Sometimes one has to take a clear stand. The Tory party has been pushing an austerity agenda in the UK for the last few years and promises to continue in the same line for the foreseeable future. This policy agenda has had a massive impact on everything that as a criminologist I care about: cuts to legal aid that reduce access to justice; the privatisation of the Probation service (an institution that has inspired so many across the world); cuts to prison budgets that have resulted in the significant worsening of conditions in prison settings; and reductions in policing budgets that will fundamentally change what policing forces can do to prevent and respond to crime.
Most of this we know is driven by ideology, not by insights from economics. Despite what mainstream media projects, the economic orthodoxy does not support this kind of policies. And it is generally agreed among economists that they have contributed to slower growth post-recession. We also know we’re not all on it together, as numerous very rigorous studies have shown, and that the continuation of these policies will likely make things worse.
Universities in the UK have seen policies to facilitate privatisation of the sector and we witnessed the ramping up of the tuition fee system, measures that will mean more debt for poorest students, and the creation of an unsustainable funding regime. Yet those tuitions fees, the removal of the caps for recruitment, and the partial protection of research funding means that Universities have been partially insulated in comparison with other public sectors. But this level of insulation is about to change as the current government sets its eyes on the reform of the current research funding regime.
There is a lot of talk about impact and social responsibility agendas in academia, as well as about the notion of public criminology. At Manchester we take pride in addressing global inequalities. Well, as far as I am concerned, that includes publicly telling this government: “enough.” It is for these reasons that this Sunday morning I will be joining the march called for TUC to protest against these policies. If you are around the Manchester area, please feel free to join me, my family, and those thousands of people that will be doing the same. UCU and the local branch UMUCU will be meeting across the St. Peter Chaplaincy in Oxford Road, just between the School of Computer Science and the Blackwell’s library at midday. The full program of activities is available here. Just remember if you bring toddlers, to have a good explanation for all those pig masks!