“For years, people have called for an end to student apathy,” says one of the organisers of the 10-day occupation at Edinburgh University, “but now, look: it’s really happened. And we hope the student occupations will inspire trade unions to use their power and resources to support the anti-cuts movement.”
More than sixty students had been occupying the Appleton Tower in the centre of Edinburgh University’s campus. When they began the action, only they and the UCL students were in occupation, but the movement quickly snowballed until hundreds of students were involved, on scores of campuses around the UK.
“We never felt alone,” says the Edinburgh activist, “670 lecturers signed a petition supporting our action, we had messages of solidarity from all over the world and trade unionists from around Edinburgh gave us practical help and advice.”
The students ended their occupation on Friday night. It was a positive decision, taken because the university administration had agreed to meet them to discuss their demands (including no compulsory redundancies among staff and no victimisation of activists) and also because the Appleton Tower is scheduled to be used for a slew of end-of-term exams from next week.
But this is only the beginning.
Tens of thousands of students and university staff will be back on the streets next week for the Commons vote on tuition fees. It is time now for trade unions urgently to fix a detailed timetable of action to take the anti-cuts and anti-austerity campaign well into next year.
The student occupations have lit a fire under the whole movement – they have shown all of us the power of resistance.
The cuts are not inevitable - now is the time for all of us to get off our knees.
By Pete Murray, President, National Union of Journalists