Statement by Birmingham students on why they have occupied their University

We are occup1426487_736568923039685_164713782_n-530x353ying a large part of the Aston Webb Building, which includes the Vice-Chancellor’s and Senior Management’s offices,Telecommunications and the Senate Chamber in order to demand the right to free education, to protest and to housing. We are here in defiance of management’s tactics to try to suppress student protest through the use of disciplinaries, suspensions and injunctions. The areas we are occupying also play a key role in the corporatisation of our university which sees power concentrated in the hands of the few, education treated as a commodity and our institution become more like a business.

We condemn the university management for the actions they have taken against the right to protest and the suspension of Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse. All people should be able to freely express their discontent and students are no exception. The university is supposed to be a stronghold for free-speech and dissent. However, is it clear that the University of Birmingham does not recognise this human right and actively seeks to curtail it.

Yesterday, Kelly and Simon were supposed to have their appeal. Despite its postponement, we wanted to make it clear that we have not forgotten this injustice. Their case is an example of the extreme victimisation that this university will deploy in order to crush its student body. They were both singled out against a backdrop of nationwide occupations and are the only students in the country to have been suspended for 9 months since before 2010. Only Kelly and Simon were suspended despite a hundred or so other students also being involved. A third student, Hattie Craig, is not allowed to break any university regulation under threat of suspension for 6 months. The university is trying to make an example of them to intimidate other students by punishing them. This behaviour is a draconian response to an otherwise peaceful protest. This affront to democracy puts the University of Birmingham to shame and we will not let them succeed in preventing students from protesting for a better, fairer education for all.

We advocate for an education system which is free, democratic and accessible. As it stands, even basic rights like that to education, housing and protest are not being met. As such, we demand:

 

  1. That David Eastwood and the University of Birmingham should publicly take back their position that fees should be increased and that bursaries should be cut. Instead, they should lobby the government for education to be free, and for the implementation of living grants.
  2. That a body should be set up made up of elected students, academic staff, and support staff. This should have ultimate oversight over the restructuring of departments, the University’s investment decisions, and its lobbying positions.
  3. That every student is offered accommodation which does not exceed the amount they receive in loans and grants
  4. That the university does not make a profit (or “surplus”) from the fees it charges for accommodation
  5. The reinstatement of Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers
  6. The lifting of the onerous and inhibitive restrictions on Hattie Craig
  7. That the University recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest, with a long and illustrious history
  8. That the University reforms its disciplinary procedures to include sentencing guidelines, a right for students to receive legal representation and a requirement that allegations be proved beyond reasonable doubt, instead of on the balance of probabilities

Want to build the #Freeeducation movement? Join NCAFC

NCAFCThe demonstration on Wednesday was incredible. 10,000 people on the streets demanding free education in the biggest student march since 2010! But this didn’t come out of nowhere. Building marches like these requires huge amounts of organisation and if we are ever to win this campaign it’s going to require a whole lot more. The NUS have proved that they are not going to do this and will actively try to stop us. It requires activists on the ground working together to make this happen.

This is where the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts comes in. Activists who are part of this organisation have spent months making this demonstration a success. None of us are experts or paid. We are all volunteers – students and workers just like you – who believe that we need a radical overhaul of the education system. We believe that sitting down with our vice chancellors is not going to get us, but direct action will. And we believe that we need to organise democratically, locally AND nationally.

But if we want to take this to another level, if we want to have even bigger actions than the one on Wednesday, then we need your help! Get involved with NCAFC, join our campaign and most importantly, come to our national conference happening on the 12-14th December in Manchester.

Have a look at this blog to find out more about how our structures and conference work and email [email protected] to confirm your place.

