★ ISM - UK
December 4th, 2013
Protests against Tuition Fees
and for Free Education ...
... in Taipei
Around 50 students gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Taipei to protest increasing tuition fees. The rally was also called by the Anti-Commercialisation of Education Union (反教育商品化聯盟) - Free Education Movement, which was initiated during a meeting at the National Taiwan University following a similar protest in March 2012.
Various speeches were held, among others the severe debt many students are facing was pointed out. Many students in Taiwan - just like in many other parts of the world - are highly indebted. Each year about 400,000 students are forced to take up loans.
In Taiwan twice as many students attend private (technical) universities than public ones. Both charge tuition fees although for private ones they are significantly higher. They can afford to charge high fees because places at public institutions are limited and people need to pass a rigid selection process (usually through test results) before being able to enrol at a public university.
Ironically this makes the public universities elite institutions. Many are afraid that they might feel forced to attend private universities.
For details on the (higher) education system in Taiwan you might find this propaganda brochure from the Ministry of Education to be useful.
... in Bremen
August 2013 - Chicago:
Protests against Privatization of Schools
Since Monday, August 5th, hundreds of people turned up at Palmer House in Chicago to protest against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which held its annual meeting there between August 7th and 9th.
ALEC might sound to some like a governmental institution, but it is actually more like a lobbying organisation.
Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations.
Among others ALEC propagates various policies aimed at an increased commercialization of education. It also regularly generates rankings of school performances. As many of you probably know rankings are popular instruments to encourage a competition for resources among educational institutions.
According to The Guardian "139 Alec bills [were] introduced and 31 enacted this year. The legislation focused on redirecting taxpayer money from public schools to for-profit private schools.".
This video gives a pretty good overview of the current state of the ongoing struggle against the increasing privatization of schools in Chicago:
The focus of ALEC's annual meeting was not only on education. Also the drafting of new bills with its Environmental Agriculture Task Force on behalf of its members were discussed.
During the rally on August 8th police rushed into the crowd and arrested a few people while throwing them to the ground for no apparent reason:
Also at protest actions during the previous days many protesters were arrested.
Last but not least it is vital to point out that the root of the problem is not ALEC or "corporate greed" (as proclaimed by some of the protesters), but the capitalist system, which inevitably is based on competition and the drive to generate profits. The circumstance that capital gets organized in institutions like ALEC is a logical consequence of the predominant economic system.
Also in other parts of the world similar institutions already exist or take shape. In Germany for example there is the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), which presents itself as a non-partisan body of experts made up of the Bertelmann Foundation (Bertelsmann being a mass media corporation) as well as the German Rectors' Conference. One of the favorite activities of the CHE is - just like ALEC - to annually publish rankings of faculties and universities and from time to time propagate the re-introduction of tuition fees. Not surprisingly institutions like the CHE and ALEC also have a significant impact on how the purposes of an "education" system are perceived.
June 13th: Riot Police Raids University
following Mass-Demonstrations across Chile
Like in many other parts of the world also in Chile the struggle against the increasing commercialisation of education and for free emancipatory education continues. More than 100,000 students, teachers and parents took to the streets of Santiago and other cities for another in a long series of protests calling for a radical shakeup of the educational system.
Besides the Confech university students confederation also high school student associations CONES and ACES, the Student Federation of Private Universities (MESUP), a parents’ group and a group representing teachers across Chile were involved in the protests that day. Riot police used batons, water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd towards the end of the rally in Santiago, which resulted in dozens suffering serious injuries and hundreds being arrested.
Following the march, Carabineros, Chile’s uniformed police, violently entered into the central campus of Universidad de Chile which — alongside 25 other university buildings — has been occupied by students as part of the struggle. The police intrusion even drew fierce condemnation from university chancellor Víctor Pérez.
More than 20 students were injured and 20 others arrested during this attack alone. Nonetheless students remained in control of the premises, according to activists on the ground.
