Socialist Worker

Students occupy in solidarity with university strikes

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2596

Students in occupation at Queen Mary university

Students in occupation at Queen Mary university (Pic: Queen Mary Occupation - Students take the Octagon)


University strikes have inspired students on several campuses across Britain to occupy in solidarity—and raise their own demands for education.

Student activists have occupied university buildings in Bath, Exeter, Reading, Dundee, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Cambridge and central and east London.

The latest occupation began in Glasgow this morning, when students took over the Senate Room of the university’s Main Building.

The occupiers demand that management show support for university workers fighting attacks on their pensions by bosses’ organisation Universities UK. Their demands include that workers get full pay during the strikes.

And they warned, “Failure to respond to our demands by 2PM will not be taken lightly, and if our demands are not met we may be forced to take further action.”

Some 20 students have occupied the Octagon building at Queen Mary’s university in east London. Occupiers protested at six o clock this morning as President and Principal Colin Bailey crossed the picket line.

They are also demanding that Bailey declare support for keeping workers’ current pension scheme and release gender pay gap and diversity data.

Solidarity

And new demands have grown out of the show of solidarity for the strike. The students are calling on university management to reverse cuts to bursaries. Students say bosses justified the cuts with claims that the bursaries haven’t lowered the drop-out rate.

Instead the occupiers say bursaries should be used to help poorer students, rather than focussed on retention.  Occupier Nadia told Socialist Worker, “It’s another example of the marketisation of education.”

She added that the occupation had shamed university bosses. “On the first day security were awful to us,” she said.

“They wouldn’t let us leave to use the toilet for the first few hours. They tried to break in through the barricade and tried to get in during the night.

“One striking UCU member tried to give us food but security snatched the bag and threw it across the floor.”

But she added, “We used social media well and embarrassed managers over their treatment of us, so now it’s a bit more relaxed.”

Students at Bath university were also prevented from returning if they left to use the toilet. Instead they used bottles which they lowered to supporters below using a pulley system.

Occupiers at Cambridge university have held teach-outs, while activists in Dundee, Aberdeen and Bath occupied university offices.


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