This was to protest against the privatisation of the education service there, and the extra course costs that are being imposed on top of tuition fees for students. The stall was supported by Stirchley and Cotteridge against the Cuts.
The plan, that is being carried out without consultation, is to transfer the BA (Hons) Art and Design course to a new location in Margaret Street and the Edexcel foundation course to a new building in Eastside in 2013, and the two buildings on the Bournville Green would be used as a training base for foreign students, as a precursor to taking degree courses at Birmingham University. This lease is being handed over to Navitas, an Australian-based, for-profit education company, and they expect to move into two of the rooms by May and begin operations. The university will hope to benefit from all of this by having a greater uptake from foreign students, which would increase its revenue.
There is no objection to foreign students coming here, that is not the issue. It is an issue of privatisation and cost-cutting. The university could do the pre-course training in-house. And if they really wanted a special location, there is a very suitable building that has become available recently. The Gemeindehaus student residence nearby is desperate to find a buyer, and if it could go to someone wanting to invest in student accommodation it could be the ideal solution. Also, Bournville Village Trust must be fully aware of the situation and it is surprising that they have not forwarded this information in order for the Change of Use to be effected on Ruskin Hall. Has the Bournville Village Trust agreed to it all in principle already?
Already, there has been a running down of provision at the Bournville School of Art. The canteen has been closed for two years and now extra fees are being demanded of students, for example for materials and for the final year show. If Navitas get their hands on it, we can expect more cost-cutting, attacks on wages and conditions and a two-tier workforce, as they start employing their own staff.
Whether the move to Margaret Street is a good idea as far as art teaching is concerned is another matter. However, the Bournville buildings are part of the Cadbury legacy, and when you consider that the adjacent Bournville J.I. School is considering academy status, we see a pattern of privatisation in the area and a full frontal attack on the ethos of Cadburyism.
The three local Tory councillors have intervened into this issue, highlighting the loss of an important local resource, and combining their statements with racist dog-whistles about the influx of foreign students. They have drawn up their own petition and presented it. Could these three Councillors be the same ones who voted for £212 million cuts to the Birmingham City Council budget last year and £100 million cuts for next, and are part of the ruling coalition which is trying to privatise all of its leisure services, close children’s homes and decimate the Connexions service for young people?
All the students that passed the stall agreed to sign, as did all the local passers-by. The campaign is beginning.