Andre Neely, Student activist, part of Occupy UAL
We were evicted from our University, but the fight isn’t over.
On April 13th students occupying Central Saint Martins in Kings Cross were forced to leave after the University of the Arts London management advanced into legal action and took its own students to court. Fifteen students were named in an injunction which prohibits the group from occupational protests in University campus again.
The occupation lasted close to a month, having started in the 19th of March, three days after hearing about UAL's Management plans to axe 580 places on Foundation courses and make dozens of staff redundant - this followed news of the government’s budget cuts to Further education courses. While in occupation, protesters campaigned for the cause across all UAL campus and tried to negotiate with management, never reaching an agreement. There was also in the occupation space an aim to recreate what an arts school should be through holding workshops and talks, and offering all the students a place to work with free printing and computers.
In one of the bigger actions during the occupation a group of 150 students marched to the London School of Communication (one of UAL’s colleges) and were greeted by the police which removed not only the protesters but all students from the building and closed the campus for the rest of the day.
Foundation Arts and Design (FAD) courses are very important for an artists’ development since they allow time to experiment across different mediums and techniques before enrolling on a specialised pathway of the Fine Arts or Design.
They are free for Home and EU students under 19 years old which allows access to education for students from lower income backgrounds. Attainment gap has also been a priority for the course and results have shown that BME students are more likely to achieve better results in this course or in the future, if they have studied FAD. This cuts will not only damage arts education, they are an alarming step further in the growing elitism and institutionalised racism present in the neoliberal university and the country's education system.
The main reason behind the occupation was the fight against the Cuts to Foundation Courses and staff redundancies but statements issued by Occupy UAL could read other demands regarding Free Education, No to Institutional Racism, Democratise the University and The Right to Protest. Most of this issues haven’t seen any acknowledgment by management in any stage of the negotiations.
Since the eviction we have been joining protests around London for Free Education and defending Further Education from the huge cuts happening nationally, planning new ways of pressuring UAL’s management to back down on the cuts to FAD courses and joining other actions protesting against issues that affect both workers and students such as housing, racism and living wage campaigns - the end of the occupation wasn’t the end of the protest for us.
We have also been working - together with the groups occupying the London School of Economics, King’s College London and Goldsmiths - in the Free University of London, a project supporting a more democratic educational process and critiquing the current state of Higher Education.
If you would like to support this cause, Occupy UAL has created an online petition demanding UAL to stop the cuts to Foundation courses.
You can sign it here: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-the-arts-london-stop-the-cuts-to-foundation-courses
If you’d like more information and to stay updated, you can find Occupy UAL on Facebook or follow us on twitter @OccupyUAL.
Student activist, part of Occupy UAL
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