‘A university without dialogue is nothing’: National resistance to privatisation

‘A university without dialogue is nothing’: National resistance to privatisation.

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The long game

Sunday will be the last day that our 130 staff work for Falmouth University. We have been informed that the deal is done and so, sadly, the transfer is set to take place at one minute past midnight on Monday April 1st.


The voices of the staff, the students, the local people and our international supporters have been loud, clear and determined. United we have been stronger.


We have told them what will happen if the transfer takes place, who will suffer and why.


We have explained the impact this will have on the individual lives of our staff and the lives of our students.


There is no very much to say today other than thank you to all the teams and individuals for their energy, hope and creativity.


Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.


We are not giving up, we will continue to fight this decision, to fight the terms and conditions and to campaign for better working conditions for all within Falmouth Exeter Plus.


Sometimes it is better to play the long game. This is not the end.


We leave you for the Easter weekend with The Observer’s war correspondent Ed Vulliamy’s ten defining protest moments captured in pictures.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” Elie Weisel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor

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We predict a riot…well not quite but it’s not looking good

With 4 days to go until the proposed transfer of our 130 Academic and Student Services staff and, given the events which took place at Sussex University on Monday and at UCLAN last week, we thought we would bring you our predictions for the coming months if this fatally flawed plan continues as Professor Anne Carlisle, Professor Sir Steve Smith and Niamh Lamond hope that it will.

This is a taste of what’s in store for our staff, students and the local people.

Profit before people – Falmouth Exeter Plus is established as a not-for-profit company, meaning that all surplus funds generated should be ploughed back into improving the services it delivers. However, not all of these services are student facing, take for example Cornwall Plus, the OTHER, as yet unlaunched, subsidiary connected to Falmouth Exeter Plus which is purely focused on the tourism market in Cornwall. The idea of this arm of operations is to take advantage of the facilities which have been built for students of Falmouth and Exeter universities, using EU Convergence funding, to make money in the quieter months by renting out accommodation and conference facilities. Quite how the funds generated by Cornwall Plus (whose name is understandably not too popular with other local and regional businesses) will benefit the students of the campuses has not been made clear, in fact we’d bet our hats that 99% of students haven’t even heard of it, just as the management has intended all along. The other issue of course is how the organisation operates to ensure a profit is generated? Cutting less profitable services is the usual way this is done in the private sector. One worrying argument begins by asking where the profit is in providing disability support or dyslexia skills support? Less popular course texts in the Library?

Serious recruitment problems – working for Falmouth University or the University of Exeter in Cornwall was an attractive option for qualified and experienced Library, IT, Student Services, Academic Skills and Dyslexia Skills staff nationally, not just locally. The terms and conditions were on a par with peer institutions nationally even if pay was marginally lower. Now however, beyond the first hurdle of FX Plus not even being a University, it also has significantly worse pay and conditions than either institution. This means that, despite the initial protection for staff transferred in under TUPE, future joiners and those looking to change any element of their contract such as hours, take a sideways steps into different roles or promotions, and even those who may go on maternity leave face a significant drop in income, so significant that current staff would no longer be able to afford their mortgage repayments and are looking at leaving the county of Cornwall altogether. Five roles have remained vacant in the department since the move was announced and FX Plus remains unable to recruit to them despite readvertising several times. This means that existing staff are stretched to fill the gaps, the student experience is already suffering and it does not look set to improve in the near future. Our prediction? More of our excellent, experienced and dedicated staff will have to leave to look for secure work elsewhere, the roles will remain vacant as they are so unattractive nationally and locally and the services will stagger on to gather poor scores in future NSSs (National Student Surveys) ultimately impacting on our students’ future results which they have paid so much to try to obtain.

Weakened democratic oversight of management – The FXU student union for Falmouth and Exeter on the combined Cornwall campus have said they have been assured by management that the move of all Academic and Student Services staff into FX Plus won’t affect the accountability to students because both institutions’ Directors make up the Board of FX Plus. Rich Pearson, Vice President for Student Welfare went as far as to say that Niamh Lamond, the CEO of FX Plus has no decision making ability and that this in itself is reassuring. So, the route for any complaints about the service you receive following this move should be directed to FX Plus, you need to believe that they will report this up to their Board for it to actually reach the institution you have paid your fees to despite the fact that FX Plus is reliant on the approval of the two institutions for its continued funding. How likely do you think they are to tell tales on themselves once the complaints start rolling in? Given their recent past record in communication with students? It’s unlikely, prepare for your complaints to go unheard no matter how loud you shout.

