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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: What it is and why we should be worried

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: What it is and why we should be worried

Interesting report on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership from UCU (University and College Union) and its potential for unregulated damage to the public good, such as education and health. They suggest it authorises legal suits should we (governments) attempt to regulate down the line once we work out what is going on with the wonder of experience. Is this really an impending death knell for democracy?

Of course we want to trade with the each other across the EU and with the US, as well as the rest of the world. While in an ideal world welcoming the removal of corrupt barriers to free trade so we can all get on and earn a rewarding living before enjoying our homes, families and other interests, unregulated activity without democratic oversight on such important areas of our lives is a little scary; and the idea we could be heavily financially penalised for waking up to implications and complexities and attempting to regulate down the line scarier still. Who will be held accountable? Politicians that draw on the expertise around them to the best of their ability and are on the receiving end of public pressure; or small cliques of hidden professionals? We pay the bills regardless.

I haven’t read the proposed agreements and probably wouldn’t understand them or their implications if I did. UCU draws on international studies and reports on other free trade agreements, and a study by LSE (the London School of Economics) for BIS (the UK government department for Business, Innovation and Skills). Could the agreement be hashed out to better acknowledge the right to regulate in the public good? Probably.

On that note, UCU has organised a free Defend Public Education: from cradle to grave conference on Saturday 1 February 2014 at the Ambassadors Hotel, Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H OHX from 10:00 – 16:00 if anyone is interested in going.

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  1. Dan Taubman organised a fantastic Defend Public Education from Cradle to Grave Conference today, marking the end of a long career with UCU which culminated in December.

    We were greeted by Bonnie Greer OBE, playright, author and critic, regaling us with anecdote and personality underlining why public education matters, before moving on to a selection of workshops. In particular, Bonnie emphasised local context and variability – with the notions of intelligence and tests which establish life potential as well as current state of achievement; and the works of Kurt Gödel and his incompleteness theorems which demonstrate that (algorithmic) solutions cannot be both complete and consistent across the board.

    Bonnie’s Smörgåsbord recounted being returned to first grade on entering Catholic school where she found herself bemused at the insistence that she could not possibly understand the Holy Trinity due to its mystery status by the nun. The tale reminded me of the scene in South Korean animation Walking with Dinosaurs, recently remade which I haven’t had the pleasure of watching, where the mother dies due to a catastrophic environment and the father, himself an apparent orphan at the beginning, is left to fight for his own and his son’s continuation. A signifcant factor in the challenge for survival is the periodic appearance of one lone, marrauding beast. Worth watching!


    I attended What’s Been Happening in the Devolved Administrations, hosted by Simon Renton, where Mike Larkin, President University and College Union (UCU) at Queen’s University Belfast, gave an overview of funding differentials across the regions and argued for a rebalance of the market approach and to regain intellectual engagement. He drew attention to the detrimental effect that rapid convergence would have on Northern Ireland, and its higher proportion of state school participation in university education. He noted the absence of philosophical debate around educational change and the increasing divergence in policy. Douglas Chalmers, Vice President UCU Scotland, introduced the idea of a concept of democratic intellect and the impact of the recent governance review mandating consultation between Trades Union and universities, and an ‘open door’ policy. He drew attention to the ongoing tensions in the Scottish FE/ HE split and reorganisation of FE.

    Finally, Chris Jones, Vice President UCU Wales, looked at the financial, institutional and union situation in Wales, where amalgamations have reduced colleges to a quarter of their previous number and FE is combined with HE, and union membership is on the decline. He commented that government is not explicitly anti-union, that dialogue does exist with ministers and that national policies are appreciated given how closely connected Wales is to England. Concern with sustaining research was threaded thoughout the presentations; and there was significant discussion around pay parity comparisons.

    There was not the opportunity to raise curiosity around variance in the ethos (and logos) underpinning curriculum design in the regions, or the possibility of diversifying the apparent north south polarity. England, the largest and leanest sector, is clearly cut standards and economically driven. RaPAL’s social practices perspectives link closely to the frameworks in Scotland. Of course, international comparisons contribute to dialogues around best practice.

    Back in the conference hall, Vaughan Gething, Welsh Assesmbly Deputy Minister for Tackling Poverty, entertained us with a finely crafted argument for collaborative partnerships to reduce poverty via distinct solutions which reject Darwinian models of competition and rivalry; striving for excellence and social justice given the clearly demonstrable attainment gap attributable to economic background. He promoted the importance of early years education and parents’ conception of their own role in bringing this about. The priorities outlined were early years, families and communities, aspirations and workforce development with apparent slogans of Eradicate Poverty and Families First.

    Lunch was very comfortable. Thank you Ambassador’s Hotel, Woburn Place.

    Max Hyde, NUT Vice President, welcomed us back with arguments for a professional workforce developing our children through lifelong learning as a fundamental human right; emphasising guided choice and quality provision. Max noted the ability of excessive political interference in curriculum design to wipe out communities; and STEM provision which overlooked practical interaction and application was selected for beration. Max made great use of image and quote in greeting us back to policy.

    Of the subsequent workshops, I had selected Using Social Networks and Media which was run by Rosie Rogers, National Coordinator at Compass around her work with UK Uncut. We received some tips for engaging the public with campaigns such as using a co-ordinated image, bite-sized catchy text and ACTIONS during the peak morning and/ or evening activity periods; and briefly considered the difference between protest and dialogue. The audience developed this with reflection on the functions of showing support, sharing and disseminating for reaching towards dialogue; and social media’s unbounded but not limitless reach. It would be delightful to see such activity contribute to provision and standards in the public sector and future collaboration will be watched with interest.

    Simon Renton, UCU President, closed with up-coming activity and a basketful of consideration for future direction.

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