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- Warwick For Free Education occupiers to leave the Slate building by the end of the day after accepting offer from University management
- The University commits to scrapping the protest injunction and issues apology for their handling of the events of December 3rd 2014, as well as committing to amending campus trade union recognition agreement so that all hourly-paid academic staff can have full UCU representation
- Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor, to publish press release criticising government’s higher education reforms
At around 10am this morning (16th December 2016), University of Warwick Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft released a public statement detailing an agreement that had been reached between senior management and student protesters. This follows a two week-long occupation of the Slate, a brand new £5.3 million conference building, by a group of free education activists who were protesting against the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework, casualisation of academic staff, and repression of protest.
In the statement, the Vice-Chancellor gives an apology for the University’s handling of the events of December 3, 2014, which saw a student sit-in broken up violently by police. The University has also pledged to legally scrap the protest injunction that has been imposed indefinitely across the whole of campus since December 2014. These wins represented full concession to the third demand of the occupiers.
The University has also committed to initiating a process, alongside campus trade unions, by which the recognition agreement between the University and the Warwick University and College Union (UCU) branch will be amended to include all hourly-paid academic staff. This will mean casualised teachers will be included in the remit of UCU’s formal negotiation and collective bargaining processes, which occupiers noted as a win which would hugely strengthen the capability of hourly-paid staff to organise collectively. The Vice-Chancellor also agreed to meet with representatives of Warwick Anti-Casualisation in January to start a dialogue around their 6 demands campaign.
Though the University has refused to overturn their decision to opt into the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework, which was the original first demand of the occupiers, the Vice-Chancellor has publicly acknowledged that the TEF is fundamentally flawed and not fit-for-purpose, and that the University is opting into it because of the government’s threats around restrictions on international students. The Vice-Chancellor has further committed to publishing a press release detailing his concerns around the government’s HE Bill and the marketisation of higher education, as well as incorporating views raised by students and staff in the Warwick community. Occupiers have claimed that forcing senior management to be open about their decision to opt in to TEF and to publicly criticise the government’s reforms represents a significant win for accountability and transparency at the University.
Alicia Shearsby, Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) activist, said, “The scrapping of the injunction and the apology for December 3, 2014 are hugely significant for activists who are still impacted by the events of that day, and who have fought so hard for this victory for over two years. It also represents a massive win for the fundamental freedom to protest on campus.”
Arianna Tassinari, PhD student at Warwick, said, “Full UCU representation for all hourly-paid staff will mark an incredibly important step in the campaign for fair working conditions for casualised teachers. It is a win which could be replicated across the sector, and we hope will provide a springboard for further victories in the future.”
Connor Woodman, National Committee member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), said, “This win by Warwick activists demonstrates just how powerful and effective collective direct action can be. At a time when there are so many challenges facing students and staff in higher education, it is crucial to remember what radical grassroots organising can achieve.”
The student activists have highlighted their intentions to continue campaigning around these key issues following the success of the occupation.
Warwick For Free Education’s full statement can be read here: https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/statement-occupation-ends-with-big-concessions-from-management-but-the-struggle-continues/
The University’s statement can be read here: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/statement_from_stuart/