Lack of transparency – There has been no sufficient consultation with staff and students regarding the change, something which our legal teams are looking into for the opportunity to launch a challenge and reverse the decision. A deliberate policy of non communication with students is something that FX Plus is very keen on with the approval of both Falmouth and Exeter management. The entire re-branding of Tremough Campus Services took place with minimal consultation with students and in defiance of the wishes of the then FXU Presidents who rightly opposed the appropriation of their own moniker ‘FX’ as part of the new brand. They were simply ignored and, despite a complete lack of planning for the changeover, the new name Falmouth Exeter Plus (which should never be abbreviated despite its ridiculous length) was imposed on staff with strict instructions never to discuss it with the students. So anyone paying fees to the accommodation service, wanting to email a member of staff, use the Tremough Campus website or even park on site would be clueless about exactly who Falmouth Exeter Plus was and where Tremough Cash, ahem, Campus Services had disappeared to. So our prediction for transparency is that there will be even less about the current and future murky plans of the organisation.

Compromised security and confidentiality – FX Plus does not necessarily need to abide by the same rules and regulations as Falmouth or Exeter Universities as it is a different type of organisation. It may choose to do so but issues of sharing of data and information between organisations may mean that security is compromised and confidentiality may not apply as you would assume. If in doubt, ask who is looking at your data, your university or someone whose name you hasn’t heard of until this protest began?

Increased costs for the same services – If FX Plus and its board are not listening to the current protest about a huge transfer of staff in student facing services, why should they care about any future objections to for example, car parking fee rises, food price increases, accommodation cost increases, use of buildings by students/external companies, etc? The key to the whole venture is money-saving and profit-making regardless of where the surplus is reinvested (which isn’t necessarily of benefit to the students in any case as we have seen above) so why stop at outsourcing the academic and student services? Why stop anywhere? There’s plenty of money to be made from those who have to pay it because FX Plus has a complete monopoly onsite at Tremough, supplying every aspect of student life and controlling any access tightly for the few outside providers such as Fal Falafel. Shooting fish in a barrel is one phrase that comes to mind.

That’s a short and sad look into our crystal ball for the near future, we’re sure there’s more.

Please feel free to email us or comment below with your own predictions and let’s see how many of them come true, we truly hope that it’s none but we doubt it…

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Omnia Sunt Communia: All things are in common – What’s the story at Sussex and what does it mean for us?

