Occupation at Birmingham as protesters call for nationwide action

A group of University of Birmingham students occupied one of its main buildings, calling for free education and the right to protest

November 26, 2014

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, University of Birmingham

Reports on Twitter suggested that the group had later ended their 26 November occupation after the arrival of police.

The group said that they were acting in “defiance of management’s tactics to try to suppress student protest”.

About 40 students from the Defend Education Birmingham campaign took over parts of the Aston Webb building, which contains lecture theatres, science laboratories, the Great Hall, Senate Chamber and an office of the vice-chancellor.

The protestors listed eight demands in a statement published on the website of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. The first calls for the university and its vice-chancellor, David Eastwood, to “take back their position that fees should be increased”.

Other demands include that students not be offered accommodation that exceeds in cost the amount they receive in loans and grants and that the university recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest.

The students also condemned the university for suspending two students in response to a similar occupation in November 2013.

The group said: “The areas we are occupying also play a key role in the corporatisation of our university, which sees power concentrated in the hands of the few, education treated as a commodity and our institution become more like a business.”

The university said in a statement: “We are extremely disappointed that a small number of masked individuals have again illegally occupied a key teaching and administrative space at the University of Birmingham causing considerable disruption to students, staff and visitors. It is particularly disappointing that they have chosen to do so when we have several hundred school pupils visiting who have been unable to access parts of campus.”

The statement added: “Universities are places of free speech and we respect the rights of our students and staff to protest peacefully and within the law. This is clearly outlined in our freedom of speech code of practice.”

Deborah Hermanns, an organiser from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said the occupation “demonstrates that students refused to be repressed and we hope to see more actions like this on the 3 December when campuses from across will be mobilising for free education”.

holly.else@tesglobal.com

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