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.


1,061 thoughts on “Save Ruskin’s BA and MA Courses

  1. Sad that this important aspect of employment law will no longer be covered. One would have thought in this day and age specialisation pays?!


  2. This is both a regressive and economically irrational decision. The part-time industrial relations courses at Keele are actually growing and the need for trade union education at HE level is more accute now than ever.


  3. James Richards. I’m a product of TU education at Northern College, Barnsley, and the loss of such programmes would be another kick in the teeth for the labour movement. Universities should focus more on their role of creating social goods, rather than pandering to commercial imperatives. Don’t be lazy Ruskin, there is a need for such studies and stop, like most UK universities, trying to take the easy (money-laden) way out.


  4. Please add my name: Dr Conor Cradden, Independent Researcher. (Formerly Specialist in Labour Relations and Collective Bargaining, International Labour Office.)


  5. Great shame that universities are offering less support for people wishing to learn later in life. Many people entering universities through trade union education did not have opportunities to study at university earlier in their lives. Closing such courses represents a diminution in the role of universities in public life.


  6. Dr Peter Scott, University of Portsmouth

    I was one of the academic team that revalidated the BA ILTUS degree in the recent past, so am extremely disappointed to see that this excellent degree is being discarded. It filled a gap that isn’t catered for elsewhere.


  7. Deborah Dean: Associate Professor in Industrial Relations, Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick. UCU member.


  8. Professor Andrew Watterson. Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling, Scotland says:

    This is an appalling decision by Ruskin College that will stain its history unless reversed


  9. As an academic, researcher and former union educator, I know the importance of labour education and its positive effect on people’s lives. Ruskin will be a great loss.


  10. Terrible news about the closure of these highly important programmes for working class education. Ruskin College must re-consider its decision!

    Andreas Bieler (Professor of Political Economy, University of Nottingham)


  11. Dr Judith Murphy, Project Organiser (Educational Campaigning within the Workers’ Educational Association and affiliated organisations in the North East 1918-28), Workers’ Educational Association North East


  12. I am a graduate of the ILTUS BA and studying this degree was without doubt the most influential decision I have made in my life so far. It is beyond words the anger I feel that once again an attack on those that seek education are denied their right to learn and express themselves. Shame on those that have destroyed the ethos of Ruskin College.


  13. Ruskin has been in my political and career landscape since I left school at 15. Never has there been a greater need for radical political and trade union education. This action is truly shameful, instead of resistance, Ruskin has participated in a disgraceful race to the educational bottom. In solidarity with my fantastic colleagues.


  14. Alan Tuckman, Hon Fellow, Centre for Trade Union Studies, Keele University.

    A terrible act of vandalism against the last remnants of trade union education.


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