UCL students protest in support of striking lecturers
Students support overworked academics in week-long occupation
12 March, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
Isaac Hanson, 19 at the occupation
STUDENTS were yesterday (Wednesday) into their third day of a protest occupation of a main university building in a show of support for striking lecturers.
The demonstration at UCL in Bloomsbury by a group of University of London students who call themselves “Liberate the University” is part of a national move to support ongoing industrial action on higher education campuses.
Lecturers and university staff backed by the University College Union are striking for 14 days over pay, pensions and the casualisation of their contracts.
Students began their protest at UCL at 7am on Monday by blocking the Provost’s office.
They were joined on Monday by protesters from King’s College London.
Isaac Hanson, 19, said: “We are supporting the lecturers’ peaceful protest. I think people don’t know about this stuff but once they hear about it they are keen to show support.”
Stefan Sarchadzhiev, 19, who studies politics and social studies at UCL, said: “The staff can only do so much in strikes. They are more limited in their action than we are. A lot of my lecturers are striking and I want to help out as much as I can.”
Political commentator Owen Jones visited the occupiers on Monday and delivered a speech opposing the “marketisation of universities”.
Students want an end to contracts in which staff are not paid over the summer months, stripping them of vital research time and financial pressures at home. A maximum 35-hour work week for all staff is another demand.
“Our lecturers are tired,” they said in a statement. “We are tired of seeing our lecturers’ workloads grow at the same time as their pay falls.”
A UCL press official said: “We respect the right of our students to peaceful protest and are monitoring the situation to ensure there is minimal disruption to the university’s day-to-day operations.
“The protest appears to be linked to a number of issues, including the national dispute over pay and pensions which is negotiated nationally by two representative bodies for the majority of universities.
“UCL supports further talks and will engage fully in any negotiations.”