On Monday a group of about 50 students from the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, occupied a space at the centre of of the university's main campus, Frenchay.
Armed with banners, tents, and a sound system, they claimed a large space and set up an “education camp”, the purpose of which is to provide a forum where students can go to discuss the governments proposals to slash the education budget and increase tuition fees.
“We have taken this space through direct action because none of our elected representatives seem to be doing anything to oppose these unnecessary cuts” a camp spokesperson said.
“So far we have received messages of solidarity both locally, from our lecturers, and from places as far away as Sweden and Australia. We feel that this is a global movement with local implications”.
The camp conducts meetings, organises a food stall through donations, and has held a series of “teach-ins”. Lecturers from both UWE and other universities have offered to give lectures at the camp.
The occupants have also set up a book stall, where students can go and swap books for small donations.
One of the main demands of the occupants is for the Student Union to take a firm stance in opposition to management plans to cut 80 professors and readers posts. However, in a meeting with the University Vice Chancellor, Steve West, the group was told “I am not accountable to you”.
The occupants won a victory at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of their Students Union, which voted to pass motions to defend the arts and humanities, and to make opposition to cuts the union's primary campaign for the next three years.
The students of the camp have also been joining protests on a national scale. On Wednesday they took part in a day of national walkouts. Over 2,000 students from schools, colleges, and universities assembled in Bristol city centre and marched around town making themselves heard.
The UWE occupation, now in its sixth day, looks set to continue for the time being.
“We will decide when we want to leave. We have created this democratic forum and encourage as much participation from students as possible. We include everyone in making decisions on a day to day basis. The people who claim to represent us could certainly learn a thing or two”.
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