This week we are serialising extracts from an article by Rebecca Ratcliffe at the Guardian looking at how students around the world are fighting back against the commercialisation of University education.
University of Toronto, Canada
What’s happening? Graduate students at the University of Toronto have been on strike for three weeks.
What prompted the strike? Graduate and teaching assistants are essential to the University of Toronto’s teaching. But they are paid a minimum financial package of C$15,000 – far less than is needed to meet the cost of living.
Omar Sirri is a PhD student studying political science at the University of Toronto –
“The basic graduate student funding package has not seen any increase in more than seven years, leaving graduate students doing teaching and research to live more than C$8,000 below the poverty line. Sessional faculty, course instructors and teaching assistants do more than 60% of the teaching at the University of Toronto, but only 3.5% of the university’s budget is allocated to them.
To address this, graduate students should be guaranteed a minimum amount of funding that sits above the poverty line and increases as inflation and the cost of living rises.
Instead, management have sought to increase undergraduate and graduate student enrolment – particularly international students – in order to increase profits to the university. Rather than addressing the serious financial needs of its students, the university administration team spent weeks refusing to return to the negotiating table. A recent offer failed to address the negative impacts of precarious work in academia that have allowed for the exploitation of lower level and non-tenured academic staff.
To prevent further labour action and disruption for all students across university campuses in Canada, university administrators will have to address these serious structural deficiencies that have decayed the quality of education and research at public universities in Canada and across North America.”