Students occupy Queen’s in protest at privatisation of student loans

Students occupy Queen’s in protest at privatisation of student loans

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A group of students are currently occupying Queen’s Building in protest at the privatisation of student loans.

The students assembled in The Forum but relocated to the Senior Common Room. There are currently over 20 students occupying the room and the group intend to remain until Friday.

A general meeting is in progress to decide the group’s concrete objectives.  Though it is an independent protest, it has received cross-society support. Action is also being taken against the issue at over 45 campuses across the U.K.

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Image credit: Olivia Luder

George Osborne announced that the Conservatives would be privatising student loans in his Autumn Statement in early December. The Conservatives plan to use the sale of the pre-2010 student loan book to fund a significant number of extra university places leading to outcry from student campaigners.

At the time, NUS vice president for higher education, Rachel Wenstone said: “Using the sale of public assets to fund this project is a short-term fix because the current student loans system is completely unsustainable and this selling of public assets is stacking up problems for the next generation.”

The occupation is part of an Exeter Week of Action, as promoted through Facebook. As well as the occupation, the week includes a ‘Free University’ demonstration with students demonstrating the kind of university they would want with talks and workshops on a variety of topics.

This follows from a previous protest last term where students occupied the Senior Common Room of the Queen’s Building in solidarity with a national university staff strike.

An anonymous student occupier told Exeposé: “The occupation is part of a national week of action across 45 campuses against the privatisation of the student loan-book, in defence of the right to protest which has come under threat in recent months at the universities of London, Sussex and Birmingham among others, and against an increasing debt burden on students.

The occupation coincides with other occupations and actions being carried out by students across the country to demonstrate against the planned privatisation. Locally the occupation aims to put the issue firmly on the table in the sabbatical elections that coincide with it, so that whoever is elected to lead the guild in the coming year and students in general will be in a strong position to take part in a national campaign on the issues of privatisation, student debt, and the right to protest.”

A spokesman for the University of Exeter said: “Students have occupied a common room on the University’s Streatham Campus since Monday evening as part of a peaceful protest over proposals to privatise the student loan book.

“We respect student’s right to protest provided they do so in a safe, legal and considerate manner.”

Olivia Luder, Online Editor

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