As last week the majority of the University and College Union’s branches rejected the deal with Universities UK – and as the teaching staff strike across the UK enters its fifth week – we are raising our voice in support of our colleagues in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We are a group of staff members at the University of Amsterdam who are engaged in challenging the current university structure (

The pension cuts proposed by Universities UK, the consortium of higher education employers, are the issue that caused the strike, but this strike is anything but a single-issue protest. We are witnessing a momentum in the struggle against the managerialism that is taking over higher education across Europe and the whole world. The desire to manage the university as a corporation, the propensity to measure academic and educational ‘output,’ and the ongoing attempts to turn universities into full-fledged profitable enterprises: these developments are leading numerous academic institutions into fundamental crisis. The corporate university does not only cause problems with pensions. It is generous to University Board members, but it creates life-long debts for students; it increases social and economic precarity for early-career and temporary lecturers and supporting staff; and it generates non-realistic, dangerously weighty workloads for teaching and research staff.

At the University of Amsterdam, we know these concerns well. The last time that they were pronounced more loudly than usual was in 2015, when our students challenged the Board to scrap its Humanities Faculty Profile 2016. Eventually the protest broadened beyond the threats for the Humanities Faculty and put the general malaise of the corporate university at its center, including the problems of a top-down decision making structure with its lack of managerial accountability and of democratic participation by the staff. In 2015 we managed to raise the level of public awareness about these issues, and to generate some modest steps in the right direction within our university. But they are miniature steps: a lot more needs to be done to establish genuine institutional change. This is why your fight seems all the more important to us and reminds us of the fact that universities in Europe share very similar challenges.

In essence, we are dealing with different manifestations of the same complex social problem that is at the heart of the current struggle in the UK. But each and every action that challenges it, adds to the common fight for the university as a place that seeks and produces knowledge and critique, not reports and income. This is why we stand in solidarity with the striking staff across the United Kingdom and support their fight for defined-benefit pension as a self-evident part of academics’, and, more broadly, workers’ rights. This is why we also support the broadening of the struggle to encompass a critique of the current marketized way in which universities are run.


RethinkUvA (UvA Staff for a New University)