Round-up of yesterday’s coverage of the demonstration

We actually did pretty well! Every major news outlet in the UK reported about the demonstration in some way or another. We also got coverage in the international press, i.e. in Brasil, Germany, Canada, India and Slovenia. #FreeEducation also trended on Twitter nationwide for several hours! We have put together a collection of the coverage – see below:
us uncut

Guardian

Comment piece: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/19/students-free-education-march-tuition-fees

Demonstration: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/nov/19/student-protest-tuition-fees-scuffles-police

Live blog: http://www.theguardian.com/education/live/2014/nov/19/students-march-tuition-fees-live

BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-30113313

Huffington post

Live blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/19/live-updates-freeeducation-student-demo-protest-2014_n_6183420.html

Article about why students are attending: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/19/student-protestors-speak-out-for-free-education_n_6185738.html

Ten reasons for Free Education: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/18/ten-reasons-for-free-educ_n_6176558.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-students&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

 

 

Times Higher Education

Comment piece: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/abolishing-tuition-fees-lessons-from-germany/2017085.article

Demonstration: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/students-march-for-free-education/2017093.article

 

 

Telegraph

Demonstration:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11240837/Watch-students-protest-against-tuition-fees-in-central-London.html

Comment piece: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/11241378/Education-should-be-free-to-everyone-at-every-level.html

 

 

Evening Standard:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/thousands-of-students-protest-in-central-london-over-university-tuition-fees-9870619.html

 

Russia Today

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/11/19/uk-britain-students-protest-idUKKCN0J31PZ20141119

http://rt.com/uk/206891-student-demonstration-tuition-fees/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHtvl38fkn8&feature=youtu.be  (from 03:08 min)

Daily Mail

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2841077/Police-clash-student-protestors-thousands-march-Parliament-Square-Tory-party-headquarters-anger-tuition-fees-graduate-debt.html

 

Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/19/us-britain-students-protest-idUSKCN0J31PX20141119

 

ITV

http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2014-11-19/local-students-to-take-part-in-national-protest/, http://www.itv.com/news/london/update/2014-11-19/11-arrested-at-student-protest/

 

The Mirror

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/student-protests-recap-london-tuition-4656716

 

Indymedia UK

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2014/11/518706.html

East London Lines

http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2014/11/fees-have-failed-student-demonstrators-take-to-the-streets-to-fight-the-trebling-and-trebling-of-tuition-fees/

London24

http://www.london24.com/news/education/thousands_of_students_protest_over_tution_fees_in_london_1_3854145

Yahoo News

http://news.yahoo.com/thousands-students-london-cuts-demo-163823109.html

 

International media coverage

Turkey: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/175849/thousands-of-uk-students-demonstrate-for-free-education.html

Germany: ZDF and Deutschlandradio (links to follow)

The Straits Times: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/world/europe/story/thousands-students-london-tuition-fees-protest-20141120

New Zealand: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/world/323956/scuffles-break-out-student-protest-london

Links to follow for press coverage in Canada, Brasil, India, Slovenia and other places.

PRESS RELEASE: LARGEST STUDENT DEMONSTRATION SINCE 2010 MET WITH POLICE VIOLENCE BUT PROTESTERS COME AWAY “INSPIRED”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: 07821731481, 07749263622, 07891714146

LARGEST STUDENT DEMONSTRATION SINCE 2010 MET WITH POLICE VIOLENCE BUT PROTESTERS COME AWAY “INSPIRED”.

– 10,000 students marched for Free Education

– Protesters met with violence from the police

– Days of action planned for 3rd and 6th December
NCAFC

Yesterday 10,000 students marched through central London demanding “Free Education” in what was the biggest student mobilisation since 2010. Called for and organised primarily by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and supported by a coalition of other groups, the demonstration called for an end to tuition fees, no cuts to education and the wiping of student debt. Students from universities across the country joined the protest, some travelling overnight from as far as Aberdeen to take part. FE and school students from London were out in force, with most protesters coming from a generation which had not been involved in the 2010 student movement.

