Tag Archives: occupation
This was part of a national day of action that also saw occupations begin at Warwick University, Royal Holloway, York, Edinburgh and Goldsmiths. Students and Education workers opened up a social centre in Bloomsbury, near the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS).
Students at Cambridge University disrupted a meeting at which David Willetts, the Higher Education minister, was due to speak. He did not deliver his speech. The students then occupied a lecture theatre at the University.
At Birmingham, students occupied the former gatehouse at the North gate, which is not in use, and they are claiming squatters rights. The University has responded by placing a heavy security presence on the building and preventing anyone from entering. Following negotiations between the Guild of Students and the University, the occupiers have been able to receive food, but only if it is delivered by an officer of the Guild.
Under squatters rights, the building (if entered freely (ie: without breaking and entering) and secured) is considered their home, and the blockade of the building by the University is potentially illegal, and a similar situation to if your landlord decided to place security outside your house and stop your friends from visiting you.
Despite this, the situation has largely remained calm, aside from an incident last night where it is alleged that security tried to drag someone out of a window and punched one of the other occupiers.
The University have said that they will get an injunction if the occupiers have not left by 9am this morning. At the time of writing, they are still in the building and are not intending to leave. No legal documents have been received by the occupation as of yet.
The occupation has issued a set of demands to the University, based around the idea of keeping education as a public good, not turning into a private, profit making enterprise. Their demands include no course cuts, and no cuts to jobs, wages or conditions for staff, as well as a public rejection of the white paper and a commitment to keeping the University public. You can read the full set of demands here.
The higher education white paper will increase marketisation in Universities, paving the way for wide-scale privatisation, in a similar way to how we have seen the NHS change over the past 15 years. The changes in the white paper will hit universities with a higher proportion of working class students the hardest, as funding gets withdrawn, whilst elite universities get only small cuts. Birmingham City University, with 44% of students from working class backgrounds, is facing the 9th largest funding cuts, whilst places like UCL and Oxford are losing very small sums of money.
More detail about the white paper can be found in this post – especially in the video at the bottom of it.
As well as the issue of the potential privatisation of the higher education system, this occupation is intended to build for the 30th November strikes, to show solidarity with lecturers and support staff who will be out to defend their pensions, and to mobilise students to attend pickets and the teach out.
Birmingham Against the Cuts stands in solidarity with the occupation, which is seeking to defend the attacks on our education system that will disproportionately affect average earners, and reduce social mobility. The white paper is the latest in a series of attacks, including the scrapping of EMA, the raising of tuitions fees, the invention of free schools and the increase in academies, which are stripping the public education system and opening it up to private companies directly in the case of free schools, or through the backdoor in the case of the HE white paper. Academies meanwhile reduce the collectivism of the education system by creating individual schools. It will of course be much easier to introduce a marketised system, or hand over schools to private companies, if they are individual units rather than a collectivised system. We have recently seen Circle Health take over an NHS hospital. This will be repeated with private education providers taking over “failing” schools.
We call on the university to open access to the occupation whilst legal proceedings are ongoing. We believe that this is not just the legally correct route to take, but also the morally correct decision, as the occupation has been peaceful, and is not causing disruption to students or staff, since the building is not in use.
We ask security to stand with the students, and tell the university that they do not feel that they should be preventing access to the building, and that this is not a security issue. We hope to see solidarity between all staff members and students, as the students seek to take action to defend the education system. As always it is the management at the university who make the cuts, but never on their own pay packet. Support staff at the university have accepted real-terms pay cuts this year, but the vice-chancellor saw a 10% pay increase, to £392,000/year (plus a house, car and other benefits).
We thank the guild for showing support to the occupation and ensuring that their human rights are met by the University. This shows a marked difference from previous administrations at the guild and hope that it indicates a change in direction that will see the guild seek to resist changes to the education system at the University, rather than simply seek to maintain a seat at the table.
Please send the students messages of support and solidarity to firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: The occupation is now ended, as the University got a high court injuction, and were moving to evict. The occupiers all left and none were stopped or had ID taken. This should make it hard for the University to take disciplinary action and we hope that they will not attempt to do so.
At our public meeting tonight, a further expression of solidarity was made by the meeting, not knowing that at the same time, the University were moving to end the occupation.
10 students from the University of Birmingham are facing disciplinary action following the occupation of the Maths/Physics bridge on the 17th Jan
Stop Fees and Cuts Birmingham reports on their blog:
Ten University of Birmingham students are facing disciplinary action that could lead to expulsion after a peaceful sit-in that ended with forceful eviction by university security and the police.
