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Bristol protests continue on offer-holder visit day as occupiers leave Senate House

The occupation ended at 5:45pm today

Strikes and protests continued at the University of Bristol this morning, on a day when prospective students holding offers to study at the university were visiting the campus and deciding their future.

Pickets started at 8:30am in front of Wills Memorial Building where prospective students and their parents were checking in at the start of the visit day. Over 100 staff and current students gathered peacefully to talk to prospective students and parents about why they are striking.

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Prospective students and parents had to cross picket lines run by staff and current students

At the same time, more staff and current students were on campus running picket lines on Woodland Road where tours were being given to prospective students and parents.

At 10:30am, all protesters gathered for a rally at Wills Memorial Building to hear an update from the UCU on the progress being made, a short speech from the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity group, and a speech from a member of staff.

Protestors brought Clifton Triangle to a standstill

At approximately 11am, the rally left Wills Memorial Building, and the hundreds-strong crowd marched through the Triangle up to Senate House where student occupiers were meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hugh Brady.

While waiting to hear from the occupiers about the outcome of the meeting, protestors chanted, sang, heard more speeches, and continued to make their voices heard to the Senior Team of the university located five floors above their heads.

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Protestors moved around the building to ensure the VC could hear them

The final speech was given by Samar Khan from the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity group, who encouraged protestors to move around the building, directly below the room where the occupiers were meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, to ensure that he heard the voices of all those the students were speaking for.

Lecturers sing at Senate House

Staff and students sing "Hey Baby" outside VC offices today

Posted by The Tab Bristol on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Just after midday, the protest moved back to the entrance of Senate House where student occupiers Ruth Day and Alexander King updated protestors on the outcome of the meeting.

As a direct result of the meeting with the occupiers, Professor Hugh Brady emailed all students and staff shortly before 4:30pm to address the current "uncertainty" with the following statement:

"As the current industrial action has continued, I have heard deep concerns from many of you. I believe in the collegiality of our community, and I am committed to protecting this. I share your frustration that progress towards a sustainable outcome appears to be no closer."

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The email sent to students this afternoon

"With this uncertainty in mind, I am taking two immediate actions: Directly lobbying government to address the unfair divergence of the current sector schemes, whereby some are backed by government while USS is not. This difference is one of the key elements that have shaped the risk profile for the USS scheme and which impacts on the possible future pension benefits for staff."

"Writing to UUK, endorsing calls for an independent, expert advisory board to bring fresh thinking to the September and November valuation in support of a sustainable solution."

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Occupiers Ruth Day (c) and Alexander King (r) updated protestors

The Vice-Chancellor also clarified several key points of contention for the protestors regarding staff pay, including an effort to minimise immediate financial harm to staff on strike by "spread[ing] any withheld salary deductions over several payroll periods", and reiterating that any withheld pay will be "applied to student benefits".

On a day when the petition to reimburse students for lost lectures hit 5000 signatures, The Tab contacted the University of Bristol press office to clarify just how students will benefit. At the time of publication however, we are yet to receive a response.

As a result, the students occupying Senate House left at 5:45pm today. The University of Bristol has said the students "will not face disciplinary action as a result of this peaceful and respectful occupation" and that "they have had free access to meeting rooms, facilities and balcony".

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Today was a post-offer visit day for prospective students

However UoB did say that comments made at an earlier meeting which were tweeted out by the protesters "do not accurately reflect the discussion or our commitment to our staff and students who are at the very heart of our institution."

In a statement, the Senate House occupiers said: "We are satisfied that our position and demands have been well represented to the Vice Chancellor and members of the Senior Management Team, who have made concessions on their position due to our actions and negotiations, because of from our occupation."