Beth Redmond from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said, “I am so impressed at how many people travelled from all over the country to come and demand a radical reshaping of education. For so many people to do this despite the National Union of Students’ attempts to undermine the organisers is incredible and just pushes the NUS into further irrelevance.”

When the march approached Westminster, protesters broke off into Parliament Square and were met with a heavy response from the police. Students were thrown to ground and beaten with batons. Later protesters marched down Victoria Street to demonstration outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Tory Party Headquarters, Starbucks and Scotland Yard where more violence from the police ensued. 11 protesters were arrested. All were released without charge after less than 8 hours. Many had facial injuries and one had to be taken to hospital immediately as the police had refused him medical treatment.

Hattie Craig from Defend Education Birmingham and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said, “I was waiting outside the police station for those arrested to be released. We were shocked by how bad a state some of them were in when they came out. One guy’s face with a real mess and he couldn’t see straight. Loads of them had black eyes. The fact that they were all released without charge just goes to show that arrests like these are politically motivated and a tactic used to intimidate protesters as opposed to being based on any real evidence.”

Students are set to mobilise again on 3rd December, taking part in a “day of action” on their campuses which will see occupations, demonstrations and walkouts. On 6th December, local demonstrations will take place in cities across the country, linking students up with lecturers, teachers, trade unions, anti-austerity campaigns, families and the local community to develop a broad movement for free education.

Deborah Hermanns from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said, “If we are win to free education we need to build a movement beyond this demonstration. I am really excited to see so many students inspired and newly politicised. They went home last night and already they are getting organised, telling us about their plans for the days of action and ready to build a long term campaign for free education.”

Notes:

  1. NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has existed since 2010
    2. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 3rd day of action is here.
    3. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 6th local marches and rallies is here.outsideparliamentpolice

BUILD A MOVEMENT, NOT JUST A MARCH: days of action and walkouts in December!

Phone: 07749263622, 07989235178, 07821731481,  07891714146

Yesterday, as many as 10,000 students marched through London in what was probably the biggest demonstration in several years.  We could well be on the verge of a new wave of student activism.

But we know from walk out profileicdecexperience that A to B marches are never enough. In order to build a serious campaign for free education, the national demo has to be the beginning of a mass campaign in the streets and on campuses.

That is why the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is calling two more days of action in early December to provide a focus for mobilisation.

*** Wednesday 3rd December ***

On Wednesday 3rd December (facebook event HERE), we are calling for a day of action and walkouts. This will involve:

  • Walking out of lectures and classes
  • Launching occupations
  • Protesting in your local area

Use the time between the national demo and the day of action to build for it on your campus. Put on meetings and rallies, hold campus demos, occupy, run stalls and spread the word. If you want help to build on your campus, we’re always here to help: email [email protected]

For the facebook event, click here. Post your activities into it and we’ll list them in the description.

***Saturday 6th December***

On Saturday 6th December (facebook event HERE), we are calling for marches for education in local areas. Wherever you are, take over your town centre: make noise, make a fuss and be visible.

Most importantly, this is the chance to get a wider layer of people involved in the campaign. Don’t just focus on students, get the community out with you. Contact local trade unions, trades councils and community groups. We want parents, teachers and workers to march with us for free education! Now is the time to start building this: put up a facebook event up now!dec6new

Post your activities into the facebook event, or email us, and we’ll list them in the description.

***13th and 14th December***

We will be hosting a national conference on 13th and 14th December – a national meeting  for everyone involved in the free education movement to plan the next steps. This will be a democratic assembly: everyone will have a vote and we will decide on things collectively and elect a new national committee. We’ll also plan a strategy, and have lots of discussions and workshops about the student movement.  Click here for the facebook event.

Thousands take over central London as students launch movement for free education

Thousands of students are marching on parliament today in the biggest student mobilisation since 2010 under the banner of FREE EDUCATION:  no fees, no cuts, no debt. The demonstration has been organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts working in coalition with other student groups.

