Student protests - what next?

Occupation in Nottingham

After another successful day of action yesterday, we look at what lies next for the growing movement against the UK government's austerity measures of cuts to services and rising fees.

Yesterday showed continued energy for the fight against austerity as protesters successfully evaded deployments of riot police and horses in towns and cities across the UK, and were joined by similar protests on a large scale in Italy.

In a trend that started during the 24th November, university students were in some cases outnumbered by students from schools and colleges, who are getting hit directly by both the cuts to EMA and tuition fee increases. The character of the protests changed quite significantly from previous days of action, with many areas largely abandoning any attempt to hold an A-B march and rally (often impossible to hold due to aggressive policing anyway), opting instead for highly mobile, smaller groups; evading police lines, blocking traffic, occupying university, local government and shop building. There were also no set piece confrontations with the police - at least none that suited the needs of lazy rolling news TV, with reporters often pictured 'embedded' amongst hundreds of riot police standing around in empty streets, while the protests were occurring across town.

At time of writing there are at least 15 occupations of universities across the UK. - We'll just link to the list maintained by the Edinburgh occupation rather than duplicate it here. Slade School of Art, the University of Nottingham, University College Falmouth and Kings College London were all newly occupied yesterday. Queens in Belfast was occupied briefly (but we understand the space was unheated). There have also been occupations of Birmingham Council House by a large group made up mainly of school students (not sure if this is still ongoing?), Oxfordshire County Hall, and several banks and vodaphone stores. Lewisham town hall was invaded by dozens of protesters (supported by several hundred outside) on Monday during a meeting agreeing millions of pounds of cuts to council services, with similar actions expected today in Camden.

As the weather gets colder the appetite for boring marches and the prospect of spending hours standing around kettled will dim even further (although perhaps not for playing tag and snowball fights), so what's coming up next?

- Some universities are entering their second week of occupation, and being joined by fresh ones every couple of days. These occupations have in some cases successfully opened their doors to school students and the wider community, and nearly all are maintaining active contact with the outside world via frequently updated blogs and twitter accounts. Will we see occupations of schools, sixth form colleges, more local council buildings and high profile landmarks follow this?

- The 'Workers and Students Movement' on Facebook put out a callout for events on 4th and 5th December. Events are being advertised in Atherton, Birmingham, Dewsbury, Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester, Norwich, Sunderland and Wigan. While there is no official march planned in London, there is already a March on Parliament for a Zero Carbon Britain which had been booked previously, and a protest planned against the London Lib Dem conference.

- This all coincides with theUK Uncut a 'National Day of Action Against Tax Avoiders', organised for the 4th December. Previous targets of these protests have included Vodaphone (with an estimated £7bn in avoided tax) and Top Shop, whose owner Philip Green is both an adviser to the government on waste cutting, and has been personally highlighted for hundreds of millions of pounds in tax avoidance.

- On Sunday 5th there are actions planned in Bristol, Colchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.

- In many cases these protests are being called by local anti-cuts groups as opposed to student groups, this should give the lie to the media's (not to mention the NUS) constant portrayal of these protests as only about tuition fees.

- New National Days of Action have been called by the National Campaign Against Feeds and Cuts for the 9th and 11th December (that page is currently a bit confused about dates, we understand the NCAFC is working on it).

- the NUS and UCU, conscious that they've been entirely ignored over the past few weeks, have tried to get back in on the action by announcing a march on the day fee increases are debated in parliament, alongside 'mass lobbying' of MPs (surely they're not suggesting mass occupations of constiuency offices are they?), and a candlelight vigil.

The occupations, rolling and weekend actions are extremely important if what has so far largely been a movement led by students can maintain momentum and expand to incorporate workers, benefits claimaints and pensioners - all of whom are going to be deeply affected by the cuts but have not yet converted this anger into concrete activity on a wide scale. After all "We're all in this together".


Dec 6 2010 16:03

Well I've yet to see a source on the NUS story (though given their track record it wouldn's surprise me).

Bristol Uni is definitely in occupation:

Still haven't seen confirmation on St Andrews though.

Mike Harman
Dec 6 2010 16:24

Lib Dem office in Birmingham has been occupied (via @ucloccupation, don't have another source yet).

Dec 6 2010 16:27

Yeah, that was the Lib Dem MP I mentioned earlier... can't find it at the moment but there was a picture of it up on Twitter, so that's definitely been confirmed.

