In Vienna, Austria, the students have occupied the Academy of Fine Arts. This is the English-language statement they have issued:
“The Bologna process aims at extensive convergence with the Anglo-American education system. The goal is to enter competition in the global education market to strengthen its own economic position and increase research dependent revenues. The establishment of regulative norms and the harmonization of standards are its basis and at the same time its precondition: without standardization no measurability, without measurability no comparability, without comparability no competition. Economization and competition logic are imposed on every level of the knowledge landscape.
The result is intercontinental as well as inter-EU competition, within which single universities and their departments compete amongst themselves for the best results and statistics. The processes involved in the creation of an education economy with knowledge as the traded commodity correspond with the general ambitions of privatization and commodification in all spheres of life under neoliberal capitalism. They lead to educational institution’s increased dependency on their sponsors; cynically defined as the autonomization of the universities.
In this context autonomy is a euphemism for the new forms of governing institutions. The autonomized universities are not autonomous in the sense of self-determined at all. They are rather directed to fulfil the needs of economy and industry, as well as to subjugate themselves to market logic; efficiency, competition and managerial ruling structures. The democratisation of the universities, implemented in the 1970s, is successively abolished; democratically legitimized bodies are disenfranchised and replaced by top-down hierarchical structures.
In the composition of the Bologna 3-level study model, a paradigm change has manifested itself, in the last few years there has been a shift from a pluralistic education ideal to an economy orientated education. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna has repeatedly and explicitly positioned itself against this degradation and the establishment of the Bachelor-Master system.
We refuse to subjugate ourselves to the logic of politics and economy!
We’re fighting to define learning, teaching and research for ourselves!
We declare solidarity with the education protests in Bangladesh, Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Great Britain, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Croatia, Netherlands, Serbia, South Africa, USA!”
We declare solidarity right back with them. We agree that the commodification of education, and its subjugation to the concerns of the market – measurability, profitability, and above all competition – is disastrous. These students eloquently attack the terrible effects that have been brought upon our schools and universities by the logic of competition. In the United States, the arts, humanities, and social sciences are being systematically defunded and devalued on the grounds that they bring small to no fiscal returns. These departments, within and among universities, are fighting and scrabbling amongst themselves for the remaining scraps, and their students are shown, every day and in countless ways, that their education is regarded by the university as a burden to be borne as minimally as possible. This affects the sciences as well, where faculty are valued only according to their ability to cultivate grants, increasingly from private sources, and their ability to churn out students who will labor in the increasingly corporatized science fields.
Worse is the way in which students have internalized this logic of economic competition. Over and over we hear students ventriloquizing these kinds of claims: There is no money. Education is expensive. You can’t get something for nothing. There are few jobs. The university is a social Darwinist crucible in which the less fit departments, faculty, students, are dissolved. The fit emerge to compete in a dwindling job market. What can we do?
We can take back what is ours. Education is not, regardless of what we are told, an economic process, not a competition, not a zero-sum game. It is a process which we ourselves value, carry out, and ultimately control. Occupy, escalate, stick to your guns.
We stand in fervent, appreciative solidarity with the students of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts.
Occupy California, an autonomous collective at UC Santa Cruz