Around 50 students from SOAS and UCL occupied the headquarters of Universities UK (UUK), the advocacy body for university managements, this afternoon.
The group staged a sit-in of the building’s reception area for over two hours with loud chants of “What do we want? Free education. When do we want it? Now” and discussions on what the future of education should look like.
Universities UK was chosen as a target for the action because of its association with the marketisation of education that has seen higher fees and a more business-like running of universities. The occupation was part of a ‘Day of Action’ called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts to co-incide with the Government’s economic announcements in the Chancellor’s autumn statement and follows the demonstration for free education which took place last month.
Campuses across the country also took part in action with occupations and sit-ins at Warwick, Lancaster, Sheffield, KCL, Sussex and Manchester among others.
Students had assembled outside SOAS at 1pm with the samba band for a “mystery action” in support of free education and in opposition to cuts to staff pensions before marching to the UUK headquarters on Tavistock Square. Protestors were able to push passed the security guards and assemble in the foyer area before the doors were locked by UUK staff. A further group of students from UCL joined shortly after and were able to force open the doors to join the occupation and students then barricaded the doors.
Although police were called and there were a number of vans filled with officers waiting outside, the police did not take action to evict the occupiers and no arrests have been made.
At the end of the occupation, students marched out of UUK chanting and were led by SOAS samba band back to Russell Square.