News

Queen to Visit Royal Holloway


The Queen will be conducting a visit to Royal Holloway on Friday 14th of March.

She will be accompanied by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, to present a prestigious music award to the department.

The ‘Regius Professorship’ dates back to the 16th century and this is the first time it has been awarded to a Department of Music.

Principal, Professor Paul Layzell says: ‘It is a great honour that our Department of Music has been given such world-class recognition, confirming its position as one of the best in the country.’

On the day, students will be able to stand outside the north tower where they can watch Her Majesty arrive in her car. The ceremony will be followed by a private reception in the Picture Gallery afterwards. While this will be a mostly private event, the Student’s Union Sabbatical Officers have already been invited, as well as a few other students. However, the final list of invitations will not be confirmed by the Palace until 2 weeks before the event. So if you haven’t received your invitation yet, don’t worry, there still might be a chance.

Royal Holloway has always been proud to have strong Royal links; our current Monarch last visited in 1986, and most famously of all, Queen Victoria presided over the official opening of the University in 1886.

However, not all students are happy with the Royal visit. The Left Forum and the Conservative society will be organising a debate on the Monarchy and their role in the 21st century as a reaction to the visit. The college are hoping that any unrest from students will not interrupt the day.

Article: Corinna Taylor

Photographs: lordwestover.blogspot.com (Main); bbc.co.uk (Featured).

Floods Cause Havoc!


As large parts of England and Wales brace itself for yet another barrage of heavy rain and very strong winds it is unsurprising to learn the Met Office has issued ‘red warnings’ for North-West England and Wales with risk to life and widespread damage expected. Southern and Central regions have not gone unscathed as there are as many as sixteen severe flood warnings across Berkshire, Surrey and Somerset. The heavy rain which has been coming down since December has already resulted in entire villages becoming islands and widespread road and rail closures, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.

For many Royal Holloway students living in Egham and the surrounding area the floods are a real danger. For one particular resident of Strode Street, Egham, each day brings new anxiety over how long their home will remain dry. The same resident has commented that “people are sandbagging because of puddles everywhere. Also the road to Burger King (the A30) is completely flooded”

Other areas of Egham, such as Vicarage Road, have been far less fortunate so far. Speaking to one resident, they report that their neighbour’s ground floor is completely flooded – to the extent that they are now forced to use a dingy to access their house.

“The water comes up as far as your waist. I saw the guys living there accessing the house with a dingy.”

The floods have proven themselves, thus far, to be a very real threat to the residents of Egham, and far from just a concerning news story which we can put to the back of our minds.

Yet the floods are not only an issue for students here in Egham, as many have done and shall continue to experience serious disruptions to transport when attempting to travel to South Western regions. One student’s journey to London Paddington took “almost an hour longer than usual.”

“It’s an inconvenience and I know a lot of people are experiencing similar if not worse issues, like my housemate who lives in the South West. It is disconcerting not knowing when your train will arrive and how long it will take. It ruins your whole day.”

Royal Holloway has been helping the surrounding community. Food meant for the cancelled open day on the 12th of February was given to flood victims, and to combat the ever rising water, staff and student volunteers from the university have been working with the Flood Relief Centre, giving out food and toiletry packs to those stuck in houses, as well as helping out with the placement of sandbags.

Phil Simcock, Community Action Volunteer Manager at Royal Holloway, said:

“We aim to continue to support local residents who are in need, and plan to make preparations for the clean-up when the water levels fall.”

Article: Tom Mellish

Photographs: itv.com (Main); flickr.com (Featured).

The EDL in Slough


On February 1st of this year, members from the far- right organisation ‘The English Defence League’ lead a protest in the nearby town of Slough. Announced as part of a series of demos across the country, a statement on the group’s website states that the demo is against the conversion of a local community centre into a mosque and the creation of an all-girls Muslim faith-school in the area.

The controversial group had a conflicting 2013, seeing an upsurge in activity following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by a pair of extremists, holding protests up and down the country. This was followed by the resignation of its leader, Tommy Robinson, in October stating his concerns for growing far- right extremism in the group as his reason. The February demo will be one of the first under new Leader Tim Ablitt – a member of the Dorset arm of the group, who was arrested in 2010 over a suspected bomb plot on a Bournemouth mosque.