The events at Sussex University yesterday in which thousands of students, staff and supporters from all over the country converged on the campus to protest against the outsourcing of 235 jobs in security, catering and conference facilities to a private third party organisation, give us even more strength to oppose the outsourcing of our 130 jobs to FX Plus.
The Sussex protest has been going since May 2012 when the plans were announced. One of the key problems cited by those leading the protest is the lack of consultation, very little with staff and none with students. Interesting that our own experience so completely reflects what they call ‘unilateral decision making’ by management with little or no regard for the views of their ‘customers’. Interestingly the Sussex protesters have highlighted the Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing’s failed attempts at privatisation in his previous role at St George’s which again mirrors the experiences of the University of Wales under one Professor Anne Carlisle, current Vice Chancellor and CEO at Falmouth University. The staff who are under threat of transfer face reduced job security and a deterioration in pay and working conditions, just as our staff will in 6 days time on April 1st.
The crux of the matter is that this move highlights the underlying ideology, the marketisation of education as a consumer good. For anyone who heard Niamh Lamond, current CEO of Falmouth Exeter Plus liken the education sector to a market selling apples where more and more providers should be invited to compete and specialise, this will be old news. For Falmouth Academic staff the writing is now on the wall as far as Professor Anne Carlisle’s plans for their departments, to sell out the highest recruiting at the expense of the lowest and, we speculate here, to eventually privatise the successful departments into individual private colleges.  It’s not unthinkable, see our fellow protesters at the University of Central Lancashire whose management have applied to the Secretary of State to completely dissolve the university as a Higher Education Corporation and change it to a company limited by guarantee. So to everyone, mainly those already within FX Plus, gently asking what difference it really makes if this transfer goes ahead we reply that, beyond the major changes involved for individual staff, from a broader perspective it is the thin end of the wedge. Put more bluntly, if you don’t stand for anything you fall for everything, in the end!
With regard to our colleagues already working within FX Plus, we have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the great work that you do. You joined a company you chose to work for, you applied to that company and were hired by them. This protest is for you as well. We are not criticising the staff of FX Plus but we are asking that all staff are properly valued, some of your terms and conditions and rates of pay are simply not fair to you. Why should you and incoming staff be paid less, work more hours and have less say in your working life simply because we are in Cornwall? This is not just about the TUPE transfer but about the treatment of staff working for the two institutions in Cornwall.
So what can we learn from Sussex? We can see what staff and students can achieve when they are informed, enthused and committed to fairness and equality in every aspect of their lives. We can see that it does matter who is providing services, why and how they are monitored. We can see that there is a huge appetite out there to defend education as a public good, something which benefits all of society, and finally we can see that we are most definitely not alone.
The Sussex protest on Monday following the occupation by student protesters of their conference centre is supported by 5,000 signatories to their online petition including the likes of Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Peter Capaldi, Will Self and hundreds of other academics, activists and celebrities. We succeeded in gaining a fifth of their support in just a fraction of the time (December 2012 to present) which demonstrates that this is not an issue which is going away…and neither are we.
See you tomorrow for more, in the meantime, get in touch, spread the word, sign the petition and take action!
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Our students speak out: 7 days to go

Flex is the student magazine for Falmouth and Exeter students at the Cornwall Campus. Their recent article on the protest against the transfer of our Academic and Student Support services teams to FX Plus is an excellent piece highlighting a number of interesting issues.
The FXU are quite clear on their position. Their position is the management’s position. They have been told what to say and are happy to repeat it verbatim.

“In an open letter to the FXU former Falmouth President, Jamie Clark, explained his concern on the matter and emphasised the previous elected presidents were opposed to the transfer.
He said: “I find this news to be very unsettling and can say I believe that there is absolute certainty that this will have a severe adverse effect on the quality of support and services available to students in Cornwall.”

In response to Clark’s letter, the FXU statement commented: “FXU’s primary specific concern was over the suggested inability to recruit and retain high quality staff that the changes may bring, thus having a potentially negative effect on the quality of service for students. FXU raised this issue as a matter of concern with senior management of Falmouth Exeter Plus and Falmouth University and are satisfied by the responses provided to these enquiries”

Once again, there is no comment, no defence of their position from the FX Plus management, from Anne Carlisle’s team and silence from Exeter.
Interesting then that Exeter students were among those today attending the demonstration at Sussex University against the privatisation of 235 of their staff in the catering, cleaning and security services. Do Exeter students not know what is happening down at Cornwall? Almost certainly not, despite our best efforts.
The management have done an excellent job of trying to keep this message away from the people it will affect most after staff, their students. The FXU have been happy to be party to this, and were even angry when flyers explaining the situation to students were handed out in The Exchange at Tremough Campus. They demanded that FX Protest stop bringing next years candidates into the debate on Twitter as we tried to publicise our campaign and criticised those students who did speak out for their services on our online petition.
750 comments have now been received on our online petition as below and of these over 500 are from Falmouth and Exeter students, showing the strength of feeling on this matter.
We will return tomorrow and every day until April 1st and then beyond with more news, updates and food for thought.

Petition comments

As a student at this establishment I think my and other student voices should also be heard alongside the A&SS staff who will be affected by this move.

Our learning experience could be disrupted or devalued by a move which results in unhappy support staff and possible industrial action, so therefore the whole site, support staff, academic staff and students, should all be consulted and allowed to voice their opinions and fears at an extra-ordinary general meeting and through consultation processes.


