Top universities will have to admit fewer middle class students if they are to meet vital diversity quotas, according to higher education regulator Office for Students (OfS)Written by Emily Darby on 19th March 2019
UPDATE: Defend Education Aston Webb Occupation Evicted
The arrival of police causes members of education activist group, Defend Education, to leave occupation of Aston Webb.
UPDATE: The Defend Education occupation has been evicted after 10 hours. Redbrick was told that the occupiers walked out peacefully after the arrival of multiple vans of police officers. The building remains closed however.
The University have issued a statement saying, 'The police attended a building at the University of Birmingham following concerns about a group of masked intruders who had locked themselves in and posed a real and present risk to themselves and to the students, staff and visitors in the immediate area. We are extremely disappointed that the illegal action of small number of masked individuals caused considerable disruption to students, staff and visitors and are grateful to the police for their swift response in bringing this matter to a close.'
Police vans outside the Aston Webb building.
Police remain on campus after the occupation ends.
The group claims they occupied 'a large part of the Aston Webb Building, which included the Vice-Chancellor’s and Senior Management’s offices, Telecommunications and the Senate Chamber in order to demand the right to free education, to protest and to housing.' The group argue that 'The areas we are occupying also play a key role in the corporatisation of our university which sees power concentrated in the hands of the few, education treated as a commodity and our institution become more like a business.'
“A spokesperson for the group said that there was a 'strategic plan' where multiple groups of people accessed the building through different doors and then locked them behind them.
A University of Birmingham spokesperson told Redbrick: 'We are extremely disappointed that a small number of masked individuals have again illegally occupied a key teaching and administrative space at the University of Birmingham causing considerable disruption to students, staff and visitors. It is particularly disappointing that they have chosen to do so when we have several hundred school pupils visiting who have been unable to access parts of campus. The individuals have blocked off fire exits and restricted access to toilets and lifts, making it difficult for the 1,000 staff, students and visitors who use the space to access the building, and in particular limiting access for any disabled users.
“University: 'We are extremely disappointed that a small number of masked individuals have again illegally occupied a key teaching and administrative space at the University of Birmingham causing considerable disruption to students, staff and visitors.'
The occupation had many of the same demands as previous demonstrations by the group, including the lifting of an injunction against occupations, and the removal of suspensions for Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse. According to Defend Education's spokesperson, the appeal hearing against Furse's suspension was scheduled for yesterday but was cancelled after Furse challenged one of the members of the panel, claiming a 'conflict of interest' may be present.
This entire stretch of the Aston Webb West-Wing was occupied, with a witness at the scene telling Redbrick that the reception had been closed since at least 9.30. The three floors include administrative offices and the Vice-Chancellor's office, all of which were inaccessible.
A first-year Chemistry student, who asked not to be named, was unable to access the building for their lecture, telling Redbrick they were 'annoyed' and that the occupation was a 'barrier to education'.
There were no visible signs of the occupation from outside the building, but security was present at the main entrance.
Defend Education's demands
- That David Eastwood and the University of Birmingham should publicly take back their position that fees should be increased and that bursaries should be cut. Instead, they should lobby the government for education to be free, and for the implementation of living grants.
- That a body should be set up made up of elected students, academic staff, and support staff. This should have ultimate oversight over the restructuring of departments, the University’s investment decisions, and its lobbying positions.
- That every student is offered accommodation which does not exceed the amount they receive in loans and grants
- That the university does not make a profit (or “surplus”) from the fees it charges for accommodation
- The reinstatement of Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers
- The lifting of the onerous and inhibitive restrictions on Hattie Craig
- That the University recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest, with a long and illustrious history
- That the University reforms its disciplinary procedures to include sentencing guidelines, a right for students to receive legal representation and a requirement that allegations be proved beyond reasonable doubt, instead of on the balance of probabilities