Local activist group Berkshire Antifascists called a counter demo on the same date, and the Students’ Union at Royal Holloway turned up on the day to support the Antifascist group.

President Amarbeer Singh Gill had stated prior to the event: ‘The EDL are a violent group who stand against the notions of equality and tolerance that the student movement was built on. We invite students from all backgrounds to join us on February 1st to say no to racism and fascism on our streets!’

Slough Borough Council stated that they are aware of the statements from the EDL and are liaising with the police over the matter.

Article: Corinna Taylor

Photograph: wikimedia

Fears for Romanian and Bulgarian Students Over the Future of their Degrees.


Many Romanian and Bulgarian students studying in the UK have experienced loan freezes and are therefore unsure if they will be able to complete their degree programmes.

The students affected did not know there was anything wrong until they didn’t receive their maintenance loan at the beginning of this term..

This comes as Student Finance England has told the students that they are no longer eligible for Student Finance as they have withdrawn early from their course. Some have even been told that they must start repaying their loans immediately.

Some Universities have been sympathetic to the situation, such as the University of Bournemouth and have delayed payment deadlines. Others have declined comment.

Mr David Willetts, the Conservative MP and Universities and Science Minister, froze the funding after revealing that there was a £1.4 billion shortfall in its budget which had been caused by a huge amount of students entering higher education under the new system this year, as well as a failure to control student numbers at private providers.

Many feel that Romanian and Bulgarian students are being unfairly targeted by the Government, as this is the second occurrence of problems with students from these specific countries. Last year a number of loans were frozen due to the ‘suspicious’ amount of Bulgarian and Romanian students studying in the UK.

Daniel Stevens, NUS international students officer has said: “The lack of communication from the Government to affected students is unacceptable. This situation is disrupting people’s lives and has inevitably led to much confusion. The Government needs to take this situation seriously.

Article: Corinna Taylor

Photograph: http://www.guildford.ac.uk (featured); blogs.susu.org (main)

Controversy Grows Following Principal Pay Rise


Royal Holloway’s financial report for 2012-13 was released this January and amongst much controversy as it reveals a lot about the financial facts surrounding current hot debates on the recent strikes on pay cuts on campus.

Firstly, it reveals that RHUL Principal, Paul Layzell, received a 3% (£8k) pay increase, bringing his total salary up to £265k per year in a figure that includes his pension, as well as his free house ‘Settrington’ which is positioned adjacent to the campus. This has caused a stir, especially amongst staff who went on strike twice last term in conjunction with UCU and Unite unions, protesting against below inflation pay rise, in effect cutting their wages by 2%. It is unclear whether Professor Layzell had taken a rise for the current 2013-2014 academic year.

Liz Schaffer, chair of the RHUL-UCU trade union branch said that ‘It is strange – and very disappointing – that the Principal has accepted a pay rise of 3% when staff in general at RHUL have only been offered 1%. If I were a student I think I would be complaining to my MP.’

More unrest now seems inevitable as the UCU has planned a series of two hour walk outs in what will be “the largest on-going disruption of teaching ever undertaken” – the first of which was on Thursday 23rd, 11-1. UCU have also announced that if their demands are not met by summer, lecturers will threaten to boycott marking summer exams, potentially making it impossible for some students to graduate this year.

In contrast the Principal of Queen Mary University of London, Simon Gaskell, has pledged to give his pay rise back to the students every year for the ‘foreseeable future’ in the form of five scholarships.

While staff costs did increase by £3.6m, this was because of an expansion of 60 staff, 26 of whom are academic and research staff.

Additional points from the report included that money from funding body grants was down by around £5.5 million, though £786k extra was raised from halls of residence and conferencing, bringing its total to £22.9 million. Income from student fees (Home) rose by £10million. Over RHUL in 2012-13 maintained a surplus of £6 million. This will be added to the University’s reserves, bringing its total to £96,887,000.

The report details state that money is planned to be invested into a new library space to replace Founder’s, attached to a careers centre, café and student support centre which will cost a projected £35mil. Additionally, there are long term plans for new academic buildings, halls of residence and improved walkways. The college also promises to invest in an increasingly sustainable campus, and to lower its carbon footprint.

