Since the afternoon of Wednesday 30th November, Royal Holloway students have been occupying the corridor that houses university management’s offices in protest against the government white paper that could see immense damage done to higher education in its current form. SURHUL has been mandated to support the protest with three of the four sabbatical officers having an active presence during the occupation with only VPSA Jake Wells being conspicuously absent.
A fire alarm went off at 13:51 hrs, which some protestors believe was done to try and get them out. Some staff were still walking around during the alarm which aroused suspicion as to its authenticity. Occupy RHUL’s demands include: publicly condemning the white paper and calling for it to be withdrawn; to guarantee no course closures, job cuts, or redundancies; to offer bursaries to students who need them; and to guarantee no cuts to resources, such as the library.
RHUL Principal, Professor Layzell, made a statement at approximately 15:15 hrs during a meeting held with around forty protesters. He acknowledged that higher education faces a period of uncertainty over the coming years, but did not widely condemn the white paper, claiming that there are lots of things that are good in the white paper such as the repayment mechanics, and added that “Calling for the withdrawal of the white paper will result in more damage.”
Layzell continued, asserting that the university will continue to make representations about the paper as it can make programmes unsustainable and may result in the consideration of some programme closures – an unfavourable option for the university. The Principal claimed support for the broad thrust that there are a lot of things wrong with the white paper, but, regarding redundancies, could not guarantee anything.
Regarding bursaries and cuts to resources, the Principal said that within the money available, the university is committed to bursaries and raising funds through donors and reminded protestors of the plans to extend the Bedford Library over the next two years. Around thirty people stayed last night, and the protestors are planning to stay until their demands are met. At 08:20 hrs this morning, Vice President of Communications and Campaigns, Sarah Honeycombe, appeared on BBC Radio Surrey to outline the protestors’ wishes and debate with Paul Layzell. As of a meeting held at the end of the first day of occupation, they no longer plan on stopping management from going to their offices, but do plan to be disruptive. There are also plans that some evening lectures can be organised by way of entertainment, where like the protest, everyone is welcome to join.