Dozens of campuses take part in free education day of action
This report was written by Fiona Edwards of the Student Assembly Against Austerity. It was originally published here.
On Wednesday (3 December) dozens of campuses across the country took part in a national day of action for free education and against austerity coordinated by the Student Assembly Against Austerity and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
Rallies, protests, stalls, banner drops and peaceful direct action swept more than twenty-five campuses as George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons where more austerity measures were announced. The day of action was called to continue to momentum unleashed by the 10,000-person national demo for free education two weeks ago.
What happened: photos and reports from the day
Students at Bath University protested at the gates of their campus, with a massive ‘free education – no cuts – no fees’ banner.
At Sheffield University students staged a campus protest, whilst some started an occupation which lasted almost 48 hours. The statement from the occupiers explains why they decided to take direct action:
“In the UK today we are forced to endure a system in which you are either put off higher education by the prospect of paying £9,000 fees a year, or accept the burden of an amount of debt that you will likely never be able to pay off. We think that this is totally unacceptable and morally abhorrent, and ague that education is a universal human right that should not merely be reserved for the wealthy elite, or for those willing to sell themselves to the banks.”
It has recently been announced that the occupiers have ended their occupation in victory, with some of their free education demands met:
“Regarding progress on our demand for free education, we have been notified that the Vice-Chancellor Keith Burnett, university management, and our Students’ Union officers are now looking into plans to support our call to lobby the government for the abolition of tuition fees. Regarding the university paying its staff at least a living wage, we have been notified that the Unicus board will be holding a meeting this Monday with the SU Development Officer where its implementation will be discussed.”
Proving once again that campaigning works!
At University College London a students spelt out ‘no fees’ in a human chain on the floor.
Around 100 students protested at Lancaster University against their University’s plans to hike up rents and raise tuition fees. Some students went on to occupy their campus for around 24 hours. The student occupation ended in victory, this this update from the Lancaster Occupation facebook page explains:
“News flash: negotiations have been a success – the university management have agreed to a long term dialogue with the student union and other student representatives including from our group, in order to reconsider rent and fee hikes. This will be documented by student media, so as to be transparent. Also, there will be no charges brought against the occupiers by the university.”
At Cambridge University a high profile banner drop took place.
Students marched through the campus at Sussex University.
At the University of East Anglia over 100 students took part in a ‘debt in’ – where protesters were symbolically ‘crushed’ by the weight on £9,000 fees.
At London Met University George Osborne made an appearance – where students protested against austerity and for free education.
At Kings College London more than 60 students took part in a lunch time sit in at the heart of the campus where discussions were had about the national fight for free education and the campus campaign to stop rising rents which are pricing students from poorer backgrounds out of accepting their places at Kings College London.
Students from SOAS took direct action by staging an occupation Universities UK – the organisation which speaks for all Universities in the country.
At Warwick a campus protest led to a peaceful sit in of a university building which was met with horrific police brutality. Students were attacked with CS spray and threatened with tasers.
A defiant student population at Warwick came out and protested the next day against this attack on the right to protest – over 1,000 students were there. Students reoccupied the campus and are still sitting in now.
At Brighton University students did banner drops all over campus.
At Gloucestershire University stunts and a petition were the order of the day as Sahaya James explains: “For today’s national day of action a group of activists launched a petition for #FreeEducation and tried to bring about awareness in the notoriously disengaged University of Gloucestershire with some stalls on two campuses. In little over an hour they got over a 100 students to sign their petition, not bad eh?”
Meanwhile at Teesside University similar success was had with a petition, as Jordan Blyth of Teesside Free Education Campaign explains:
“We set up our #freeeducation stall outside the Student’s Union, and our campaign got off to a great start! Gathered almost 400 signatures for #FreeEducation today! Thank you everyone!”
Oxford Brookes student activists went around campus doing a photo petition for free education.
Overall the day of action was a huge success – showing there is a growing appetite for action on campuses. Let’s keep up the momentum – we need to step things up in the New Year as we approach the General Election. We say: free education now – no cuts, no fees, no debt!
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