No room in Oxford for David Willetts

(For more details on why we picketed David Willetts, it is well worth reading the piece also on the EAN website, in conjunction).

Students from all over Oxford gathered today to send a resounding message of no confidence in universities minister David Willetts, in a picket at St Peter’s College that lasted around two and a half hours.  At the start there were around 150 to 200 students assembled, enough to fill a large part of the street outside the hall.

Today’s protest reflects a growing anger among the student body, as the first year hit by the fee rises enters Oxford. Turnout was considerable, and swelled further by students from Brookes and Ruskin. The mood was energetic and militant, and Willetts was prevented from speaking for more than ten minutes due to the protest.

From the occupation of the Radcliffe Camera to the large and lively protest against Vince Cable in Oxford in 2010, we have a strong tradition of opposing attacks on higher education. The message today was clear- stopping Willetts being welcomed to Oxford was just the beginning. The next step is to join the thousands of students that will be in London on November 21st. We need to demonstrate that when Willetts and his colleagues attack our education, we will fight back.

See you in London on the 21st.

Nathan Akehurst

Students and workers march on Tory HQ

Today’s NUS/UCU demonstration was the biggest education protest in a generation, with most sources estimating at least 50,000 demonstrators. The mood was lively and defiant with students chanting “Tories out!” and occupying the road in front of parliament.

A large group of several thousand students marched off to occupy the lobby and courtyard of the Millbank Tower where the Tory Party has its HQ for several hours. With scenes reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, the spirit of resistance in France and Greece has now come to Britain.

This will have sent shivers down the spines of the Tories and Liberals, and could kickstart a wave of students

The media has tried to characterise this as “violence” and “anarchy”. We think it is better to celebrate the fact that so many students are prepared to confront the government head on. Education Activist Network supporters are invited to sign the statement in defence of the protestors:

Many students on their coaches back from the demonstration are now organising meetings to plan for occupations, walkouts and other actions.

Coordinating meeting: Where next after the national demonstration?
6pm Monday 15th November, King’s College London

Essex students want their money back – Sit-in shuts finance office down

Dan from Essex reports: “A demonstration of around 80 students at Essex University today ended with a flash sit in of the finance office and students demanding their money back. After rallying as part of the Education Activist Network day of action the group marched to the finance office chanting ‘when they say cut back we say fight back’. About 25 students sat down in the office foyer demanding that the university management come clean about their plans for the university whilst others stood outside leafleting other students and staff. After about an hour the Pro-Vice Chancellor agreed to a meeting with a delegation from the occupation. Those who were in the occupation made clear their commitment to continue the fight, organising to build for the NUS national demonstration on the 10th, and many will be at the conference on Sunday.”

French Revolt shows the way: protests against cuts this week

A French activist will be speaking at the European Forum of the Education Activist Network conference – only two weeks to go, book your ticket today!

 This weekend saw the fourth general strike in France since the beginning of September. Turnout was even better than on previous days, with well over 3 million people on protests across the country. School, college and university students are playing an important role with walkouts throughout the week and student demonstrations blocking roads and railway stations on the day of the general strike. The action is in response to the Sarkozy government’s attack on pensions, but these are part of the same Europe-wide drive to austerity that informs both the Browne Review and the Comprehensive Spending Review that threaten to devastate post-16 education in Britain.

We saw protests break out on University campuses on the day of the Browne Review. Now trade unions and campaign groups are building demonstrations on Wednesday, Saturday and throughout the week to oppose the spending review. Leaked documents suggest that as much as 79% of the university teaching budget could disappear, wiping out “non-priority” subjects and causing whole institutions to collapse.

A full list of demonstrations follows.

Read more of this post

ITV London video report of Wednesday’s strikes

From ITV Regional News (London)

University and college staff across the capital have gone on strike today in a row over massive funding cuts.

Lecturers and students marched together to protest against budget cuts for further education colleges, which could result in job losses.

Three universities and eleven colleges in London marched to Westminster to back the industrial action.

Click here for the video report.

Strikes and protests on the eve of election

Yesterday saw strikes at King’s College London, Westminster University and eleven FE colleges across London.  Picket lines were well-attended, with students joining staff for lively protests.  Over 400 people from across London came to the demonstration at King’s College at 1pm.  The strike at King’s continues today, with picket lines all day and another rally planned at 1pm – all supporters welcome.

Lecturers at Sussex University were on strike as well, and strong support from students boosted the picket lines.  A large demonstration in Brighton that evening brought workers and students together from Sussex, Brighton University and several of the town’s FE colleges – and at the subsequent strike rally there was much discussion about how the different education unions could pull together to take the campaign forward and see off the cuts that will follow the election.

At UCL, strike action was suspended at the last minute in response to a new offer from management.  And the protests to save philosophy at Middlesex University have escalated, with the student occupation growing to take over an entire building and being joined by prominent philosophers keen to defend their discipline.  Follow the latest developments and send messages of support via the campaign blog http://savemdxphil.com/

The continuing action at King’s and Middlesex still need active support today.  Some the institutions on strike yesterday will be following through with action short of a strike over the coming weeks, and more ballots may result in strike action at Manchester Metropolitan University and elsewhere.

However, this is all just the start: today’s election is likely to be followed by an emergency budget within 50 days, which much of the press speculate could mean deeper public sector cuts than are being implemented in Greece.  The Right To Work Campaign has called an emergency conference for the defence of the public sector on the 22nd of May.  This is supported by the UCU London Region, Higher Education Committee and Further Education Committee as well as other trade union bodies, and will include a session on the defence of education.

UPDATE

University of Westminster management have summoned a prominent student activist to an investigation into the occupation in March.  The case of the Sussex 6 showed how universities can use disciplinary procedures to intimidate the movement (and how the movement can bite back!) and the victimisation at UoW could have implications at Middlesex and beyond.

A protest has been called at 2pm Friday at Regent St – it will need as much support as possible.

Middlesex Students Occupy Dean’s Office

Students and lecturers at Middlesex University (Trent Campus), campaigning to stop the closure of the phiolosophy department, were stood up by their Dean this morning – and took matters into their own hands.  Some students are staging a sit-in in the corridor outside the Dean’s office, others have locked themselves inside, demanding that the Dean turn up and face his accusers.  The proposed closure of Middlesex Philosophy has provoked wide outrage and gained a significant profile in the press.  The occupiers need our support: send messages of solidarity to 07799156481.

The campaign has also agreed to send a delegation to the UCU strike demo in Central London tomorrow, starting at 1pm in front of the King’s College picket lines, Strand WC2.