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Socialist Worker

Wave of occupations sweeps universities to defend education


College students join the occupation at the University of Leeds  (Pic: Charlotte Groves)

College students join the occupation at the University of Leeds (Pic: Charlotte Groves)


Students have hit over 20 universities with occupations in the last two weeks, taking the fight against fees to the heart of their campuses.

In the most successful ones, students have used their occupations to reach out to other activists.

In Newcastle, the Education Activist Network in the city called a meeting straight after their protest on Day X on Wednesday of last week.

Hundreds attended and students decided to occupy the university. They have hosted forums and meetings in the occupied space.

On Monday representatives from eight local colleges and schools went to the occupation to prepare together for this Tuesday’s walkouts.

The occupation at University College London held an open day, which was visited by students and local workers.

Aaron Porter, the president of the NUS, used his visit to make a monumental climb down.

He moved from condemning the emerging radical student movement to promising the NUS’s political and financial support for occupations.

Assembly

Leeds university is an example of another inspirational occupation. After thousands of school, college and university students poured onto the streets on Day X, an occupation was organised there.

It became the place to be for anyone fighting cuts. School and college students visit daily—discussing the way forward and using the space to organise their own actions.

Occupiers held a people’s assembly last Saturday. Over 250 people packed into the Rupert Beckett lecture theatre—students, pensioners, parents and trade unionists.

Leeds trades council reps came and offered “unequivocal support” to the occupation. A delegation from the occupation had spoken at the trades council earlier in the week.

Unison has offered printing facilities to the occupiers. A school student described how a teacher had asked where they were going on Day X. The student replied, “I’m hoping to go to university.”

A student from Notre Dame sixth form said, “We backed this from the start and we will to the finish.”

Leeds UCU union has issued an open letter supporting the students.

Alex, a year 10 school student, told the assembly, “We had one leaflet for Day X that we passed around the Friday before, only to find that it was quickly circulated around the school.

“It meant that over 600 school students joined the walkout to march two miles to the university and city centre protest.

“A teacher in one class said that she supported us—but not to tell anyone. In the next class another teacher said the same. We found out that every teacher supported us.”

On Monday, Leeds university student union agreed to back the occupation.

Cardiff students occupied straight after their Day X action and held a teach-in on their first night. This drew in hundreds of students. Dan, a second year politics student at the university, told Socialist Worker, “The level of organisation has been amazing, particularly among school and college students.”

While some occupations have now ended, others have begun.

Students in Brighton invited lecturers to come and use the occupied space to teach classes.

In Manchester students invited societies to hold meetings in their occupation.

Students have also been sharing tips on how to start occupations.

School and college students are not planning to be just visitors for long—many are discussing their own “take back education” sit-ins and occupations.

Occupations challenge university management’s control and can boost the militancy of the movement.


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