I am a student with dyslexia and have found the support of the ASK so important. My dyslexia was only picked up when i entered university and i didn’t get the right support in my previous education which meant that i was not able to produce work at the level that i am now. I have the freedom to book time with ask and have them read over my work and make sure it is of the highest quality so i can get the best grade possible. For my first term at university i received a 1st 2.1 and 2.2 i would have not been able to achieve this without the help of ASK and i know they will continue to support me throughout the rest of my university experience.


I think it’s important for the university to have complete control of it’s own products and services. Being a student and being the person footing the bill for these things, I want to know the the institution I’m at is accountable for my experience, for good or bad.

The library and support services at this university have been very good and I am shocked and disappointed to learn that standards are likely to drop because of a penny pinching attitude and a failure to value the staff as they deserve.
An institution of excellence invests in excellent people. Our librarians are excellent, what is the long term cost to future research recognition and finance in order to make short term, political headway? It smacks of a lack of commitment to the long term vision statement.

Considering how much students pay on tuition fees each year I don’t think it’s right to provide an inferior service to the one we currently have. Prices are going up but the service provided would be going down? No thanks.
The easily available access to the dyslexia help is vital for my studies.
I care about my future and where my money is going to. The library is very important and I use their services all the time. I am also Dyslexic and I know many students to be as well. The service I have received so far is exceptional!


This is unfair as Exeter IT staff do not change – plus they already have a much higher wage! Saying that Cornish wages are historically lower IS NO EXCUSE!

So you want to take more money off us, give less money to your staff and do what exactly with the savings? This is the first I have heard about this and I am a FAL student. Does that not ring alarm bells? Even just the fact that I have not been made aware of this until a petition to prevent it was flagged in my inbox is enough to make my blood boil. Seeing as the students aren’t anymore passive in the system, but are actually bankrolling it, don’t you think we should have some say in the decision making? Personally, as I am paying 9000 a year, I feel very strongly that I should get a say in the matter. With the recent reform of funding, there needs to be significant reform in the governance. Lowering salaries and rights of the staff is going to produce a workforce who really don’t give a crap and I don’t think that will be very conducive to my learning.

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A fantastic turnout for Saturday’s protest march

Saturday’s demonstration and march through Falmouth town had a fantastic turnout of supporters drawn from staff, students and local people.

The group of more than 50 people plus dogs, children and babies marched through town carrying the message ‘No to regional pay in FX Plus’ and highlighting the lack of consultation with staff and students using the three monkeys ‘Hear no staff, see no staff, speak to no staff’ design as below:

FX Plus Demo 5 IMG_2567

The message was very well received by everyone we encountered in Falmouth town with hundreds of flyers being snapped up and many people concerned about why they hadn’t heard about this before. Everyone we met was very supportive of the cause.

Judging by the traffic streaming in to our protest website here and the online petition here  since Saturday the message has spread even further than before.

The comments on the petition show exactly what our students and their parents think of the move.

“Ridiculous” says one current student.

“I want to know the institution I am at is accountable for my experience” says another.


With just 13 days to go we plan to continue to fight the signing all the way and beyond.

We will have more news on our work with the Board of Governors later in the week.

Well done everyone!

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Cornwall the poor relation?

Thanks to everyone for all of your support.

Judging by the number of people viewing this site, signing the petition at change.org (search FX Plus) and pledging their commitment to us at the demonstrations we have a strong body of support amongst our staff, students, peers and in the local community.

The newsletter and flyer below sum up really well why this issue matters for everyone in Cornwall, for the local economy and why this matters nationally.

Falmouth betray flyer

Cornwall the poor relation newsletter

The below blog post by Luke Martell places this move by Falmouth in the context of the marketisation of universities and is a very interesting read.


See you this Saturday, 12noon Quarry Hill car park, wear something green

and if you haven’t already, sign our petition in the meantime


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Demonstration date announced – see you there

Following wave after wave of support from students, staff of all three organisations, national groups such as the NUS and increased media interest we are taking to the streets to make our voices heard once more and we want to see you there, wearing something green to show your support.

This will be a friendly, peaceful legal demonstration with the simple aim of spreading our message further.

Falmouth Walk Through Town demonstration

Saturday 16th March  12 noon  

Meet at Quarry Road car park in Falmouth for 12 noon (Quarry Car Park at top of Quarry Hill opposite Party Zone fancy dress shop).

