Students, staff and supporters rallied outside the Cass school of arts and design in east London today, Thursday, in support of a student occupation.
A group of students occupied a room on Wednesday to demand an end to plans to close the campus, which is part of London Metropolitan University.
University management want to sell the City Campus in east London, where the Cass is based, and merge it with the campus in north London. This would see courses scrapped.
Cass student Rob Davies was at the protest. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s completely ridiculous. I’m a student on the musical instruments course—it’s the only course of its kind in Europe. Now it’s being cut.”
His coursemate Alex added, “We’re the last of our kind. We’ll be the last students taking this course, which has been running since 1995”.
Barbara from London Met students union told the protest, “I’m very happy to see loads of people here today. The Cass provides education for people who otherwise would not have access to it.
“We’re the prototype for what this government wants to do to higher education. That’s why we have to resist and we have to fight back.”
The protest was called by London Met branches of the UCU and Unison unions. The plans to merge the campuses would also see university jobs slashed.
Mark Campbell, chair of London Met UCU, pledged “100 percent support” for the students against bosses’ attack.
He added, “They’re going to be cutting staff, they’re going to be squeezing us into ever smaller spaces, and they’re saying it’s all about student experience. There’s only one word for that—bullshit.
“It’s all about destroying working class students’ possibilities for education.”
Both Unison and UCU branches have passed votes of no confidence in the university’s vice chancellor John Rafferty. And a survey shows the majority of Unison members are against the campus mergers.
Mark said that UCU members could strike over the plans. He said, “We are moving to a strike ballot. We are not standing back, because we believe in London Met.”
Richard Payne from London Met UCU added, “I really hope that this is the fuse that detonates the frustration and anger that I know exists right across the university”.
In the meantime, the occupying students need support and solidarity.
Amanda Marrider from the students union told Socialist Worker, “They’ve locked themselves in. They’re allowed to get out, but they can’t get back in.
“There’s a letterbox to the outside which people have been passing supplies through. And the toilet is on the outside of the room, so they’re having to use a bucket with sawdust.”