Dec 6 2010 16:35

Goldsmiths threatens to take £15,000 out of the Student Union budget to cover the costs of an action at Deptford Town Hall in November.

Dec 6 2010 16:43

Apparently Bath Spa's school of Art and Design is also occupied. I'd previously not heard anything about this.

There's a lot of it about...

Dec 6 2010 18:20

BBC article about the occupation of the lid dem MP in Birmingham:

Twitter info for St Andrews occupation:!/OccupyStAndrews

"St Andrews #students have occupied Lower Parliament hall in #solidarity with anticuts occupations everywhere!"

"The #student occuption carries on at Parliament hall. We remain cut off from the outside world by Estates. Management are not negotiating"

Dec 6 2010 18:50

Interesting article in today's Grondian here I don't agree with several points, but the key points made are sound:

There is nothing intrinsic to being a student that makes them radical. Like everyone else their politics are shaped by time and place. During the 1926 General Strike in Britain students were used as scab labour...... That students and youth in Europe have erupted at this moment, however, should come as no surprise. More than one in five people under the age of 25 in the EU is unemployed. In Spain the figure is 43%; in Greece 30%; in Italy 26%. Meanwhile the principle that education is a public good, to which all are entitled, all contribute, and all benefit through a more competitive economy, is in its death throes.

And on a broader framework he makes a very valid point:

Clearly, how students' resistance to these cuts pans out will have ramifications for successful opposition to the entire austerity programme. That is reason enough to deserve our support. But while students can be the spark for the broader struggles ahead, history tells us that they are unlikely to be the flame itself. Students and the young might be the most likely to protest, but they are among the least likely to vote – if indeed they are even eligible to vote – and cannot withdraw their labour to any devastating effect.... the French students in 1968 bolstered the confidence of factory workers. The threat British students pose – much like the financial crisis bringing them on to the streets – is of contagion. That their energy, enthusiasm, militancy, rage and raucousness might burn in us all.

(My emphasis)

Perhaps even more interesting is the comment which has received the highest 'reccomend' stats (it's sometimes surprising how rabidly right wing the comments on this 'liberal' website are so often applauded):

hong 7 wrote

Well said Gary. And just before the thread gets filled with people howling you down, there's something that needs repeating, and often: Most of these students are not going to be directly affected by the cuts to university funding or the increases in fees. They are protesting on principle, getting off their arses and trying to change something because they believe it is in the best interests of future generations and their society as a whole. For that alone, they should be applauded, and they act as a very real inspiration to us all.
Dec 6 2010 19:35

Tate protestors just spotted on Channel 4 news. Large white 'dunce' hats, some being used as impromptu megaphones.

Also someone listing today's new occupations on twitter included Camberwell College. Anyone know anything about that?

Dec 6 2010 19:40

Blaargh, double post.

Dec 6 2010 19:45

Video from the Tate occupation:

"And that includes the police" !?!?
Art students...

Dec 6 2010 19:47

Quite funny watching the announcement of the Turner Prize with the ambient sounds of protest in the background. The art world glitterati all looking slightly nervous.

Dec 6 2010 19:50

-stupid internet connection-

Dec 6 2010 22:04

Photo from today's protest at the Greek embassy...

...and another ('αλληλεγγυη' means 'solidarity')


UCL occupation video


Article on the UCL occupation from the London Review of Books

The occupation began at a ‘What Next?’ meeting on the day of the second student march when a group of UCL students voted to take over the Jeremy Bentham Room (students at SOAS had gone into occupation two days before). A general meeting was then held to draft their demands. The most important, and most often repeated, is that UCL’s management issue a statement ‘condemning all cuts to higher education’. They also want things they might be able to get: for the university to pay UCL cleaners the London living wage, to bring outsourced support staff in-house and to change the composition of the university council to get rid of the majority of corporate, non-UCL members (they’d like a quarter each of management, students, tutors and support staff)...


Statement from the Bristol University occupation

We have occupied the University of Bristol Senate House today. We have done this to protest against, and to open a space of dialogue and critical thinking around, the government-proposed education cuts and changes to the University fee structure. We have occupied this space in a spirit of solidarity with other student occupations and in recognition of the burning need for a new form of participatory democracy within our University and universities in general...


