FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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  • Education activists occupy brand new multi-million conference building
  • Occupation started 2nd December 2016, 7:30am
  • Students are protesting against Warwick’s participation in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework, casualisation of academic staff, and repression of protest

At around 7:30am this morning (2nd December 2016), the brand new Slate building at the University of Warwick was occupied by student activists from Warwick For Free Education. The occupied conference facility cost £5.3 million to build, and is used for external corporate events, not student activities. It was intended to open for conference bookings next week.

The occupiers are taking direct action to protest three key demands.

Education activists have previously tried to stop the University participating in the government’s optional Teaching Excellence Framework, which will see increased tuition fees and staff being judged by a set of metrics including the National Student Survey (NSS), which Warwick students have recently voted to boycott. Students have passed democratic policy through the Students’ Union (SU) against the TEF, academic staff passed a motion opposing these reforms at an historic meeting of the Assembly, and the SU forced an extraordinary meeting of the Senate at which a formal vote on submission to the TEF was denied. Occupiers claim there is now no choice but to deploy tactics of direct action to force the University to change its position.

Students are also demanding that the University agrees to the 6 demands for fair teaching conditions set out by the group Warwick Anti-Casualisation, citing that these demands are crucial not only for the right of workers but also for quality of education.

In addition, the occupiers are demanding an apology from the University for their handling of the events of December 3rd 2014, when police violently broke up a sit-in for free education with CS gas and tasers; an incident which was condemned by Amnesty International and led to a thousand-strong protest the following day as well as an occupation of a University building by hundreds of students. After refusing to engage with the demand of occupiers at the time, the University took out an unprecedented injunction banning all occupational-style protest on campus, which activists demand is overturned.

Kat Hall, Warwick For Free Education activist, said, “We have campaigned through every possible method, and the university has left us with no other options. With their reforms, this government wants universities to be run like businesses and students to be treated as nothing more than consumers. We cannot allow that to happen.”

Christian König, first year PAIS & Global Sustainable Development student said, “The injunction is a violation of all students’ basic right to protest, and is an immoral move by the university to block students from expressing their legitimate concerns about what’s happening here at Warwick and beyond. It needs to go.”

Marie Dams, member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said, “Casualisation of staff is an ongoing issue at Warwick and the University needs to change its ways. The demands staff are making are about basic fundamental rights and students should stand fully behind their campaign.”

Warwick For Free Education’s full statement can be read here: https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/statement-of-occupation/

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