Please bring family, friends, dogs, babies, everyone in fact…. wear something green.

We will be providing leaflets and banners/posters.

The demo will be a walk through town handing out leaflets to draw even more support from the local community.

Protest flyer 12 03 13

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21 days to go but it won’t end there

We now have 21 days to go until the scheduled signing of the TUPE agreement. We’re doing everything we can on every front to ensure that the signing doesn’t take place including some new possible legal challenges which have been explored this weekend. 
Even if the agreement is signed this fight will not end there.
We pledge to continue as FX Protest because we know we will still be needing to deal with the consequences of this short-sighted and ill-thought out plan, consequences such as a decreased quality of service as we struggle to recruit to the vacancies within the Library, IT, Academic and Dyslexia skills and student services teams, and decreased student satisfaction levels.
With 21 days to go, what can we still do? We can get out there and we can make some noise! They have tried their best to silence this protest on social media and didn’t succeed, our message has reached thousands of people across the world, now let’s shout louder than ever in person!
There are some key events coming up that we would love to see you at with some of our protest cards, easy to download and print off here.
FX Plus cross
The dates and times will follow, contact us at falmouthexeterprotest@yahoo.co.uk to arrange to meet the teams.
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What works? – Professional organisations against the transfer

We were very pleased to receive this open letter to Professor Anne Carlisle earlier this week. Now that Professor Carlisle and the Falmouth University team will have had chance to read and digest the excellent points made we are keen to share it with you.

Association for Learning Development in Higher Education

Dear Professor Carlisle

I am writing on behalf of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education to express our concern at the decision to transfer approximately 130 academic support staff at Falmouth University to the company Falmouth Exeter Plus. Our key concerns are:

  • that contracting out learning development services will disconnect input pertaining to learning and teaching strategies that support staff will not receive appropriate on-going continual professional development – this will make it difficult to maintain currency with the profession, particularly for new employees
  • that the ability of Falmouth University to recruit and retain high-quality staff will be limited
  • that this approach will disconnect contextualised learning support and
  • that carefully developed links between academic and learning developers will be eroded to the detriment of students.

The decision to effectively ‘contract out’ the provision of learning development services is, we believe, based on a profound misunderstanding of the central role that learning development plays in the broader mission of higher education. Fulfilling this mission requires institutions to adopt an integrated and strategic approach – one in which all staff engaged in facilitating learning (as subject academics, learning developers, course designers etc.) work together, as equal partners, to provide students with an holistic and appropriately supported learning experience. Across the sector, the direction of travel for those working in learning development has, in recent years, been towards ever closer integration with academic and other colleagues, in order to embed learning development practice in mainstream curricula.

As well as being widely supported by a growing body of relevant research literature, this approach also forms a central recommendation of the report, What Works? Student Retention & Success (2012). Produced jointly by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, HEFCE, HEA and Action on Access, What Works? is the most comprehensive recent, sector-wide, investigation into the effectiveness of approaches to supporting students’ transition and progression in higher education (http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/retention-and-success). The report makes it quite clear that: ‘interventions and approaches to improve retention and success should as far as possible be embedded into mainstream provision to ensure all students participate and benefit from them. This will improve the retention of some students and contribute to maximising the success of all students.’ And, furthermore from research undertaken we know, that when this is done in partnership between academic staff and learning development staff it results in very positive learning for the students. This enhances not just their subject knowledge, but deepens students understanding about their own learning.

In addition, the QAA’s recently revised Quality Code (in particular, Chapters B3 and B4) also stresses the importance and value of strategic and practical cohesion between all those responsible for supporting learning.

We value Falmouth as a subscribing institutional member of ALDinHE and therefore wish to work with you towards maintaining the consistently high levels of service your academic support services provide. As a subscribing member we are sure that Falmouth values a coherent and integrated approach to the student learning experience, and we are therefore writing to you to urge that the decision to transfer these services to an external agency be suspended in order for the question to be re-examined. ALDinHE would be happy to assist in giving evidence to any discussion of these issues.

Yours sincerely

Christine Keenan

Chair of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education

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