Our First Round of Support
Published on October 7, 2020 by Tom Cutterham

I'm very pleased to report that our first round of grants is complete. Through the generosity and solidarity of this community, the community of workers and students at the University of Birmingham, we've been able to give real, substantial financial support to some of the people whose incomes were devastated by the cuts imposed over the summer.

We raised over £3,000 in donations in just a few weeks in the second half of September. We had applications to the fund that added up to a total of nearly £7,000. That means we were able to pay out, in amounts between £100 and £450, around half of what our applicants asked for. What we could give, collectively, is a drop in the ocean of what the university has withheld from its most vulnerable workers. But I'm proud that together we've done what we can to support each other, and that our efforts make a real difference to those we've supported.

This fund wouldn't have to exist if the University of Birmingham had kept its promises to casualised staff. It wouldn't have to exist if the core functions of academia, education and research, were treated as top priorities by the management of this university -- because if education were prioritised, then the shift to blended learning, which requires enormous extra effort and expertise, would have led to more PGTA work, not less; and if ongoing research were prioritised, then overburdened permanent staff would not have been asked to shoulder teaching that should have been done by their precarious colleagues.

Over the summer, it became clear that the university has not in fact suffered a significant drop in student recruitment. Yet there has been no word, not even a hint, that the universal 8.5% budget cuts ordered by the university's leadership are being reconsidered. We can only wonder if the cuts will ever be applied to senior executives' pay-packets. As long as these conditions continue to exist, and as long as our colleagues are made the victims of profligate mismanagement, we will continue to raise money for this fund and distribute it to those who need it.

The next round of applications will take place in January, for the redress of losses anticipated over the spring semester. Everything you contribute between now and the end of January will go towards that round of grants. I hope those who can will continue to support us, and that those who need our help will come forward and apply in January.