Oxford Brookes students have set up camp at the university’s Gipsy Lane campus in protest against higher tuition fees and the fee waiver system. They have been staying since Friday the 18th April and have written an open letter to Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor at the university, listing their demands.
The protestors raised concerns that “future generations are being sold out by the Government” and announced, “the Government is currently dismantling and destroying the Higher Education system in the UK.” They oppose “the privatisation of Higher Education in general“ and therefore called on the university to “make a public statement condemning the hike in tuition fees” and to declare “support for the principle of free public education.”
A further complaint raised dissatisfaction at the university’s fee waiver and bursary package. The protestors have labelled the system of fee waivers a “con trick” that will make little impact since “most students get their debt written off before they pay it all back”. Rather, they propose more bursaries, to give students “money now, when you need it.”
Finally, the students suggested that academics are being given too little freedom to organise teaching; they wish to see an end to “the increasingly centralised management style.”
Oxford Brookes university have released a statement saying, “we believe we offer a sector-leading package of support for students”, including “a very strong package of bursaries, which are cash in hand and don’t have to be paid back.” The university also cited their programmes to support students experiencing financial hardship and their “continued funding of outreach schemes into schools that have low levels of higher education participation.”
The protestors are currently waiting on a reply to their letter of demands and are keeping spirits up with various workshops and entertainment, including sing-alongs, samba classes and debates about the education cutbacks.
The Occupy Brookes movement is optimistic that the university will give their demands careful consideration and believe their requests are achievable: “certainly we’ve yet to see a compelling argument against ditching fee waivers, and other universities have done it so it must be feasible.”
Oxford university students have greeted the news with mixed support. Some agree that bursaries are a better form of financial assistance than fee waivers, while an anonymous 1st year commented, “if the Brookes students care so much about education, they should pack up their tents and get on with their work.”
In response to such criticism, members of the Occupy movement maintain that they are committed to their studies and it is a mark of the “critical importance” of this issue that they have begun this occupation, despite “lectures, seminars, coursework deadlines and exams looming.”