The protest comes as more days of action are announced. On Wednesday December 3rd, there will be a day of action from students, and Saturday December 6th will see local marches across the country, bringing in local communities and workers.

Hattie Craig, from Birmingham Defend Education and NCAFC, said: “The number of students attending today from all over the country today is a testament to the level of support that this emerging movement has. We are fighting for an education system that is truly liberatory, and really free – not just without tuition fees, but with living grants and institutional democracy”.

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “Today marks the beginning of a new movement for free education in the UK. Across Europe and the world, tuition fees and privatisation in higher education are being pushed back – and that is because students and education workers fought and didn’t compromise. We are building a movement, not just a march. The days of action in December will provide a focus for actions and energies.”

Delegations have come from at least 40 cities all over the country from Aberdeen to Bristol, Canterbury to Glasgow.  A full list can be viewed on www.anticuts.com.

Coaches from Aberdeen set off at 8pm yesterday evening.  Rob Henthorn, President for Education at the University of Aberdeen Students Association, said: “As much as we might think that education is free in Scotland, it will never be free unless it is free for everyone. We have come on a thousand mile 24-hour round trip to show our solidarity with the fight for free education across the UK, and to build a movement that not only can’t be ignored but which will win.”

Notes:

1. NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has existed since 2010
2. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 3rd day of action is here.
3. The facebook event for the Wednesday December 6th local marches and rallies is here

london-student-protest

AHHHHH IT’S TOMORROW! Ten Top Tips for Tomorrow’s Demo!

IT IS ALMOST DEMO TIME AND WE ARE ALL VERY EXCITED! Buuutttttt if you are coming down, make sure that you have a look at our top ten tips beforehand..

1) Stick with your mates

Make sure that you have the contact details for at least one other protester and look after each other. It is no fun trying to find people and you will feel much safer if you are surrounded by people you trust.

friends

 2) Wear warm and comfy clothing – especially shoes!

Demos can go on for hours and as we all know, this country is the country of rain. Even if it’s warm when we start, make sure that you pack loads of layers.

ftp23) Take a lot of water and snacks

You might not be able to go to any shops for several hours and while on demo-adrenalin it is often very easy to forget about drinking enough water and having food. So make sure you have got some with you.

ftp3

4) Take medication if you need it and don’t hesitate to ask for help

Demos can be very hectic and it is easy to forget about the most essential things, such as your daily medication. Also remember, stewards and especially first-aiders are there to help you. So if you feel unwell for whatever reason make sure to get in contact with them.

ftp4

5) The police are not your friends

During the demo police officers, especially liason officers (see picture), might approach you. They will be nice, smile and ask you a lot of questions. But remember: they are not on our side! They are there to get information out of you and to to divide the protest. The best advice we can give you: Do not talk to them at all – however much they smile at you.

polos

6) Take a Bust Card

Loads of people at the demonstration will be handing out cards with essential legal information on it. Even if you just want to get on the first bus home – take one. You never know in what situation you might get involved in and it is important to know your rights. If you would like to download the card beforehand, click here.

 get-out-of-jail-free-card
7) Stay Alert

Things can change very quickly on a demonstration so keep an eye on what others around you and the police are doing. You want to be able to react to situations and get yourself out of the way of ones you don’t want to be in, such as police kettles.

stayalert

8) Have a scarf

The cops often film at demos in order to build up files of “known protestors”. If you want to make it as difficult as possible for them to put you on a database, mask up to cover your face from police cameras.

beyonce

9) Check out where your nearest toilet is

This demo will last for a few hours and finding a toilet can be a pain, especially if you need an accessible one. Check out this link to see all the accessible toilets around the rally.

