Move it on over: time’s up, students are told

University goes to court to serve protesters with eviction notice. John Morgan reports

May 14, 2010

Middlesex University is applying for a High Court injunction against its own students in a bid to end an occupation sparked by the closure of philosophy courses.

About 50 philosophy students and their supporters occupied the Mansion Building at the university’s Trent Park campus in north London, after it was announced that Middlesex would phase out all undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the subject.

There are fears that the decision could spell the end for the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, which was Middlesex’s highest-rated department in the 2008 research assessment exercise.

The students first occupied a room on 4 May in protest at the failure of senior university managers to attend a meeting to discuss the course closures. They later extended the occupation throughout the building.

Middlesex threatened the students with an injunction today. When they refused to budge, the university moved ahead with an application in the High Court.

Earlier this year, the University of Sussex gained an injunction seeking to prevent students from occupying buildings on campus after an occupation of management offices sparked by its plans for more than 100 redundancies.

The Middlesex notice, from law firm Nabarro LLP, states: “Your occupation of the Mansion Building constitutes an unauthorized trespass.

“Our client has sought to deal with this matter amicably but in light of your failure to vacate the building despite our client’s requests, our client has no choice other than to take legal action to secure your removal.

“Our client will apply to the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, at the earliest opportunity for immediate injunctive relief unless all protesters in occupation of the Mansion Building vacate within one hour and return control of the building to our client…Our client must reserve its position in every respect including the issue of the costs of this action.”

In an email to staff, Middlesex’s vice-chancellor, Michael Driscoll, describes the student occupation as “illegal” and says it “raises serious concerns surrounding health and safety, disruption to the working of the university and costs of security”.

He adds that students did not respond to the legal notice. “The university is now seeking an emergency injunction to end the occupation and recover the Mansion Building,” he says.

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