Education

UAL student occupation ends after High Court ruling

A handful of the protesters who occupied UAL's St. Martin's campus for the last 4 weeks. Image: @OccupyUAL

A handful of the protesters who occupied UAL’s St. Martin’s campus for the last 4 weeks. Image: @OccupyUAL

The University Arts London has ended its 4-week long student sit-in after obtaining a High Court injunction.

The UAL students took over the reception area at the Central St. Martin’s site in Kings Cross.

The order prohibits named students carrying out ‘unlawful trespass’ on any of the university’s sites.

The catalyst for the occupation was the university’s plan to make cuts to over 500 foundation places in the next few years.

UAL Occupation demands. Image: OccupyUAL Facebook page

UAL Occupation demands. Image: OccupyUAL Facebook page

The occupiers have also been demanding free education, an end to alleged ‘institutionalised’ racism, to democratise the university and have the right to protest.

A petition against the cuts has attracted nearly 3,500 signatures.

UAL have been one of several London universities where students have staged protesting occupations in the last two months.

They occupied alongside LSE, Kings, and Goldsmiths, whose occupation of Deptford Town Hall came to an end this week.

Some UAL staff supported the occupiers, and wrote an open letter in solidarity which was published on the Occupy UAL Facebook page:

We are writing to express solidarity with students and Student Union reps who have been in occupation at Central St Martins over threats to Foundation courses across UAL. We regret the decision by the University to start legal proceedings and ask that those involved are treated with generosity and not be subject to financial or legal sanctions.

We believe further cuts to Foundation and Access programmes will have a damaging impact on students, staff, the ethos of the University, and the future of art education and visual culture in the UK. As such we welcome UAL’s offer of a representative joint review over the planned cuts. This signals a constructive and cooperative approach to the current situation and offers the opportunity for further dialogue about this very important issue.

However, despite this support, a negotiated settlement could not be reached, and an injunction was filed against the protesting students to remove them from the premises.

15 people have been named on the injunction, 7 of whom were elected student union representatives.

The students agreed to end the occupation to escape legal costs and further disciplinary action.

In a statement published on the university website, UAL Vice-Chancellor Nigel Carrington said:

It is a great shame that the protest had to be resolved in this manner, but we tried for nearly four weeks without success to negotiate with OccupyUAL.

Legal action was our last resort to protect the interests of the overwhelming majority of our students and staff and prevent further disruption as we head into the all-important summer term.

The university remains committed to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly within the law.

In a statement made to BBC 4, the president of the UAL Student Union Shelly Asquith said:

We haven’t lost, but we haven’t won yet. The fight continues, this beast has many heads and it won’t shut up, it won’t go away. We’re going to continue campaigning.

She further wrote on Facebook:

Today I stood inside a court representing activists who are defending education.

The fight to save foundation courses (as well as our right to protest) continues but today we managed to get the university to back down on serving us legal costs… I am very proud of our students today.

https://twitter.com/OccupyUAL/status/587944288853569536

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