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Students occupy top floor of Senate House for university pension strikes

‘We will force a free and open discussion’

A number of students have occupied part of Senate House in protest at the university's failure to support its lecturers in the ongoing pensions dispute.

Students from the 'Student-Staff Solidarity' group occupied part of the fifth floor outside Vice Chancellor Hugh Brady's office at 7:20am this morning. The group is comprised of students who vociferously support the decision of the University and College Union to go on strike at proposed pension reforms by Universities UK.

In a press release, the group made a list of five demands. These included the Vice Chancellor endorsing the strike, no deductions in staff pay as a consequence of industrial action and "more transparent and accountable management". They also want restrictions on the occupation to be removed and for their efforts to "be taken seriously".

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The protesters are from the 'Student-Staff Solidarity Group'

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Protesters have brought supplies in preparation for a length wait

University management will now only let individuals out of the building but will not let anyone in. The Tab sent a reporter along to try and speak to the students in person. However campus security refused, blocking lifts and citing orders to refuse to let anyone in anyway involved with the strikes up to the fifth floor.

The action is part of a wave of occupations that are occurring across the UK today. The "Student Solidarity Action with UCU Strike" Twitter account shared pictures from similar events in Exeter and Leicester earlier. Last Tuesday Bristol Students' Union passed a motion at the Annual Members' Meeting in support of the strikes, with over 95 per cent voting in favour.

Senate House serves as the key administrative hub of the university, with both the Fees and Education Administration Offices being based there. The building has previously been the focus of university discontent- in 1968 a number of students launched an 11-day sit-in at the Senate House for higher student grants.

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Protesters went over to the balcony to fly banners outside the building

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Security declined to let our reporter speak to protesters in person

Talking to The Tab over social media, occupier and first year Maths and Philosophy student Ruth Day said: "Hugh Brady’s response to the pension dispute was not good enough nor clear enough, and he has not listened to the collective voice of students and staff."

"We have not seen any action on his part in the week since speaking to him in Senate so have gone into occupation to demand he come out in full support of his staff; it is time for University management to stand in solidarity with its staff and students, give staff a fair pension and wage, and fight the increasing marketization of the Higher Education sector."

Second year history student and fellow occupier Luke Tyers added: "The attitude is shocking amongst management and we can no longer allow them to get away with ignoring the demands of the workers, with nothing but empty statements in response. We will force a free and open discussion where we push our demands openly onto Hugh Brady."