Yesterday’s Save Our Subjects (SOS) protest saw a fantastic turnout of over 600 people, in what has been described as the ‘biggest protest at the University of Liverpool for over eight years’.
The Save Our Subjects campaign was set up after it was revealed that the Vice-Chancellor, Howard Newby proposed the almost definite closure of up to eight departments, following the results of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This has been considered a rather untimely decision as the university has recently been awarded an increase of more than 8% in research grant income from the Funding Council.
It would appear that Newby was not prepared to fight the repercussions of his suggested proposal as he snuck in to yesterday’s senate meeting through a back entrance in order to avoid the protest. This has furthered anger among campaigners, who are already furious at the complete lack of consultation on the matter. To date, students are still to receive any formal notification regarding the potential closures of departments.
The protest, which took place outside the Victoria Buildings, lasted for over four hours and has been deemed a successful step in the right direction: fighting against what one student described as “a move which typifies the corporatisation and privatisation of the educational system in this country”.
The success of the protest has contributed to the removal of the mandatory closure clause, which proposed definite closure of the Politics and Communications, Philosophy and Statistics departments. However, as Luke Smith, second year Politics student and one of the organisers of SOS explained: “this is only the start, we must continue working with the departments and staff, to ensure that viable proposals go forward, and that we can save our subjects”. Indeed, as Paul Athans, who has been fronting the campaign has reflected “we may have won the battle, but we haven’t won the war”.
Daniel Hill, Philosophy lecturer and teaching fellow at the university yesterday commented: “I am delighted so many people turned out to support the protest and I sincerely hope that the Vice Chancellor will listen to the unmistakable voice”.
The protest has also stimulated many controversial debates around the university’s growing favouritism towards the sciences. Third year English and Communications student Laura Mallaber commented that “you don’t need to see the figures; you just need to use your eyes to see where the money at this university is being spent”. Conversely, other students have expressed their opposing views and many conflicting arguments have arisen surrounding the campaign. Regardless of the various viewpoints, it is encouraging to see that so many people have become engaged with this campaign, in one way or another.
Certainly, as Communications lecturer Adrian Quinn observed: “the mobilising of students is proof of the solidarity of students and opposes the suggested indifference in young people today”. He added that yesterdays protest will show that “destructive decisions cannot be taken with impunity”.
It is clear that many felt empowered by the success of the protest and as one student has reflected “I feel proud to be a student at the University of Liverpool today”. Indeed, this echoes the general consensus of many of the university’s student population, as well as lecturers and researchers alike: hopefully the chant which was heard so loudly across campus will continue to echo throughout the university- “they say cut back, WE say fight back”.