Published: 6th May, 2011
by PAVAN AMARA
SECURITY guards scuffled with a pensioner and students yesterday (Thursday) as hundreds demonstrated against cuts at London Metropolitan University in Holloway.
Dozens of students occupied the Tower building – designed by leading architect Daniel Libeskind – while outside others supported them with banners reading “Save our Humanities”.
The university announced before Easter that 70 per cent of courses would be cut, from 557 to 160. As many as 10,000 student places could disappear at the university over the next three years. History and philosophy, and performing arts are the two courses facing the biggest cuts.
Organiser Claire Locke said demonstrators wanted to see the university meet a list of demands, including retracting its decision to cut courses.
She demanded direct communication with vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies.
Dozens of students began the occupation of the Holloway Road building at 2pm on Wednesday.
“Security guards now won’t let anyone into the building to give them food supplies or toilet rolls, and they’ve turned the heating off so they’re all freezing cold in there,” Ms Locke said.
“But they’re going to hang on in. Some of the students have already missed exams that happened yesterday, and they slept in there last night, but the thing is, if we don’t occupy then there will be no courses to come back to next year anyway.”
Loreen Jack, 18, a performing arts student, said she had been told she may have to move to another city if she wanted to continue studying her subject.
“But I won’t be able to carry on if I’m transferred to somewhere like Manchester,” she said.
Lecturers, who did not wish to be named, said they had discovered they would be losing their jobs after the courses they taught were not listed by UCAS [the clearing house for university applications].
“We still haven’t received the redundancy letters,” said one lecturer. “We’ve just put two and two together and heard lots of rumours. Some of us have been working here over 20 years, and it shows such a lack of respect to not even tell us what’s going on.”
A few hours into the demonstration, security guards scuffled with 66-year-old pensioner David Mellows. He claims they shoved him into a wall and grabbed his arm.
“All I wanted to do was talk to some of the occupiers, and I was walking in very peacefully,” said Mr Mellows.
“Then suddenly, these two big men attacked me, and I was a bit scared. They could have just told me in a reasonable way.
“I’m here to prove I’m united with the students. When I was at university it was about how clever you were, not about how rich your mummy and daddy were. The government paid for you. Now if you’re bright and working class there’s no chance.”
Mr Gillies told students in a statement: “There is much misinformation about. Please ask your course leader about any questions you may have. We will give you more information in coming weeks.
“I want to reassure you that for all existing students we have obligations to you and your course. In the coming weeks we will notify you how these obligations will be met – through teaching out the old courses while bringing in the new.”
On Saturday morning, staff and students at the university’s Graduate Centre will be holding a “teach-in” looking at alternatives to the coalition government’s educational policies.