Funny-toilet

10) Enjoy yourself

Demonstrations are obviously about getting a message across but they’re also a day out from you university/college/school with lots of like-minded people, so have fun!

timetravel

Demonstration to be “start of big things” as students prepare for an autumn of protest

Demonstration to be “start of big things” as students prepare for an autumn of protest

Phone: 07821731481, 07749263622, 07989235178, 07891714146

This Wednesday, on November 19th, thousands of students will march through London in what is likely to be the biggest education protest in several years. The demo – which is organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in coalition with a number of other student groups – will march on parliament under the banner of ‘FREE EDUCATION: no fees, no cuts, no debt’. The demonstration aims to be the spark for a new and proactive generation of student protests.

There will be a press conference on the day of the demonstration. The press conference will include school students, activists from across the country and representatives of the different organisations behind the march. The press conference will take place at UCL (University College London) at 10am.

Callum Cant, from Warwick for Free Education and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said:  “At Warwick we have been campaigning on the ground for almost a month, and we’ve seen our hard work pay off. On campus, the mood is changing, people are excited, and we have seen a huge number of people getting involved in student activism for the first time.”

Hattie Craig, from Defend Education Birmingham and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said: “The students attending this demonstration are a new generation: one that was not involved in 2010, one for whom £9,000 fees are the norm. Despite this, they’re daring to call for demands which envisage a radical reshaping of education. This demonstration, expected to be the biggest since 2010, is the start of big things for the student movement.”

Kirsty Haigh, from NUS Scotland and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts said: “NUS scotland firmly believes in free education and we are supporting the demo on November 19th. We believe education is a right that should be accessible to everyone and barriers such as fees are unjust. That is why I, and many other Scottish students, will be marching this Wednesday.”

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “We will not win this with one march, but by creating a movement too big to ignore or to betray. So we have called for two further days of action on 3 and 6 December in campuses and communities across the country, and will keep fighting for as long as it takes to win.”

Notes:

1. NCAFC is a democratic coalition of students and workers fighting for free education and against fees, cuts and privatisation in education. It has existed since 2010 and has around 500 members.
2. The facebook event for the demonstration is here.
3
. The facebook events for the days of action are here and here.

 

Students-take-part-in-a-d-006

Free Education – it matters to us all !

Free Education For AllEvery year Further Education Students will be locked out of progressing onto Higher Education because they are too poor to learn. They are some of the most affected by the damaging Fees and Cuts our education system has faced. However all too often they have become depoliticised and activism can be invisible in their institutions. By Alasdair Clark

Further Education can be the second and last chance for many that have traditionally been locked out of Education. Single parents, Liberation Groups and those who were just let down at school are the most likely to be unable to afford a University Education.

I live and work in Scotland where we don’t pay tuition fees and every day I speak to Students who tell me their story. They have come from some of the most difficult backgrounds but College has given them that second chance they so desperately wanted. They know that this doesn’t have to be the end of their journey and they can choose to go further and higher and FE is a springboard to that. The prospect of a lifetime of crippling debt isn’t one they even have to consider. I ask these students if they would continue with their education if they had to pay £9000. The answer is always No.

Education has become something to be bought and sold. Profit margins are at the front of institutions mind and to deny that this erodes the quality and meaning of what education does is delusional. The second we accept this marketisation of our education system and do nothing is the second we let those who need that chance down. That’s why you absolutely must reject fees and you must take action to let the political spectrum, left and right, know that this isn’t what we want and it isn’t what we will accept.

You might have noticed at Demonstrations in the past there is a noticeable lack of students from Colleges and there is a reason for this. Activist bases in colleges don’t tend to be as common or as big as they are in Universities and Students’ Associations tend to find it much more difficult to organise their students due to lots of different things. One of these is that getting involved can be a daunting process. Friendships are often already in place within activist groups and it can be hard to take part when you don’t know anyone.

Here is how I think you can help!

If you are at University make contact with the Students’ Associations or Students in the College closest to you and help them start to build up an activist group. Help them get students politicised and invite them along to organising meetings you might be having. Your group will often have years and years of experience amongst it whilst FE groups might be made up of people who have never even been to a Demo – never mind organised for their students to attend! Offer them some tickets to sell on your bus to demonstrations, they might not have enough students interested to fill a bus but once word gets out they might get much more interest. They also might not have the money to subsidise a bus enough to make it affordable to their students.

