Time for the facts: part two

What are the rules around EU funding?

Cornwall is one of the poorest areas in the UK, and qualifies for the poverty related EU Convergence Objective One fund. Cornwall has one of the biggest discrepancies between house prices and average pay, with a GDP just 62% of the national average and below 70% of the European average. Both Falmouth University and the University of Exeter have benefited from millions of pounds of European Union Convergence funding specifically designated to revive the struggling economy here. The low pay and inferior conditions within FX Plus drive wages down even further. Board members are proposing to outsource a tranche of staff to FX Plus where they will ultimately end up with these same inferior pay and conditions which directly contradicts the aim of EU Objective One funds to avoid regional disparities within and between EU countries.

Falmouth University and the University of Exeter have received EU Convergence Fund, Objective One Funding toward the buildings that make up the Tremough Campus. As stated in the 2009/20 annual report “Over 50% of the investment in UCF’s buildings and equipment was provided by the European Union through the objective 1 and Convergence European Regional Development Fund for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This has contributed to the expansion of Cornwall’s flagship university campus at Tremough, a joint venture between University College Falmouth and the University of Exeter, which offers combined library and learning support facilities, 1,250 student residences and social spaces.”

The FX Plus website states that “The Tremough Campus is the flagship hub campus of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (www.cuc.ac.uk), which is a partnership of six universities and colleges that work together to provide more opportunities for people to study at university level and help local businesses and communities to thrive. There are currently around 4,000 students at the Tremough Campus. Falmouth and UoE aim to grow their combined student population at the campus to 5,000 students by 2016. In order to accommodate this planned growth in student numbers, the Tremough Campus is embarking on a further phase of development as a result of funding from the European Union (Objective One and European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme), the South West Regional Development Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall Council.”

We are currently investigating the evidence to make a challenge based on the legality of undertaking the TUPE on this basis. We will update you with all news on this front.

Why and how will this affect students?

Students should be at the heart of every university. They are at the heart of this protest. Students are the reason for universities existing, to provide the best quality education and experience for them that they possibly can. The increase in tuition fees, which saw £9,000 per year introduced for most undergraduate degree courses at Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, was hotly debated before its introduction and one of the key questions active students unions were asking was, what will it mean for our students? For the most part universities promised to retain quality where it existed, to improve where they could and they promised to be more accountable to their students.

So then why does the £9k that Falmouth and Exeter Cornwall Campus students pay no longer mean that? Why do these two universities believe that it is fine to make changes which will result in a decrease in quality for students in Cornwall? A decrease that their peers in the rest of the UK and even at Exeter’s Streatham campus are not having to suffer? Students are not at the heart of this decision. Students have not been consulted. When the problems begin and cannot be resolved it will be the students who suffer first and it will be the students who most need the support of the highly experienced and qualified staff we have in the Library, Student Services, ASK and IT whose success in their studies and therefore whose lives will suffer the most.

We have been told that our protest should not be targeting the students and those who seek to represent them, that this is not a matter which concerns students, only staff will be affected. This is not right. The proposal to TUPE, that is transfer across to a third party organisation, all of the staff who work most closely with students in supporting them through their studies, will affect students. Staff who are transferred across will initially retain their current pay and conditions but only up to an unspecified point in the future and any protection they are afforded can be removed if the third party, FX Plus, decides to restructure which looks likely at this point in time. The pay and conditions within FX Plus are lower than the rest of the UK. We have already had highly experienced staff resign because of the TUPE threat, taking their wealth of knowledge and years of experience of working with students with them, and these were some of the most committed staff; they have resigned on principle. we are also facing problems with recruitment in a number of areas – unsurprising as the terms and conditions are going to be so different from other universities.

Students are at the heart of what brings these staff to work every day, to work with each individual, to support them, to help find solutions for them and to help make their studies and these days the best that they can be. Students are at the heart of this protest whether the universities and their representatives agree with us or not.

What can we do?

The most important thing you can do as an individual is make sure that your friends, family, colleagues and peers know about what is happening here. The decision makers are hoping that apathy and hopelessness will prevent people from discussing the implications of the move and hoping that they can bully those who do speak out back into silence. This transfer is the tip of the iceberg for everyone affected, staff, students, local businesses, colleagues nationwide and beyond.

If this is allowed to happen without a fight it says that you can treat people like commodities, moving them around like the ‘resources’ they are in their eyes, pay them less, make them work longer and harder with less support and that that’s okay with everyone around them. If it happens to this department it could happen to you in the future. So, what can you do?

Write to your local MP; for Penryn and Falmouth it is Sarah Newton sarah.newton.mp@parliament.uk http://www.sarahnewton.org.uk/

Sign the online petition if you haven’t already done so http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/fxplus-university-college-falmouth-and-university-of-exeter-stop-the-transfer-of-a-ss-inc-library-it-av-ask-and-dyslexia-to-fxplus-2

Write to the Board of Governors via and demand a rethink on TUPE before it’s too late.

Start your own action, hold a meeting to discuss with the FXU if you are a student and talk to your course leader, talk to your manager if you are a member of staff of any of the three institutions; if you are a local resident, write to the newspapers, ask the questions and if you don’t get the answers that satisfy you, ask them again! The University of Sussex is having a very successful occupation of four university buildings by their students in protest at the privatisation of some of their staff, they have expressed their solidarity and support for us here, now there’s an idea for an action!

Share! Get this message to as many fellow staff, students, journalists, activists and anyone else you can think of – Tweet, Facebook it, email our links, do whatever you can!

 

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