The University has seemingly singled out students who they perceive to be politically active in an attempt to victimise them. Twenty-five students participated in the occupation; ten students are facing disciplinary procedures including one who was not even involved. The hearings will take place on Wednesday, 2nd February.
The students cannot graduate until the matter is resolved and it may affect their career prospects. Lucy Whalley, a final-year physics student says “I want to apply for PGCE after I graduate but this is holding me back and I cannot apply until this matter is resolved”.
A number of students were injured by the police and security in the eviction and are reported to be pressing charges.
Please sign their petition
On Wed 19th January, over 100 students, education workers and anti-cuts activists gathered in Birmingham City Centre to protest against the scrapping of EMA. That evening parliament voted with a 59 majority to scrap EMA – a benefit of up to £30 paid to students in further education from families with incomes below £21,000.
The IFS found in a study last year that EMA pays for itself, increases participation in education and improves educational outcomes. A UCU survey this month found that 70% of students in receipt of EMA would not be in further education without it. Over 75% of students in Birmingham receive EMA.
Youth unemployment nationally is now over 20% – and since Birminghams unemployment rate is twice the national average, it is likely that youth unemployment in Birmingham is considerably higher than that. The scrapping of EMA will see fewer students entering FE, and instead they will sit on the dole, receiving no training or education whilst costing considerably more.
Geoff Dexter photographed the event, and you can see his photos here
The protesters gathered at the corner of New St/High St for a rally, with FE students; Secondary school workers and activist from Education Activist Network speaking about the importance of EMA and the effect of the scrapping of EMA, as well as the wider cuts in education that have and are happening.
They then marched down New Street, with RBS and Vodafone closing and locking their doors as the demonstrators passed by, before occupying Lloyds-TSB in protest at the bonuses being paid to bankers at nationalised banks – bonuses that could pay for the cuts in education.
Bank bonuses are largely paid to executives and traders – people doing exactly the kinds of jobs that brought down the banking system in 2008, forcing the UK government to nationalise 5 banks, and underwrite the debts of others in order to prevent complete financial collapse. These bailouts lead to the deficit we now have, that is being used as the reason for cutting expenditure.
Whilst ordinary people face cuts – like the £300m that will be cut from Birmingham City Council’s budget – bankers continue to enjoy large bonuses, and grow ever richer.
Bankers caused the crisis, but it is working class people who are paying for it.
Students at the University of Birmingham who occupied the Maths/Physics bridge yesterday in protest about education cuts, staffing cuts and tuition fees have reported that
Last night students determined to remain in occupation and create an area for free and constructive debate, where removed by excessive force by university security assist by the police.
Students at the university of Birmingham have occupied the Physics/Maths bridge in protest about cuts in education.
Is their blog, you can also follow one of the occupiers on twitter @stopcutsbrum
At the moment, security are not allowing other students to enter the occupation, and they are denying access to toilets and water to students who are occupying.
Please follow updates on their blog, at the moment students are asking everyone to call the VC to demand access to the occupation and access to toilets and water for occupying students.
The student protests and occupations at the end of 2010 provided a huge amount of inspiration and momentum for the anti-cuts movement, and students have continually shown solidarity and support for the wider anti-cuts agenda, refusing to focus purely on university cuts and students fees and maintaining a wider focus, not just on education cuts but on cuts as a whole, and they deserve our support and solidarity now.
Please watch the blog or follow on twitter, call the VC and demand they allow the occupation to be open.
I am not publishing the number here because once access has been granted, we no longer need to try to flood the university switchboard with calls, and I will not be able to update this site as quickly as the students own blog.
Student protestors were today joined by workers and parents to protest against the scrapping of EMA, which pays up to £30 to students from families with low incomes who continue into Further Education. A report from the IFS found that EMA pays for itself and increases education participation and improves outcomes.
The protestors began at Waterstones, and decided to occupy RBS which announced £7Bn of bonuses earlier this week, to highlight the inequities of the cuts – which are hitting working class families hardest, whilst leaving the wealthiest untouched (remember that the Times rich list 2010 showed that the richest 1000 individuals in the UK increased their wealth by 30% between 2009 and 2010 – some £80Bn).
It has been reported that Parliament will vote on EMA on the 19th January now. We hope that they will vote to keep EMA, and would encourage everyone to write to their MP, using http://www.writetothem.com, to express your support for a benefit that directly allows working class people to continue in education, and improve their skills and qualifications.
We will let you know of anything further protests or actions that are planned in Birmingham, so you can join the students on the streets to fight this cut.