UAL takes legal action against student occupiers

The University of the Arts London is taking legal action to evict students who have staged a three-week occupation of one of its art schools.

April 11, 2015

Students occupying Central Saint Martins, in King’s Cross, which is part of UAL, have been served with court papers.

Some 15 protestors are named in the papers and have been ordered to attend a hearing at the Rolls Building, in Holborn, on 14 April, protestors say.

It follow a three-week occupation of Central Saint Martins, which began on 19 March, in response to management plans to axe 560 foundation art and design places for new students over the next two years.

Students claim the plans will harm UAL’s ability to recruit poorer students and may result in job losses for those teaching the courses.

UAL says it will continue to teach the foundation course at two of its centres, but will not deliver it at the London College of Communication as it is no longer a prerequisite for undergraduate study in many cases.

There have been other recent student occupations at the London School of Economics, King’s College London and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Shelly Asquith, president of the UAL students’ union, who is one of those named on the injunction, condemned the legal action, saying the process was “underhand, autocratic and put a lot of students and staff under enormous stress”.

“I was not consulted whatsoever over huge changes to our courses; and now I have an injunction being brought against me for having the nerve to protest the cuts,” she said.

Daisy Latham, a fine art student at UAL, said its decision “to criminalise their own students” showed the university had “got their priorities completely wrong”.

Protestors also claim the university is “asking that those named on the injunction pay their legal costs which could amount to tens of thousands of pounds”.

The formal eviction notice came after talks between occupiers and the university appeared to break down.

UAL has declined to comment on the situation, but has published all correspondence between the university and protestors on its website.

In a statement published on 31 March, dean of students Mark Crawley said the university would agree to a joint review of the number of places it intended to cut if the sit-in was brought to an end by 2 April.

However, UAL later said it had not heard from the protestors and, on April 9, said it intended to take action against occupiers as they were “seriously disrupting the ability of the university to serve our students”.

On April 10, UAL posted a message from a law firm, with the firm saying it had “been instructed by the University of the Arts London in respect of trespass on university premises”.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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