London Student

Protesters occupy Universities UK’s headquarters

Protesters yesterday occupied University UK’s headquarters in Woburn Square. The occupation comes as academic staff from across the UK go on strike over changes to their pensions.

Police were called when students entered the building and security guards claimed they damaged the building on entry. The police accused the protesters of being physically violent but this statement was later dropped.

A member of the occupation told London Student:

“UUK have refused to negotiate, so all we can do to support our staff now is direct action like this.”

In statement, the protesters expressed their frustration at UUK describing them as a “parasitic organisation which profits directly from the increasing marketisation of our education system.”

They said:

“This is a war not only for the futures of our comrades on strike, but also the future of our entire education system, and not only are we ready, we are aching to fight it.”

As students occupied part of the ground floor, more than 14 Vice Chancellors from across the UK met upstairs as representatives of the Million Plus group.

According to its website, the Million Plus group, which includes 20 universities, is “dedicated to a quality university system which includes and supports anyone who has the ambition, talent and desire to succeed in higher education.”

Police stand guard outside the occupation | Credit: Guy Fiennes

At five, when the building closed for the day, the protesters left and joined with others outside. They then marched around Tavistock Square before joining the UCU picket outside nearby SOAS University.

Regarding the incident UUK told LS:

“Around 20 demonstrators spent about 5 hours in our reception. There were no problems with them, they listened to music while having some food and soft drinks.”

In regard to the UCU strikes, UUK said: “We wanted to make it clear that we have never refused to continue to try to find an affordable, mutually acceptable solution.

[I]f a credible, affordable proposal were to emerge, even at this late stage, we are confident that employers would want to consider whether such a proposal could form the basis of a way forward.”