UCL students have entered an indefinite occupation of UCL, in support of a strike action initiated by lecturers.
The occupation, which began on Monday, has taken over part of the South Cloisters, next to a case holding the body of philosopher and UCL’s “spiritual founder” Jeremy Bentham. As a result of the action, UCL’s Provost Michael Arthur was unable to access his office.
At a meeting prior to the occupation at UCL’s Student Union, a member of the UCU Union told London Student: “The support from students has been brilliant and people are starting to discuss what education they want to see and how we want to get there.”
Later in the week, the occupied space was publicised on AirBnb with: “Central London squat, friendly company, no sex allowed”. Events held in the space have included a talk from journalist and campaigner Owen Jones, a film screening, zine making and a party.
— Against Fees & Cuts (@NCAFC_UK) March 1, 2018
At the planning meeting, students discussed the various ways in which people can show support for the cause and some of the obstacles they’ve been facing during this time. One student stressed on the importance of encouraging more people to show up at the picket lines, saying: “I’ve been one of the only students from my department (chemistry) at the picket line and the lecturers really appreciated that.”
Students also expressed the importance of coordinating teach outs so that people from all departments are aware of when they’re about to take place and potentially raising money for strike funds to help pay for picket material.
Certain issues that arose included that of UCL making changes to the way staff have to do visa compliance and regulating greater visa checks on them which students believe are an effort to intimidate the staff and discourage them from engaging in industrial action.
Another issue raised was that of students fearing their status at university might be affected should they engage in the strikes. At the meeting, one of the protesters stressed on the significance of assuring students that ‘no disciplinary action will take place as it never has in the past’.
In January, Universities UK, which represents over 200 universities, outlined a plan which would change the Universities Superannuation Scheme from a defined benefit scheme, where members would receive a guaranteed income after retirement, to a defined contributions scheme, where pensions would be subject to changes in the stock market.