UK Student movement

Workers' Liberty students

Student activists in Workers' Liberty argue for working class socialist ideas and campaign on issues like freedom of movement, anti-racism, workers' rights, international solidarity and free movement. Every Monday from 11 January until 23 March 2021: Workers' Liberty Students will be holding informal online political discussions on a wide range of topics with the emphasis on current and relevant struggles. Meeting time is 6-7pm. Monday 18 January from 6pm: Lessons of the 2010 fee strike Speaker: Michael Chessum, socialist activist, centrally involved in the 2010 movement, and founder member of...

University rent strikes escalate

Groups of students at around fifty unis are now withholding rent for halls of residence, or about to start doing so. The advice to most students not to return to campus until mid-February at earliest has given the rent strike wave fresh impetus. What’s the point of paying for accommodation you can’t use for at least six weeks and possibly longer? The movement is beginning to consolidate organisation, with meetings being held, reps elected and a national network. The grievances, anxieties and consequently demands for undergraduates go beyond paying for accommodation that isn’t occupied. They...

Rent strikes at 40 universities

At the start of 2021 rent strikes are planned at up to 40 universities. Thousands of students will withhold rent as it falls due throughout January; the campaigns are demanding 30% or 40% rent rebates and many other demands. Unions and the Labour Party and other students not involved in the strikes should back the action. It can spearhead a push to reverse the disastrous course managers and government pursued in higher education last year. The government is shifting; but it is too little and too late. Rent strikes have come as the Tories have issued last minute advice to UK universities and UK...

A dozen or more rent strikes

In the last week of the first term, groups from more universities are joining the wave of rent strikes. They will withhold rent payments due in January 2021. Students at a dozen universities, possibly more, are now involved. On Wednesday 2 December, a London demonstration, called by the cross-capital Liberate the University group and backed by the National Union of Students (NUS), was attended by 150 or more, with Goldsmiths, UAL (University of the Arts, London), and King’s students leading the mobilisation. In Manchester, the same week, where there are two ongoing rent strikes at Manchester...

Win for Manchester students

Following protests, a still-ongoing rent strike and a two-week occupation, Manchester University students have won a 30% rent reduction for semester one. This will cost the university around £12 million, making it the biggest win for student rent strikers in the UK. The student union will now hold a vote of no confidence in Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell, and the rent strike will continue next term. Students at Manchester Metropolitan, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, Cambridge, York, Nottingham, Bristol and Queen Mary universities are getting organised for a January rent strike, with more universities...

Student rent strikes spread

On 23 November, students at Cambridge University were the latest group to declare they will refuse to pay their rent for their university accommodation until certain demands are met. Cambridge rent strikers join groups at Manchester (who are also occupying a university building) and at Bristol currently not paying rent; other student groups have either pledged to strike in January or are planning to strike if demands are not met (York, Edinburgh, Goldsmiths). Cambridge are demanding: a 30% rent reduction; all students allowed to study remotely should they wish to; no Covid-19 job losses; no...

More student battles brewing

In the week starting 16 November, groups of students are organising workshops, banner drops, and email campaigns to highlight high rents, draconian lockdowns, and general lack of support at UK Universities. The National Union of Students (NUS) is promoting and encouraging local events, but has stopped short of calling for a national campaign of rent strikes. From 12 November, students at Manchester escalated their rent strike by occupying Owens Park Tower. The occupiers say: “We were lied to and brought onto unsafe campuses, forced to pay insane rent for facilities we can’t even access. We’ve...

Students organise towards January

As lockdown began, the Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan reassured students, contrary to other advice coming from the government (!), that universities should carry on with in-person teaching. Meanwhile many students have voted with their feet, opting to return to parental homes to study online. Can students win what they need to rescue their academic year from university management incompetence? On Tuesday 17 November, as part of a week of action, the National Union of Students (NUS) plans a series of online “Town Hall” meetings with local MPs, to publicise their...

Biggest rent strike for years

At the start of this week (26 October) around 1,300 students at Bristol University withheld their rent for uni accommodation, amounting to around £2 million. This is the biggest student rent strike for many years. Bristol students, who pay up to £8,000 a year, were promised the “full university experience” only to be locked down for weeks without adequate support. The Bristol strike is more advanced than others that are being planned around the UK. Strikers are demanding the right to end accommodation contracts early and a 30% rebate if they chose to stay. At Durham University 7.5% of students...

Bail out universities and students

It is hard to imagine a more chaotic start to the university term than the one that’s now unfolding. After Covid-19 outbreaks in Glasgow and Manchester hundreds of students are confined to halls of residence with flatmates they have known for barely a fortnight. At Leeds, security staff have been patrolling with dogs on the look-out for breaches of household mixing rules. Manchester Metropolitan University had to apologise after locked-down students were told to take down protest messages displayed on hall windows, and is facing legal action after students in lockdown were apparently prevented...

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