Protesters also clashed with riot police in Valparaíso and Concepción, amongst others. Arrests across the country totalled up to 360, according to involved students on the ground.
“They say they want to move forward on getting business out of education, but they allow the continued advance of a Superintendency of Higher Education that legitimizes profit instead of ending it,” Vela Diego, president of the student federation at Catholic University, said of the administration.
Among others people resist tuition fees and the fact that private institutions are subsidised by the state even as public schools in poor areas struggle.
Chile’s public schools and universities were neglected during the 1973-1990 rule of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Private schools mushroomed under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 70s and 80s. The trend continued after democracy was restored, also during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
Students and parents want the elimination of school fees, an end to for-profit universities and a reduction in the high cost of college, which forces many to take on large debts.
May 16th: Rectorate Occupied
at the University of Belgrade
On May 16th students occupied the headship of the University of Belgrade (main administration building / rector's office) and brought it under student control.
Short-term demands by the protesters:
We demand autonomy of the university because state institutions (and private interests) in coordination with official representative student bodies, are trying to control the political situation at the university. They are threatening with police and already hired private forces (security agencies) to fight students which stood up for their rights. Autonomy primarily means that the police have no business being inside the university, students have the right to directly and democratically decide on university issues and to organize freely within the territory of the university. All these rights are consistently and persistently violated. In the shorter term autonomy also means a strategic requirement that faculties maintain their present right to regulate the tuition themselves, to stop announced increase of prices, and to join us in the fight for free education against higher government authorities. This is important because state is trying to take these rights away using the excuse that it does not have any power to regulate prices and blaming the university, and all this is just a cover for further commercialization of education and the transformation of education into a privilege.
~ italiano ~
Students Occupy Space at Bucharest University and Babeș-Bolyai University
In the evening of March 26 students began to occupy the History Faculty of Bucharest University as well as an amphitheatre at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca (both in Romania) indefinately. With this action they aim to create an open space for everyone to discuss, reflection and to articulate common interests.
It's an act against the increasing commercialisation of education; an act of resistance against universities being factories producing human capital for the labour market, while at the same time students are turned into customers.
The following press release was published by the students involved in the occupation at Babeș-Bolyai University:
For immediate distribution
26th of March, 2013
Reclaim your University!
Cluj Napoca, Romania. Today, 26th of March, 2013, at 4 pm, one of the amphitheaters of the central headquartes of Babes Bolyai University from Cluj Napoca, has been indefinifelty occupied as a sit-in, by students.
The University is transforming, more and more, into an over guarded institution. The space that should have encourage the free movement of ideas and that should have been a debate forum, became, with every year, a closed space, petrified by practices that no longer reflect the students' true problems and needs. Instead of being a life learning experience, the University makes us dependent of a dysfunctional economic and social system: university education is a merchandise, nicely packed and served to clients (also called „students”) whose only social value, after graduation, is that of potentially employees. But the most severe problem is that the students are not encourage, through a participatory system, to make their voices heard.
Therefore, we consider that the reclaim of an autonomous space inside the University is necessary – a space where our voices can be articulated, in a free debate, open to all students. We are all responsable for the creation of a collective future, in which everyone's aspirations compose an university project, designed to cultivate involved and critical citizens, not just diploma owners.
Because we regard University as a common and not as a socially isolated institution, everyone's involvement is both necessary and welcomed – involvement of students, teachers, university auxiliary staff, high school students, graduates and anyone interested. Being a non-exclusive debate, any form of discrimination is against the very reasons that made this debate necessary.
The University belongs to everyone!
This is a students sit-in. It will not end until we, together, come to a conclusion regarding our real problems and the possible solutions for them. From this moment on, your opinion matters, as long as you are here!
The first plenary will take place TODAY, 26 March 2013, starting with 6.30pm, in the Iorga amphitheater, first floor, main building of the Babes Bolyai University.
at Babes Bolyai University:
at Bucharest University:
"We are the university!"