Save Ruskin’s BA and MA Courses

Below is the text of a letter which we are going to send to the Guardian for publication. If you would like to be a signatory to this letter, please leave your name and title/position in the ‘Leave A Reply’ section below. Please also feel free to distribute this further amongst your union branches and networks.

Thank you for your support and solidarity.

As academics, working-class educationalists, labour movement practitioners, politicians, and alumni, we are shocked and angered by the decision taken by Ruskin College, Oxford to effectively close the International Labour and Trade Union Studies BA and MA courses by making all academic staff in this department redundant. The decision removes from the UK the only remaining institution providing labour and trade union studies.

Ruskin College was established in 1899 to provide education to working class people who couldn’t have otherwise gone to university, and since then the institution has contributed enormously to both the advancement of working-class lives, and the understanding and development of the labour movement.

In the context of the rise in precarious forms of work, further legislative attacks on trade unions, and attacks on higher education more broadly, it is imperative that we have a labour movement that can preserve and learn from our history and develop informed strategy on how to counter this onslaught. Ruskin College has a unique and integral role in doing this.

We therefore call on Ruskin College’s management to reverse this decision and ensure that an independent, radical, critical labour movement education is available for future generations.


1,057 thoughts on “Save Ruskin’s BA and MA Courses

  1. Now more than ever we need independent and critical reflection on labour in the 21st Century. Anna Davies, Chair of Geography, Environment and Society, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


  2. The management of Ruskin College Oxford, historically central to working-class and labour education in the UK, have decided to effectively close its BA and MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies by making all academic staff in the department redundant, meaning that there is now no institution providing labour and trade union studies in the UK.

    The inhumane act of making people redundant, is now being forced through at one of the most important fields of knowledge and practice for generations of workers and their families. And this is carried out at a time when revitalizing the labor movement, in the face of increasing migration and, polarization, and gross inequalities taking place all over the globe, is just plain stupid. I hope those in charge will reconsider. I stand in solidarity with the staff and students.

    Thomas Jakobsen
    Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


  3. This is an absurd move. Here’s to a swift and total victory! Anthony Ince, Lecturer in Human Geography, Cardiff University.


  4. Ruskin had a great international reputation in this field. As an undergraduate in New Zealand, I was inspired by Raphael Samuel and the History Workshop Journal. Therefore this decision will not just harm labour studies, it will also destroy the reputation of Ruskin College as a centre for innovative scholarship.


  5. Matthias Täger, Fulbright Student in Urban Planning and Community Development, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA


  6. A shameful intellectual and moral retreat that can only reinforce the growth of inequality in this increasingly dangerous world. Michael Cole, Distinguished Professor of Communication, Psychology, and Human Development. UC San Diego, USA


  7. Tom Richardson Yet another attack on an essential component of education and thinking about working class alternatives, organisation and history.


  8. Seems like for every attack in the field of labor education, 100 Business programs are born. Where is the justification in taking the workers perspective of history and economics out of academia? Keep labor education programs open.


  9. Having taught at Ruskin College, and been inspired by its unique contribution to international labour and trade union studies, I am appalled at this shortsighted decision by the college’s current management and urge them to swiftly reconsider. I also extend my solidarity and support to all those resisting this move and attempting to preserve Ruskin’s proud working class tradition. Laurence Davis, Director of the PhD in Government, University College Cork, Ireland


  10. Ruskin is famous for its labour studies – it is shocking to hear that its management would conceive of
    closing it down.


  11. It is difficult to see how Ruskin can claim to meet its mission as a College without labour and trade union studies being part of its curriculum. These areas have never been more important to explore and defend after nearly 40 years of neo-liberalism. Ruskin management should recognise that to kill what is distinctive is to kill their reputation


  12. In a time of massive turmoil with rising racial tensions in the UK which is dividing the working class, I can’t believe the administration would consider dropping such a programme. Whatever their logic is, if they go ahead an dismantle these two important degrees, then they should assess all other degrees such as economics or business admin (provided they offer those).


  13. A short sighted and wrong decision.
    Michael Murphy
    PhD Candidate
    Department of Geography
    Maynooth University


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