The Students’ Union condemned the rise and called for the Prinicipal to reject any future pay rise saying: ‘In a context where staff pay is being cut, there are pending government cuts to student grants, and a general crisis in the cost of living for students, surely a rise in the Principal’s pay should be at the very bottom of the priority list?’

Article: Corinna Taylor

Photograph: secretlondon123

The EU Referendum


As the Conservative government openly defy Cameron and ask for an EU referendum, the Prime Minister has to make a decision whether to hold the referendum in 2017.
But what should he do?

Cameron has been in a tight corner this month and no matter what decision he makes on the United Kingdom’s remaining in the EU, he will upset someone. While Cameron has already promised a referendum, this next step will place it in stone – in case anyone thought the Conservatives would go back on an election promise.

There are 3 ways forward for the prime minister: If he holds the referendum tomorrow, the people will almost definitely vote ‘no’ for EU participation. In this economic climate, there is just too much hatred and scapegoating of the EU. This will lose Britain her only place in a rapidly globalising world. In the US, Obama has called for a strong Britain and a strong EU helping each other. Leaving the EU will create economic consequences all over the world.

If he doesn’t hold the referendum, it will be another election promise not fulfilled. And the next election isn’t looking too bright for Mr Cameron, with UKIP hovering, ready to pounce at the first fall.

But at least the Lib Dem’s will be happy. It seems likely that he will promise to hold one in 2017 if he is re-elected. If so, Britain’s economy will suffer. No-one will invest in such an uncertainty. France’s President, Hollande, has said that Cameron is ‘splintering’ Europe with this promise. Perhaps waiting is the worst thing Cameron can do.

But the fact remains that if this mammoth question is put to referendum, no one will decide the future of our country but us. So, “Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?” No pressure.

Article: Corinna Taylor

Photography: spectator.co.uk

Bangladesh Factory Fire


On May 10th the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which produced clothes for Primark, H&M and Gap, collapsed in flames, killing 1,127 of its workers.

This has triggered worldwide concern as to the standard of health and safety being kept to supply popular clothing brands as cheaply as possible.

There is increasing pressure against chain stores such as Benetton and Zara, who source their clothing from the Bangladeshi factory, to move towards safer working conditions for the people who work in these ‘sweatshops’. By signing the binding Fire and Building Safety Agreement, the clothing companies make a promise to protect the garment workers by ensuring that all safety standards that are expected are kept. H&M were one of the first to sign the agreement, as other chains followed in their path to show their support for better working conditions.

But why is it that only now there is a public appeal for the improved working conditions of ‘sweatshop’ owners? It is open knowledge that companies source for cheap labour in order to provide the requirement of fast-fashion in modern day culture; the need to have the latest trends and the best bargains is a mantra that many shoppers live by. Yet we continue to buy clothing that is sourced this way. Why?

Many people argue that ‘sweatshops’ should be shut down permanently. When we try to envisage what the working conditions of a ‘sweatshop’ is, we imagine tight working spaces, heavy and humid air with minimal lighting and a worryingly increasing amount of child workers, which in Bangladesh is 30,000 children and increasing every day. The average age for child workers is 13.

Despite this, we have to consider what the effects of closing down ‘sweatshops’ could be for the workers themselves. Despite all the pros for shutting them down, we have to consider that if we take away the option of working in a garment factory, we reduce the worker’s available choice from a selection that is already limited. They have chosen to work there over jobs which may offer worse conditions. If we choose to no longer purchase from stores that contract these factories, or if they chose to produce their clothing in their own countries, we reduce the need for ‘sweatshops’ and therefore the need for workers who rely on them for a livelihood.

Perhaps it is just a case of focusing on more foreign investment into the garment factories so that they the working conditions are better quality and remain at a high enough standard so that we prevent further tragedies such as the Rana Plaza fire from happening. As Rep. George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House of Education and Workforce Committee, stresses, “if they fail to sign an enforceable agreement, they are declaring that they accept blood on their labels”, an image no one wants to face.

Article: Charlotte Cole

Photography: flickr – RehmanAsad, blogs.ft.com