York students occupy Vanbrugh

The Vanbrugh occupation at York echoed the  global  ‘Occupy’ movement Image credit: Andy Davis

The Vanbrugh occupation at York echoed the global ‘Occupy’ movement Image credit: Andy Davis

Students from the University of York occupied the grass area of Le Page Court, Vanbrugh, on 23rd November in opposition to the rise in tuition fees and cuts to the education funding.

Around a dozen students pitched up tents in a bid to pressure University management to condemn the government’s Higher Education White Paper, and what they see as a marketisation of higher education. The occupation was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts as part of a national ‘Day of Action’. Students from Essex, Birmingham and several other universities across the country staged similar actions on the day.

Graham Martin, University of York Students Against Cuts movement, said the demonstration aimed to “raise the debate” about the tripling of tuition fees. The short occupation drew the attention of the senior management, with one source describing Jane Granville, the Pro- Vice-Chancellor for students, as “broadly supportive of the campaign.”

A document presented by the protesters to management, stated that the Higher Education White Paper “drastically alters the relationships between Universities, the government, students and big business.”

The protesters drew inspiration from the global Occupy movement, which has seen public and private space occupied in over 900 cities across the world in recent months, including the ground in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Though numbers were small, organisers estimate that around 500 leaflets were distributed and a relatively broad base of support was generated for the 24-hour demonstration. Graham Martin labelled the occupation “a success.”

The protesters have suggested holding another protest indoors in early December, hoping to draw in more numbers. One organiser suggested the next occupation will be in James College, though the exact location is yet unclear.

With the tripling of tuition fees and youth unemployment now well over a million, many are asking why there is not more student action on campus.

However, the public sector strike on 30th November did see a large contingent of students take part in a 2,000 strong march to York Minster. Though perhaps not a sign of a radical student revolt, the wave of occupations spreading from Exeter to Edinburgh sends a clear message to the government: there is much more to come from the 99 per cent.

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