A «Mute» special on Struggle in Education TodayThe cuts, lay-offs and tuition-fee hikes that are besetting higher and further education internationally are naturally a direct response to the drama of the financial crisis and its ricocheting bomb of personal, commercial and national debt. But they also have deeper roots. They should be understood as part of the more gradual process of what George Caffentzis, in his analysis of the international situation, calls the ‘breakdown of the edu-deal'; the inability for capital, and therefore the state, to pay for the costs of producing a well educated workforce or to guarantee that investment in education will result in a more vigorous economy and increased living standards for those with qualifications.
This breakdown, and the dogmatism of free market economics which seeks to alleviate it, has seen the imposition of a business rationale onto what previously had been regarded as the provision of a public service, sometimes even a public good. From the investment of endowment funds on the market, to the conversion of students into (badly ripped off) consumers, to the no-frills fixed-term contracts being doled out to staff, to the speculative purchase of the future IP generated by scientific and technical departments, to the intended exchangeability of all qualifications under the Bologna Process, education has been infested by the value form.
With the ground changing this fast under staff and students' feet, the ability for collective action to fight the savage rounds of cuts has itself suffered as a result of a generalised precarity and fragmentation. Despite the hostile conditions, we are nevertheless seeing an intermittent but persistent wave of strikes, actions and occupations, both wildcat and union co-ordinated, breaking out around the world. Other initiatives such as cross-institutional teach-ins, blogs, power-mapping exercises, conferences and demonstrations are also creating a steady hum of background pressure and preparation. All of this begs the question, will it be enough to save any residual quality and equality within education and its institutions? With the state of struggle in education our principal question, Mute has created a mini-dossier of reports, questionnaires and analyses on the education crisis as it unfolds in the UK and beyond.