Jay Slayton-Joslin, Leeds Socialist Party
The University of Leeds recently announced that it would offer £10,000 and free accommodation to some potential students to persuade them to defer for a year. The deputy vice-chancellor stated that this was due to teacher-assessed grades making it harder to predict the number of successful applicants.
It is astonishing that these offers are being made to students, and at the same time the university is doing nothing to handle the other issues on campus.
After news of this broke, workers at the University of Leeds took to online forum Reddit to explain that they’ve been told there isn’t enough money to extend their temporary contracts, and that their job security is gone. A masters student commented to me that they paid full price just to attend virtual lectures during Covid, with no hint of a refund.
Access to education is a right, and universities should never be run as if they are businesses. We’re always being told that there isn’t enough money for pay rises, to fund mental health services and to reduce the rising costs for students to go to university.
The University of Leeds’ £10,000 offer shows that some universities can afford to pay up when they think it will make them more money in the long run. It comes at a time when dozens of universities are making redundancies, including in Sheffield’s archaeology department and at the University of Liverpool (see ‘Liverpool university strike saves jobs’), both have seen workers’ action to defend jobs. A combined struggle of students and staff is needed to win funding from government.
The money does exist to fund high-quality free education, a living wage and genuinely affordable housing – it’s in the hands of the super-rich. Action and a socialist plan for the future are essential to harness these resources and provide education for all, with no one left behind.