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University of Birmingham student protesters warn of more action

Students who occupied a Birmingham university building in protest at tuition fee increases have warned the Government to expect “widespread radical action”.

Students who occupied a Birmingham university building in protest at tuition fee increases have warned the Government to expect “widespread radical action”.

A group of 40 demonstrators occupied the Aston Webb Building at the University of Birmingham on Wednesday ahead of a planned campus protest against higher education cuts.

They unfurled banners on the balcony calling for the resignation of vice-chancellor Professor David Eastwood, while others staged a sit-in inside the reception area.

The demonstration came as thousands of students gathered in cities including London, Manchester and Glasgow in the wake of proposals to increase tuition fees from £3,290 up to £9,000 a year.

The Birmingham demonstration, which was not backed by the University’s Guild of Students or the National Union of Students, began at 7.30am on Wednesday ahead of a planned protest which saw hundreds of staff and students gathered outside the building.

Student protest 300
Student protest 300

It is believed students picked the Aston Webb building for the protest because it was the setting for the final televised Prime Ministerial debate in April.

A statement released by campaigners calling themselves Stop Cuts Birmingham read: “Students at the University of Birmingham have embarked on this occupation because we believe the Government’s cuts to be economically unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated.

“We stand in solidarity with unions and seek to be active members in a broader anti-cuts coalition. The Government must understand that if they continue to destroy the livelihoods of the majority to benefit the rich and powerful minority, they will face increasingly widespread and radical action.”

A separate lunchtime protest, which was organised by the University of Birmingham branch of Unison, saw hundreds of placard-waving staff and students calling for an increased pay offer for university support staff.

Branch secretary Matt Raine said: “The vice-chancellor of the university is earning nearly £250,000 a year. If they can afford that sort of salary, then why can’t they afford a decent pay rise for support staff who are the lowest paid at the university?”

Staff have now been offered a one per cent pay rise, an increase a previous offer of 0.4 per cent, as well as a one-off £150 payment. Unison members now have until December 6 to accept or reject the new offer.

Also at the demonstration were members of the university’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU), which came out in support of eight School of Education research fellows who were formally placed at risk of redundancy earlier this month.

UCU branch president Steve Issitt said: “We are aware that the climate is difficult for everyone in the UK and Europe, but academics, particularly young academics, should not be made redundant.’’

Police officers worked with university security staff during the protests, and a West Midlands Police spokesman said there were no reports of incidents. Reports of clashes between police, security staff and students at Warwick University were dismissed by police.

A spokesman said there was a silent, peaceful protest at the campus in Coventry.

 

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