everything is financialized, and the concept of a University as a centre of art, culture, knowledge and excellence is treated with contempt. There is now an element of Sovietised, Stalinistic control and operation, instead. The leaders of the University are no longer Scholars, they are Apparatchiks. I mourn.

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  3. Pingback: One Year On: We Need You! | The Last Round·

  4. Pingback: Familiar Struggles Greet The New Academic Year | The Last Round·

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