Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A week to save our education – student occupations show the way!

With just one week to go until the Parliamentary vote – there is not much time left to put maximum pressure on MPs to vote down £9,000 fees.

The student occupiers have shown the way forward for our movement over the past couple of weeks with an inspirational wave of direct action that has swept the country.

SOAS students sparked off the wave and have since been host to a number of high profile visitors, including Ken Livingstone, Tariq Ali, Mark Steel and Baby Shambles over the past week and a half. Today the occupation voted to continue the sit-in despite pressure from the University to end their protest.

At a London College just down the road from SOAS, students at UCL have led a particularly dynamic occupation. Earlier this week they also led a flashmob protest outside Top Shop’s flagship store on Oxford Street. The protest highlighted the billions evaded by big business every year through tax avoidance– billions which should be spent funding education and our vital public services. You can watch how the protest went online here:

The students at Cardiff University have staged similar actions – occupying banks across the city as well as their campus.

Alongside organising flashmobs, discussions and such like the UCL occupiers have also boldly challenged other occupations to a “dance-off.” They performed their very impressive routine last week - which can be viewed online here: Student occupiers at Brighton have taken up UCL’s challenge. Their dance routine can be seen here

Up north in Sheffield, following a massive march on Nick Clegg’s constituency office students occupied the University of Sheffield for the second time in a week. Their demands include support for the principle of free education – this demand that can also be found in the Lib Dem General Election manifesto.

The fight back in Yorkshire is very strong indeed with over 100 Leeds students spending a full week in occupation so far. Their blog is a must read – it includes great updates from the Leeds campaign alongside news from the occupations across the country:

Meanwhile in the midlands Nottingham students are continuing their occupation despite the university turning the heating off in this cold weather to force them to leave. The Nottingham occupiers are organising an impressive programme of alternative education, film screenings and workshops – including a talk from a Venezuelan activist who discussed the exciting social progress in Venezuela where education is now free thanks to Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution.

Students at the UCL School of Fine Art braved the elements today and organised a life drawing class outside the Slade occupation in the freezing cold!

OxBridge students are also leading the way against the government’s regressive and elitist proposals. In Oxford over 100 protesters from the city’s universities, colleges and schools staged a sit-in in Oxford University’s iconic Bodleian Library. At the same time students occupying Cambridge University have received 260 messages of support from Cambridge academics. This video report documenting the start of the Cambridge occupation is well worth a look:

The right wing media have continued to attack student protesters – including those occupying. The slogan for the Manchester University occupation is a good response to such critics: “If you cut our education we go into occupation”. Like so many of the occupations Manchester’s peaceful sit-in has attracted an impressive array of supporters - including Trade Unions, academics, campaigners and politicians.

The occupiers at Newcastle University have organised one of the most impressive banners drops in the history of banner drops – scaling one the city’s bridges to drop their ‘OCCUPATION – NO FEES –NO CUTS’ banner. Check out the photo here:

Similarly impressive actions, talks, publicity stunts and campaigns have been led by student occupations across the country including Edinburgh, London South Bank, University of the West of England Bristol, Roehampton, Royal Holloway, Birmingham, St. Andrews, Kingston, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Falmouth University, UEL and Kings College London.

There is no doubt that this wave of direct action has had a fantastic impact and provided vital publicity to the campaign against higher fees and education cuts.

As the campaign to defeat the Tory proposal of higher fees reaches its final stages now is the time to really turn the pressure on MPs – more action – including university occupations - is needed.

Lib Dems in particular need to feel the pressure – they should not go along with this Tory agenda and instead keep their pre-election promise to vote against the fee hike.

The protest outside the Lib Dem London Conference at the weekend – the last weekend ahead of the vote - is a key opportunity.

Protest outside London Lib Dem Conference – Saturday 4th December
Assemble 12noon
Haverstock School, Haverstock Hill, London NW3 2BQ
Nearest tube Chalk Farm

Please invite your friends to the facebook event:!/event.php?eid=148974651817209

Mobilising tens of thousands of students for next week’s NUS/UCU actions, including on the day of the vote itself will also be vital – more on these coming soon.

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