NUS plans another protest
Leonardo Da Vinci once said “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence”. In a previous job, I often said that ‘it’s harder for me to fix something if no-one tells me it’s broken’. Both of those quotes can mean that in order to get change, you have to create a presence and the National Union of Students clearly feel that another protest will achieve this. In the past I have been critical of that organisations approach to protests as it has often seemed reactionary and favoured ahead of reasonable debate and the suggestion of alternatives.
Anyway, the protest is part of a long term strategy/campaign which is critical about the Coalition’s changes to Higher Education. It will take place on November 21st in London, so there’s plenty of time for member unions to get organised (please note – for those who don’t know, not all student unions are members of the NUS).
This video was broadcast at a Further Education Leadership event as Liam Burns (NUS President) was unable to attend. It’s objectives were to say when and why the protest is happening. Unfortunately, despite the short length, there are many things wrong with it and highlights some flaws in his/the organisation’s thought process.
First of all, there is the production values. Whilst some might not think this is a primary issue, it’s important to remember that the sound quality has to be good for everyone to hear the message. The video quality also has to be good because if it’s put on a bigger screen (which it might have been at the event) it may appear ‘blocky’ and distorted. Not everyone is willing to watch low quality videos. If that happened in this case, the importance of the message doesn’t get across to as many people. However, the video length was about right. It doesn’t need to be too or viewers could get bored and their attention would be diverted.
Then there’s the dialogue. Burns sounded confident and was using plenty of the expected buzzwords. Clearly, there has been some form of rehearsal. However, I wonder exactly how much work went into writing the speech.
Near the start, he said that what he had to talk about was both “exciting and important”. Yes, the issue may be important, but is a supposedly ‘failing’ Coalition approach to HE ‘exciting’? That’s the sort of word you’d use to describe a computer game, sport, or theme park ride.
The next part was clearly targeted at the FE audience. Burns said EMA has been “stolen” and tuition fees have been “tripled”. It’s a clever use of soundbites. However, I have discussed the tuition fees issue before and I stand by my position that a lot of the criticism is over the top and not enough people have looked at the detail.
Then there was a rather confusing statement. Burns said that “we don’t even have the safety net of pensions”. This is clearly related to the public sector pensions reform (which I have also mentioned on this blog in the past). However, the statement is completely wrong. It’s a scare tactic to make the more uninformed think the all pensions have ceased to exist, when this is blatantly not true.
“It’s about time we started setting the agenda, not reacting to it” is also an odd statement to make in this situation because surely a protest or demonstration is a reaction to events or actions.
My personal favourite quote is the following:
“We need to know from you what is it that your students on your campus are really angry about, what is it that you need from us to make sure that this is a moment a generation will never forget”
So, the NUS – a long established national organisation that has plenty of experience with campaigning – has arranged to do a protest about a student issue before they know any specific details of what the students are angry about. That’s similar to a major corporation buy expensive equipment before finding out whether it’s remotely suitable for what they do or if it’s the most cost-effective option. Ideally, the research would have been done first, but he could have made the video more effective by simply omitting the statement.
In addition to the video, the NUS issued news releases and one of those can be found here. Worryingly, it also mentions that research still needs to be done.
The National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts is what the title suggest. Founded at University College London, it has grown to support groups across the country who are campaigning for a free education and against cuts to the current system. The understand that education needs to be funded in some way and they believe it can be done by further taxes on the ‘rich’. Clearly, they believe that those who benefit from a higher level education shouldn’t have to contribute anything in return (so, all take and no give). It’s only financial support is from trade unions. I have covered events related to a Hull based affiliate of this group in the past.
Unsurprisingly, they support the campaign. They call the current situation a “Tory class war” and appear to adopt a more aggressive stance (at least verbally) compared to the NUS. Unfortunately, this could lead to mixed messages in the next few weeks and when the protest actually happens.
Summary and Conclusion
The NUS are once again doing/supporting a protest that is reactionary in nature and failing to offer any credible and detailed alternatives to what is already on the table. On top of that, it seems a bit too late. The legislation has already been voted on and passed. No amount of protesting is going to get the Coalition to reverse what has happened.
John F. Kennedy once said “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed”. The key is debate – there hasn’t been enough of that. The general public will get weary of constant protesting. It should only be used as a last resort. Is this lack of anything new likely to affect the students out there who are apathetic? I don’t think so.
So, what do you think?
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about 2 years ago - 2 comments
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about 2 years ago - No comments
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