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Year 2010 No. 60, December 6, 2010 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Student Occupations in Defence of the Right to Education

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Student Occupations in Defence of the Right to Education

Interview with a Participant in the Student Occupation of the Bodleian Library Building, Oxford

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Student Occupations in Defence of the Right to Education

Up and down the country, students have staged occupations and demonstrations in defence of the right to education. Here are photos of some of them.

Occupation at Warwick University
Occupation at Warwick University

Occupation at Shwffields University
Demonstration at Sheffield University

Southbank University Southbank University
Southbank University


University College London

Cambridge Cambridge

School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

London Metropolitan University
London Metropolitan University

Slade Slade
The Slade School of Fine Art London

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Newcastle Univeristy
Newcastle University

All Together

Poster for Demonstration

Article Index

Interview with a Participant in the Student Occupation of the Bodleian Library Building, Oxford

Students from Schools, Colleges and Universities in Oxford occupied the iconic Radcliffe Camera building of the Bodleian library at Oxford University on November 24 as part of a national day of action voicing the demand that education is a right. Videos, photos and reports can be found at

and many other websites. WDIE interviewed a sixth-form student who took part in the occupation.

WDIE: What are the main issues in the current wave of student actions?
Student: Many students are very upset about the proposed rise in tuition fees and cuts to education funding in general. Us school students tend to also include the massive cutbacks to Education Maintenance Allowance as it's something which will directly affect us very soon.

WDIE: Why did you occupy the Radcliffe Camera?
Student: We occupied the Radcliffe Camera because it symbolises the Bodleian library – an institution which apparently holds one copy of every book written in the English language. This massive resource of human knowledge is then restricted to an élite clique of academics and students. Many students see this as fundamentally wrong.

WDIE: What happened?
Student: At first we gathered at Carfax Tower [which marks the city centre] and began marching down High Street. Everyone stopped at the Radcliffe Camera; I remember the march was very short. About twenty marchers jumped the fence and took the steps. I made my way to the fence and followed them, and by the time I'd made it to the Camera the steps were all taken up. There was then a small pause as those on the steps urged the marchers to jump over the fence and join them.

I made my way to the top of the steps and went inside the building. A democratic assembly was formed, based on consensus decision making, and one of their first decisions was to keep the doors open for as long as possible before closing them shut. Once the people outside knew it was safe to occupy a lot of them came inside.

WDIE: What support did you get and what was the response of the university management?
Student: We got loads of messages of solidarity from trade unionists and lecturers. They even contributed some food for the occupation. Obviously teachers couldn't officially support us, and they would never condone students leaving lessons to go and protest but despite this many were sympathetic. The librarians were quite co-operative, and we made sure not to bother them too much. University management was against the occupation, and they threatened disciplinary action against any students in the building. The University Proctors have since been appealing to those involved in the occupation to step forward and be fined for breaking university rules. So far nobody has been fined.

WDIE: What happened when the police were brought in to end the occupation?
Student: I was outside at the time, but I gather that they came up through an underground tunnel which leads into the Radcliffe Camera from Brasenose College. Those in the building were aware of the tunnel, but it wasn't seen as a possible entrance because the door leading into it was locked. The police used a battering ram to smash through the locked door and flush out protesters from the inside. Some protesters fled to other corners of the building and it took the police about an hour to completely empty the building. The only damage made to the building was carried out by the police, and they were the only ones to use violence. Along with the protest this Tuesday, students are waking up to the concept of the state as a repressive institution which maintains its role by violence and brutality. It is at times like these that the true nature of the system is revealed.

WDIE: The Metropolitan Police chief recently stated that the "game has changed" in policing student protests, echoing the infamous words of Tony Blair. Can you comment on this?
Student: It's clear that if the police want to act more aggressively to suppress peaceful protest, they will only escalate the situation. This escalation would be undesirable for both peaceful protesters and the police.

* * *

Statement from Students Occupying Radcliffe Camera in Oxford

We – students and residents of Oxford from a range of institutions and backgrounds – are occupying the Radcliffe Camera because we oppose all public sector cuts. We stand in solidarity with those who are affected by the cuts and those who are resisting them.

We believe that education should be public and free for all. To this end we demand that the University of Oxford reiterate its opposition to education cuts and commit to not increasing fees for any courses. We also demand that the University pledges never to privatise.

These demands are non-negotiable. We will only accept a response from the University in the form of a public statement by the Vice Chancellor to the national media.

The University should not pursue or support any action taken against those involved in this legitimate and peaceful form of protest.

We call upon other education institutions in Oxford and nationwide to publicly support these principles and demands.

This library is now open to all members of the public and we invite you to join us.

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