We’ve heard lots about how the fight for Free Education won’t be won on Wednesday so if you do one thing after the demo then make sure you get in touch with a local college and offer them some help. Get together and organise a local march for Free Education in your town on the 6th of December.

If you are at College, don’t be scared to join in! Get in touch with activist groups at Universities and ask for help, most will only be too willing to offer their advice and help.

I sometimes think NUS UK has made us very insular and instead of working together we appear to be in a situation where we automatically assume we can never work together and that’s just not true. Free Education matters and it matters to all of us so much.

 

Craftivism in Falmouth – the fight for free education on campus

Falmouth student Alex Azul Falconer writes about course cuts at his University, the response on campus and why he will be marching on November 19th:

Ocrafasdasdn the 5th of November Falmouth University announced the cessation of Contemporary Crafts for the following reasons.

‘BA (Hons) Contemporary Crafts – the University’s most costly and space intensive subject area with, currently, a relatively low graduate-level employability rate. We cannot maintain the course’s heavy space utilisation and intensely process-led curriculum without significant cross-subsidy from other subject areas – something we are not prepared to do. There has also been a decline in applications to crafts courses nationwide, which would make continuing investment in the subject area difficult to justify, cross-subsidised or not.’

Lets break this statement down;

  • Contemporary Crafts at Falmouth has an 88% employment rate if you take into account self-employment something the university clearly does not.
  • Refusing to maintain a course on the basis that it is intensely process lead is ridiculous. People decide to do an arts degree in order to make art, they come to university to develop as an artist, discover their individual style and grow as a person, but for some reason this is a negative in the eyes of the university because it costs too much, because they can’t throw us all in a seminar room and make us do paperwork or just sit on computers. Something they will be able to do to the new game design course they will be introducing.
  • Attempting to turn students against each other by creating the idea that Contemporary Crafts sponges off the other courses is both cowardly and false. How noble of senior management to heroically state they are not prepared to support an arts course which is process lead. How noble of them to tell us how they are willing to spend our money which we shouldn’t even be spending in the first place. If tuition fees didn’t exist and we funded education through a progressive tax system, that didn’t handicap artistic courses which were heavily processed lead, then there would be no need for course closures. These issues consistently come back to universities being funded by tuition fees, a failed model which has increased student expectation and decreased university resources, leading to increased marketisation and decrease in creative courses due to cost.
  • Finally the claim that there has been a decline in crafts courses nationwide. Although crafts has declined nationwide it is actually on the increase in Falmouth, with an oversubscribed courses this year and an increase in applicants year on year. Crafts is worth £3.7billion to the economy, it is a huge part of Cornish culture and Plymouth have just invested in a multi million pound craft centre, so there are more than enough reasons to justify investment.

Students at Falmouth are angry and upset by this decision, not just students in Contemporary Crafts either but all across the university. We feel our university is being stripped of its values as a diverse, creative institution that provides a whole range of different artistic platforms. Instead we are now getting a profit driven university that cares more about finances, employability and league tables than it does about the university experience. The mistake this university has made is thinking they can get rid of one of our courses and receive no backlash. We’ve seen huge support outside of the university through petitions, open letters and messages of support, but the real fight will come from inside the university when we begin our 3 stage plan of awareness, disruption & occupation.

I’ll be marching on November 19th, to protect the values of education; the pursuit of knowledge, personal development and creating progressive change. Then I’ll be back in Falmouth joining my fellow students in our fight to prevent course closures and reclaim our university from the hands of greedy, profit driven, senior management figures. A word of warning to senior management figures in universities all over the country beware you who see short term financial gain of more importance than the further development of our rich cultural heritage. You will be held to account.

If you want to get involved in the campaign at Falmouth, join this group or this group.