St Andrews occupation

We, concerned students of St Andrews University, are occupying this space in a gesture of defiance to the Government’s policy of raising the cap on tuition fees, instigating cuts and to the commercialisation of education in absolutely any form.
We are also protesting the University’s support of these policies, demonstrated by their stance on the Browne report. We demand that the University reverse this stance and stand behind a policy of no front-line teaching staff cuts and no staff cuts whatsoever until the University is held accountable for its actions.
We stand in solidarity with our fellow students and the thousands of talented and intelligent young people whose futures will be destroyed because they cannot afford to purchase an education that for which they shouldn’t have to pay...


Student protests: NUS leaders vote not to join forces with march

The Guardian wrote:
The executive committee of the National Union of Students voted this afternoon by a large majority not to back a call to join forces with a national demonstration planned by thousands of students on Thursday, the day parliament votes on whether to raise university tuition fees.

In a resolution that will divide the student movement, the NUS executive decided to go ahead with its own candle-lit vigil on the banks of the Thames, rather than join up with the 20,000 students who plan to attend the march to Parliament Square…

Dec 6 2010 22:28

Word coming through that both Bradford and Goldsmiths have been occupied...

Dec 6 2010 23:51

Photos from Tate occupation

Statement from Camberwell College of Arts occupation

We, the students of Camberwell College of Arts, believe that if the massive cuts proposed for education happen, it is unlikely that academies such as ours will continue to exist. Arts and humanities courses are being targeted with the largest cuts, while still requiring a great deal of funding, which even a rise in fees will not cover. In response, we have decided to occupy the Wilson’s Road building at our college.

We see the arts as occupying a vital place within society, one which benefits us all, both culturally and economically. If arts education ceases to be a viable route for students, that benefit will be lost.

An artless society is a heartless society!

We oppose the transformation of education into a market. Education should be a forum for all publics, not just those who can afford, to learn, experiment and debate.

Therefore, we call for all arts students, especially those from UAL to join this occupation, and call for more arts-led occupation and actions. We propose to use our space for a practice led resistance.  We will run workshops, performances, debates and experiments, creating a collective space of generative discourse. At no point will we disrupt any fellow student’s education, allowing all scheduled lectures to continue. We wish to propose, rather than simply oppose!

Dec 7 2010 01:31

Unfortunately I've heard from someone at Camberwell (not at the occupation), and apparently there's only about 10 people there.. but still great to hear the wave of occupations is continuing.

Mike Harman
Dec 7 2010 09:00

Posted on December 7, 2010 by goldsmithsinoccupation

We have occupied the university library in opposition to the increase in
university fees and cuts in education as a whole. We act in solidarity with
all those facing cuts across the social sphere.

We oppose the proposed change in fees structure and the cuts to teaching
subsidy across education in the UK – which will include a 100 percent cut
to funding for teaching in arts, humanities and social sciences.

We have taken over Goldsmiths’ Library, the most publicly visible and
accessible physical space in the college. We are opening it as a centre for
organisation, available 24 hours a day to students and all those on the
receiving end of the government’s assault in the Lewisham community. We
offer our support to recipients of the EMA grant, benefits and services,
all of which are being attacked by local and national government. We
support library staff at Goldsmiths and public libraries across Lewisham.

The proposed changes in Higher Education represent a historically
unprecedented attack on society. In response, we have taken the exceptional
step of deciding that no staff shall work in the library building, although
students are welcome to come and join us. Until our demands are met, there
will be no business as usual at the college.

We act to support and intensify the efforts of all those involved in the
nationwide wave of occupations.

We demand that Goldsmiths’ management:

• Immediately make a public statement opposing fees and the vote for
their increase due in parliament on 9th December. We refuse all current and
further cuts at Goldsmiths.

• Implement no further cuts to departments and budgets at Goldsmiths, nor
any further redundancies.

• Steps forward to defend all those from Goldsmiths arrested or in other
ways victimised during the current struggles against the cuts. We condemn
the police’s violent and heavy-handed tactics used against students,
staff and their supporters.

• Do not penalise library staff in any way, nor dock their pay during the

• Ceases its campaign of cuts against the Goldsmiths Nursery.

• Retract their threat to charge Goldsmiths’ Student Union £15,000 in
response to the occupation of Deptford Town Hall. This occupation, like
that one, is independent of the Student Union.

• Do not take any disciplinary actions whatsoever against those involved
in this occupation.

