Podcast: Radical Education In The Liverpool University Strikes

In this episode, Beyond Education’s Kirsty Morrin and Dave Ridley continue their chat with recent graduate Esme Flinders about the strike actions taking place at the University of Liverpool.

This time we talk about radical education in and around strike actions, for example teach outs, as an alternative to the marketized version pushed onto students and universities by the Tories.

If you missed Episode 1 (which you can find here) University and College Union (UCU) members at the University of Liverpool have been on a series of strike actions and boycotts over the past few months, including 24 days of all out strike action, with a marking boycott (action short of strike) in between.

The strikers are taking action over proposals to cut 47 academic staff jobs in the health sciences through so-called compulsory redundancies. 

There are many issues with the way these proposals have come about, and played out so far, not least the fact that the posts are ‘redundant’ but are to be replaced, and the metric criteria through which staff have been selected has been called out as unethical, unfair, and erroneous throughout.

The action has so far saved 45 of the 47 jobs which is a huge win, but the fight goes on for 2 colleagues remaining at risk, and the wider fight over what it means to have a permanent contract in HE in the future.

At the beginning of the last episode, you heard a reading of a poem by Emily Dickinson, ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’, which was sent in a weekly update by Liverpool University Vice Chancellor, Janet Beer, during the strike.

What was particularly pointed about this poem was sent in an email that claimed the UCU were spreading untruths and misconceptions to students about their action and managements roles in this.

In this episode, we hear what we might call ‘rebuttal poem’ from striking UCU members:

Tell All the Truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant​

That’s what Emily wrote

But Janet can only quote 

From the work of other hands

Whereas UCU always bands

Together to do our own work

Not copy from others while we shirk


To tell all the truth, we will endeavour

But tell it slant? No, we would never

Report fake stats on percentage strikers

We’re ethical but bosses aren’t like us

We’re scientists who can interpret data

unlike the VC of this alma mater


So how many workers joined the action?

At risk of Dame Beer’s dissatisfaction

The data aren’t in yet! We didn’t record

Just how many staff are of one accord

And call on the VC to end it all

by issuing a complete withdrawal


Meantime, don’t think we can’t see through

You e-mailing duff data. Science! That’s what we do

You would know this if only you too

Would value your staff, understand our skills


But sadly, your regard for us is scant

So tell all truth Janet but don’t tell it slant

’Cause we’re not too infirm to stand in truth’s light

We’ll stand in straight truth ‘til the end of the fight.