Socialist Worker

Oxford occupation boosts fees fight

Issue No. 1673

'I DON'T know much about politics. But I do know that New Labour has spent the £130 million it got from introducing student fees on underwriting arms sales to Indonesia.' That is one reason Oxford University student Oliver Clueit gave Socialist Worker for why he had joined a four day occupation of one of the university's central administration buildings.

The inspiring occupation began on Friday of last week and continued until bailiffs evicted students on Tuesday morning. About 200 students spent some time in the occupation, which was against tuition fees and the way Oxford University is harassing some 80 students who have not paid their fees this term.

'I am against fees and for the grant,' Oliver told Socialist Worker. 'But people here are particularly angry at the way the university is treating those who can't or won't pay the £1,000 tuition fee. My college, St Anne's, is fining me and other non-payers £1 a day. The university is threatening to stop people sitting their exams and to expel people.'

The students seized Oxenford House, the heart of the university's fundraising operation. Staff at Oxenford House spend their time sending letters to corporations and rich individuals asking for donations.

Juliet Kemp from Pembroke College said, 'The fundraising office raises an average of £96,000 a day. It would have been cheaper for the university to stop chasing the 80 students who haven't paid their fees than to lose control of this building for the whole of Monday.'

Helen Salmon of the Socialist Worker Student Society in Oxford was one of three people named by the university on a court injunction to take the building back. 'We have rattled the university,' she told fellow occupiers after the court case. The university will find it difficult to pick off individuals because we have stuck together.'

Anti-fees activists met on Tuesday night to discuss how to bring the defiant mood of the occupation to wider layers of students. They were also planning to build the largest possible turnout for the national student march next week.

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Sat 20 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1673
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