Somewhere else they put up the letter from the provost to the student union - threatening to take £15k out of the SU budget for the Deptford town hall occupation, but if there was not any other occupation-esque activity, they'd waive it. Straight up blackmail by the university management, clearly hasn't worked.

Dec 7 2010 10:23
Dec 7 2010 12:17



Video from the Tate occupation:

"And that includes the police" !?!?
Art students...

As the old song goes:
"police and art, police and art
go together like a horse and cart -
this I tell you brother
you can't have one without the other".

And that crap about philistinism in the video... the real philistines are today's culture vultures: how many of them know a thing about the revolutionary search in art up until the mid-1960s?

Art students....

Dec 7 2010 12:24
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Apparently the goldsmiths students tried to deny library staff access and are now running the library themselves. 10 staff have got in and have locked themselves in the staff room.

Is there any reason that the occupiers forced the staff out? Their statement seems to be very concerned with the wellbeing of the library staff - seems odd that they'd force them out if they didn't want to go.

Although on the other hand would this be the first of the occupations to 'take over' an academic facility and self-operate it?

Mike Harman
Dec 7 2010 13:45
Mike Harman
Dec 7 2010 15:22

Camden school students -!/camdensitin

Apparently it's not actually started yet.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 7 2010 15:45!/GSoccupation

The decision was taken to exclude staff on the grounds of maximising disruption. The library was still gnona be open to students and there are machines where you can check your own books out. Staff are being encouraged to extend essay deadlines where applicable and one of the demands is that the Warden guaruntees no redundancies.

Dec 7 2010 15:49
Caiman del Barrio wrote:!/GSoccupation

The decision was taken to exclude staff on the grounds of maximising disruption. The library was still gnona be open to students and there are machines where you can check your own books out. Staff are being encouraged to extend essay deadlines where applicable and one of the demands is that the Warden guaruntees no redundancies.

Sounds good, and is a lot more clear now. Sounds like what the Oxford students wanted to do with the Radcliffe (leave the library open, but under occupation), had the police not surrounded the place.

Out of interest, how are you keeping access clear? Seeing as how a lot of the occupations (like Oxford and now St Andrews) end up getting shut in by police or security...

Good luck with the action!

Mike Harman
Dec 7 2010 15:52

Newcastle Civic Centre / Main council chamber was occupied not long ago. Can't keep up.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 7 2010 15:53

Security were negotiated with and agreed to take up an inactive position by the turnstiles, one of which has been opened. There is talk of opening up the library for public consumption (although books can't be borrowed without a Goldsmiths card and the book alarm by the turnstile is still operational).

Dec 7 2010 16:09

Well that's good to hear... from what I understand, Oxford Uni basically locked the place down (there was an absolute army of police outside).

It would probably be good to figure out some tactics that could be used by occupiers to keep access open in situations where university authorities are more antagonistic.

Jason Cortez
Dec 7 2010 16:31

The library staff issue is a very contentious one, there was a long and quite painful debate last night and eventually a decision was made to dein staff access. This is still a live and divisive issue, to be reviewed tonight. Frankly there is a steep learning curve going on and it is pretty messy. The meeting ended at four last night, madness. Then they failed to prevent staff entering this morning who have since been working in the offices at the back. They is a lot of naivety on both sides, the pro library staff being there side, seemed to think that staff will be functioning as usual, this is extremely unlikely and leave Goldsmiths management to liability arises from health and safety issues. so even if staff are allowed in they will just work in the back offices. A lot students are pissed off at the occupiers for 'disrupting' their education. The occupiers are attempting to keep the library running, keep the toilets running etc, but seem surpisingly unprepared. Still things are starting to get sorted and it is an amazing site, if a little too big for the numbers imo. Entertainments are being organised and there is a big emphasis on outreach (although not sure how much that is translating into people taking on tasks nessacary)

Dec 7 2010 18:56

This seems ludicrous tome, is there no common ground between the students and library staff, given that staff jobs are at deep risk of being cut? Why not occupy the library spaces and let the staff do their job behind the counter? (Academic library workbeing, of necessity, a specialisation)..Where are the staffs sodding trade union, or is that a stupid question? Btw it's easy to disable a security gate...just find the 'off' switch!

Dec 7 2010 20:33

Don't know if this is the correct place for this but Newcastle Civic Centre is currently being occupied. The local council is Lib Dem controlled.