In pictures: Student occupations happening right now at four unis around the country
They’re demanding rent refunds
Students at four universities around the country have launched campus occupations in protest over their treatment by their universities this year.
Groups of students at Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam are occupying university buildings. Amongst other things, they’re demanding rent refunds, tuition fee rebates, an end to university staff job cuts, and an end to the increased security measures and police patrols they’ve seen on campus.
They’re having to contend with university security, and having meetings with university and SU officials regarding their demands. But they’ve got makeshift sleeping areas with pillows and sleeping bags, places to shower, “plenty of food”, and are being sent food deliveries by people supporting them.
This year, students have proved that occupations work. Last term, a group of students occupying Owens Park Tower at Manchester Uni won a 30 per cent rent refund for semester one, for all students living in halls. Every student in Manchester halls won over four weeks’ rent – up to £900 – back.
These pictures and videos show what it’s like in the four student occupations, happening right now at unis around the country:
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “A small number of students are currently occupying an area in one of our buildings without permission. Staff are on site to ensure safety and welfare. We would ask that the students leave. We understand that some of our students have concerns and we are continuing to work closely with their elected representatives.”
A University of Nottingham spokesperson said: “Staff and students can continue to access the building, and we are monitoring the situation to ensure students protest peacefully and safely. In this most challenging of years for the country, we are doing everything we can to support students’ education, welfare and finances during the national lockdowns and restrictions.
“The University has not charged for unused accommodation since January and has made more than £1.75 million available to support students facing financial difficulties resulting from the pandemic. While we will facilitate peaceful and respectful protest, we will not be negotiating or considering any demands from unofficial protest groups.”
A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: “We fully support students’ rights to express their views through peaceful protest, and are committed to continuing dialogue with the protesters. Senior staff from the University and Hallam Students’ Union Officers met today (Friday) with the three student protesters currently occupying the building to continue those conversations. We have also provided them with access to facilities on-site.
“The University itself does not own any accommodation and is not a landlord. However, we want to support students who are understandably concerned about paying for accommodation they may not be able to use during the pandemic, so are working closely with accommodation providers to try and ensure that tenancy agreements reflect the current circumstances.”
A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “The University of Sheffield supports the ability of students to express their views peacefully within the law. However the University does not condone occupation of a building which causes disruption for other students and we would ask those in occupation to leave. We understand this has been an incredibly difficult year for students and throughout the pandemic we have been working hard to support them in the best possible way.
“As part of this continued support, the University has not charged rent to students who are unable to make use of their University owned or managed accommodation due to the government’s restrictions and has established a £3 million Covid Support Fund for those facing financial difficulties.
“While the University cannot control the decisions of private landlords, we are continuing to work closely with the Students’ Union to ensure we are providing students with the most effective and appropriate support.”
Featured image via Twitter @lumnic