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.


1,062 thoughts on “Save Ruskin’s BA and MA Courses

      1. As an ex Ruskin Student I am appalled Ruskin was set up to educate the working class who had no other route to education involving the history of the struggles of the past and the trade union and Labour movement .Ruskin was started by the Trade unions .DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN


    1. The Trades Unions played a critical role in founding Ruskin College. Courses on the history of trades unions are surely part of its raison d’etre. I do not understand how the management committee can even consider ending these courses and am surprised, given the college’s remit, that it should have the power to do so. To carry out such a decision would be a tragic mistake and one that would be later regretted.


  1. Justin Parsons UNISON full time case worker and official at the ABM health branch in south wales. I am a former Law student at Ruskin College who are responsible for enabling me the opportunity to go on and complete a law degree at Cardiff university I am deeply saddened to see the potential loss of this vital facility and I urge you not to turn your backs on this unique course as it would not be within the spirit of the labor movement and what Ruskin has always stood for.


  2. ILTUS MA 2010/12. NIPSA Full Time Official & Unite member. Ruskin was a beacon for working class students. This decision to treat the incredibly hard working & remarkably supportive staff in this way is shameful. It offends the ethos & values which Ruskin has.


  3. Shortsighted and culturally destructive. Ruskin has an astonishing alumni and continues to provide invaluable trade union research and education.


  4. Matthew Heaney, student at the European Academy of Work in the Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany; which is vaguely the German TUC’s (DGB) equivalent of Ruskin


  5. So sad to hear this, started working with colleagues in the department around equalities and women’s training in the last few years. This is massive loss to the trade union movement and equalities.


  6. As a former student of the Ruskin MA ILTUS course I have seen first hand how valuable it is to the labour movement and inspirational for participants. It is also unique and must be saved.


  7. This is sad news I completed the Women in Leadership Course at Ruskin a college that empowers Women in the union to go on to achieve goals that they never thought possible.


  8. As a former Ruskin student who benefited greatly from the unique opportunities Ruskin provides working class students, I am really sad to learn of the closure of these courses and urge the college to reconsider.


  9. It is beyond belief that these courses are under threat. Not only are they central to working people’s education and the development of trade union leaders, but the courses are popular and profit making. I’ve taught on these courses and the standard of debate and education puts universities to shame.

    Elizabeth Cotton, Surviving Work & Middlesex University.


  10. Ben Egan, former MA ILTUS student (2010-12).

    One change I would suggest to the text: first line, change ‘practitioners’ to ‘activists’ or ‘officers and activists’.

    This is a scandal, yet again. And there is no excuse because unlike other colleges the governing executive is dominated by trade unions. The usual argument they put forward of saying Ruskin is a ‘second chance’ college is bullshit. All FE colleges do that – what they don’t have is over a century of tradition in support trade union activists from all over the world.

    Writing to the Guardian is all well and good but what we should be doing is shaming the decision makers who seem determined to score screamers of own goals at every opportunity.


  11. The trade union movement cannot afford to lose such a valuable asset especially as we are now moving into such dangerous times for employment rights


  12. Peter Underwood, London representative on the Green Party Regional Council and Co-Chair of Croydon & Sutton Green Party

    Miners son, Oxford graduate, and lifelong union member (former PCS and now UNISON)


  13. Walton Pantland
    Communications Officer, IndustriALL Global Union
    MA ILTUS alumnus

    I did the ILTUS Masters course a number of years ago, and found the course absolutely essential to my understanding of trade unions’ role in the contemporary world of work. It has also been really useful in my career. It is a truly excellent and relevant modern industrial relations course.

    I am really angry at this terrible decision. It amounts to intellectual vandalism at precisely the time that the trade union and progressive movement needs to hone and develop its understanding of the relationship between bosses and workers.

    The ongoing collapse of the political centre, and the rise of right wing populists in the UK, US and elsewhere, has been characterised by new attacks on workers’ rights. Workers and their organisations also face new challenges due to the rise of platform-based precarity, and jobs lost due to automation. We need activists to research these phenomena and develop strategies to defend workers.

    Reinstate the ILTUS programme!


  14. I am a product of trade union education. I did an MA Labour and Trade Union Studies and University of North London. I was privileged to be supported through this through my union (and my employer) and that is how I ended up becoming Professor of Work and Employment Relations at the University of Leeds. I was also external examiner at Ruskin on its BA L&TUS for three years and I have done guest lectures here and supervised MA dissertation students. I can attest to the changes in people who are able to gain an education later in like -often people who were failed earlier in their studies or who just weren’t able to continue into further education at that time in their lives. I have seen many fantastic students Vic Paulino, Lynn Simpson, David Condliffe) graduate from these courses and take up important positions in the labour movement. Learning about the labour and trade union movement is vital if we are to learn from our history and to be in a position to change the world in which we live to something that has greater equality and compassion.

    My uncle was was a beneficiary of trade union education at Ruskin College over 60 years ago, sadly there are no longer any MA/BA course in trade union studies left in the country. What are our unions doing about this? It’s time there was a plan of action and an injection of resources.

    My deep commiserations to colleagues Ian Manborde, Tracy Walsh, Fenella Porter who have lost their jobs as a result of these unnecessary cuts -shame on those that brought them about.


  15. Phil Chamberlain: academic, journalist and co-author of Blacklisted: the secret battle between big business and union activists.


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