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Council House & universities occupied: students reject cuts and fees hike

Indymedia Birmingham | 26.11.2010 12:46 | Education | Public sector cuts | Social Struggles | Birmingham

On Tuesday 30th November school students and university students took to the streets over cuts which will leave higher education out of reach for working class students. The city Council House chambers were taken over by students staging a sit-down protest and a list of demands put to the City Council.

On Wednesday 24th November students at both Birmingham university and Warwick university showed solidarity with all future generations intending to enter higher education. The universities were occupied to resist the cuts to education and the £12,000 a year fee hikes which would make Britain one of the most expensive countrys in the world to study. These attacks on education are part of a wider neo-liberal experiment, where swathes of public services are planned to be 'marketised', opening up a large sector of the economy to corporate profiteering.

Related Links | Video: Birmingham university protest & occupation | On Facebook: Birmingham Stop Fees & Cuts | Anticuts website | Tuesday National Protests - Day X2

In the past 2-3 weeks there has been a growing wave of anti-cuts protest, beginning with the national protest on the 10th November, and the subsequent destruction of the Conservative party HQ at Millbank, a trend which looks set to continue. Birmingham saw protests against the Con/Dem business secretary Vince Cable, and the education secretary Michael Gove during their planned visits. This week, the national day of action on Wednesday November 24th saw widespread university student walkouts and protests across the country, even joined by younger students from schools and sixth form colleges.

A significant number of those protesting were of school age, unsurprisingly since these youth are the primary victims of the education cuts and massive fees hike instigated by the Con/Dem coalition. Next September 2011 is the cut off date for attending university to miss the potential of £12,000 per year fees, and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Only the wealthiest students will be able to attend university; working class students hoping to have a higher education will be left behind unless the fight back is successful.

Students at Birmingham university occupied the Great Hall, the very same site which Nick Clegg launched his pledge to scrap university tuition fees, simultaneously securing the student vote. Many students are now for the first time seeing parliamentary democracy for the sham it is. Students from the occupation have stated that the university is "putting corporate profit before the interests of student education", and have condemned the university Vice Chancellor David Eastwood for his role in the education reforms. Mr. Eastwood's £341,000 per year salary was branded an "outrage" in the face of his instigation of -4.4% cuts to the salaries of support staff at the university. The Birmingham university occupation made a series of demands including preventing cuts to courses and services, transparency of university finances and planning documents, the resignation of David Eastwood, the condemnation of the Browne Review, no wage cuts for any staff, a democratic forum for students to participate in, and no recriminations for students involved in the occupation.

Warwick university saw 80 students occupy the conference hall at Warwick Arts Centre with a plan to provide a space for workshops, discussion, films and other activities to promote resistance to the cuts and fees. However repression and physical assaults by university security meant these aims could not be achieved. Fortunately the occupation created much publicity in the media, and the repression has led to a groundswell in support and solidarty amongst other students. They have stated "this is just the beginning".

Indymedia Birmingham