Student occupation at Reading University. Photo: Twitter/UoRMarxSoc Student occupation at Reading University. Photo: Twitter/UoRMarxSoc

Joining a wave of student occupations that look set to escalate this week, students at Reading University have begun an occupation in solildarity with striking lecturers

Follow our live updates of student occupations around the country.

As we enter the final week of the current UCU strikes which will be a full five-day walkout, students across the country are showing their solidarity by occupying buildings at the universities and demanding that their Vice Chancellors change their position on the proposed cuts to USS.

This morning students at Reading University have joined the wave of occupations and have set up inside the Whiteknights building at the university. A statement released by Aristidis Shukuroglou, Thomas Marriott and Emil-Dorian McHale of the University of Reading Marxist Society shortly after beginning the occupation reads:

We are holding a peaceful occupation of the Whiteknights building in the University of Reading. This is to show solidarity to the lecturers who are trying to fight against the changes to their pensions.

After a very successful picket, we students have entered and occupied the Vice Chancellor’s office building and stood up for what is right! We are here to make our voices heard. As a unified body, we will stand our ground against pension cuts and will do so until our demands are properly received and considered.

Today we have proved, through our perseverance, that we will not stand for any attacks against what universities stand for. Students should show their solidarity towards the strikers and join the occupation or support it online.

We are not enemies of the university – we are defending it.

If cuts like these are materialised without any form of resistance by the student body and the university staff, anything is possible. We must not allow this to happen.

Students and lecturers should stand in unison. We both have the same goal in this battle. Education over profits. Our fight is against pension cuts and student fees!

The statement goes on to make 6 clear demands of Reading University:

1 The Vice Chancellor brings in an independent advisory board of experts to take a new look at the risk evaluation of the USS pension scheme. The academic integrity of the research does not hold up to any University standards, therefore decision to slash pensions by 40% is invalid and absurd.

2 All with-held strike pay should be allocated to student services, disability and mental health services.

3 The university must engage with the UCU specifically around the Hourly Paid staff as a separate issue from the rest of the pension scheme. Those that are striking on an Hourly Paid contract are showing an exemplary level of solidarity to the Industrial Action strike. They clearly indicate the severity of these cuts in terms of the larger picture – the future of university education.

4 The university must remove all content covered in lectures that went ahead on strike days, so as to not penalise students who stood, and are standing, in solidarity with UCU workers.

5 The university must become fully democratic with a horizontal organization, where all university staff and students must have the ability to control the University’s decisions.

6 For the Vice Chancellor to resign. The university has held a vote of no confidence, where the vast majority of staff has voted for the resignation of the Vice Chancellor. We, the students, are now demanding his resignation as we do not see him fit in running our university’s future.

Last week the occupation at Bristol University ended after the students’ demands were met. UUK are pressed for time to reach a solution before the end of the week or face further industrial action during exam period. Taking this into account and the fact that public opinion is very much on the lecturers’ side, the bold actions of students will go a long way in piling on the pressure on Vice Chancellors to reverse their positions.

But we’ve seen the lengths the University will go to try and break the student occupation. So it is crucial that students taking this brave action get all the support they can possibly get. If you can, get down to an occupation, have a demonstration outside the building they’re occupying, and importantly, spread the word!

Follow our live updates of student occupations around the country.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.

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