On Wednesday 2nd December, Chris Brink Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University attended Student Union Council where he made a statement to the attending students and then took questions regarding tuition fees and cuts to education.
We welcome this public address and thank him for finally engaging with students on this issue, in response to the direct pressure placed upon him by Newcastle Students in Occupation of the Fine Arts Building (Chris Brink 2nd December).
In this address he stated his belief in equality within education and the importance that education plays in maintaining the
’s position on the world stage. He also expressed a concern that an increase in tuition fees would deter poorer students from attending University. This, along with the recognition of the inaccessibility that asylum seekers and refugees face in attempting to gain higher access to education, was encouraging. However we were disappointed by Chris Brink’s lack of commitment to act against the proposed plans for education. United Kingdom
We understand the argument that the University is not a political organisation and therefore can not be seen to directly influence votes in Parliament. However, Vice Chancellor Chris Brink and the University have already made a number of political statements which lead us to believe there may be other motives behind their reluctance to speak out.
- Supporting the Browne Review describing it as a “necessity”. (The Courier 25th October 2010)
- On 25th October 2010, Chris Brink sent an email to every student in the University “In particular, we remain committed to our objectives regarding widening participation and fair access.” This email is in direct contrast to his public statement last night where he admitted and expressed concern that the increase in tuition fees would deter poorer students.
- On May 29th 2009 the University while under the stewardship of Chris Brink released the following political statement.
“We believe that the vast majority of
UK citizens have great sympathy for the people suffering in and elsewhere in the conflict zones of the world. We support the call made by Universities UK for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza, Israel .” Gaza
Furthermore in the current political environment Chris Brink’s refusal to release a statement encouraging MPs to vote against tuition fees and cuts that he himself has described last night as damaging to wider participation is in itself a political act. Chris Brink clearly believes in education but is not willing to fight for it.
Chris Brink’s claim that other Vice Chancellors have not spoken out is untrue. The demands of this occupation call for him to follow other University managements in speaking out. His refusal to do this suggests that his interests do not match our own and his actions are in fact politically motivated. (www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/nov/22/tuition-fees-higher-education)
In light of these facts, we call for Chris Brink to visit the Occupation to discuss our demands.
You said “The University is not a business and education is not for sale.” (25th October 2010 The Courier)
It is time for you to prove it.