THE BLOG

Reclaiming Exam Term: Revising Resistance

12/05/2015 14:30 BST | Updated 09/05/2016 10:59 BST

The Tories are in.

First of all, I want to share love and solidarity with all of those people who woke up to a scarier world on Friday morning. To a world in which vital services we depend upon are under threat; in which we are facing a future of precarity and uncertainty in the name of our own wellbeing.

It's likely that university tuition fees will rise again and it's inevitable that the ideology of neoliberalism and marketisation will continue to destroy our universities for students, academics and staff. The trends that we have seen emerging over the last five years - cuts to bursaries, welfare provisions, the overinflation of corporate powers in universities, the policing of dissent on university campuses - are likely only to increase.

We have to struggle. We will struggle. We'll resist by all the means available to us, different as they are for each individual. We will take back spaces and ownership over our universities. This government will try to erase our agency, and we must claw it back at every opportunity.

We all know that politics goes beyond the ballot box. We in universities across the country are living politics every day. It's in the way students are conditioned to think about our learning; the way that conferencing departments and corporate interests take precedence over academic needs. It's in cuts to courses seen to be no longer 'profitable'; it's in zero-hour contracts and low pay for academics and staff.

We have to begin with solidarity. If we internalise the divide-and-conquer politics of the Tories, if we accept the logic of allowing the most vulnerable of our communities to be left behind in the name of our own interests, then they really have won. We are all - however privileged - damaged by a system that thrives on this logic.

It's going to be a long struggle and one with which we can engage through all levels of resistance. Students and academics can, and probably will, take to the streets in the coming weeks and months. But this time of year also has something else in store for us: exams.

In Cambridge, our Whose University campaign is reclaiming exam term. We're rejecting the ideology of competition for one of collaboration. We're sharing study spaces, notes, ideas, time and advice; working collectively to negate the damaging atmosphere of "survival of the fittest" and competitive revision-masochism that is engrained into exam culture.

We're saying these are our exams, and we'll do them in a way that suits us. We're saying that we'll revise what we're interested in and write about what matters, because people are wrong to see education as valuable only insofar as it translates into marketable skills. We're staying defiantly human in a system that thrives on dehumanisation - on reducing students to candidates, academic work to mark schemes, ideas to grades.

It's not the revolution. It's not going to topple the Tories or stop what they have in store for us over the next five years. But it's important. It's important because it embodies a living, thriving alternative to the ideology masquerading as pragmatism that we have been sold as inevitable.