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Students take control of buildings in strike solidarity

Image: StrathclydeGuy [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimdeia Commons

Scottish universities suffer student occupations as staff strikes continue

Students have occupied buildings at the University of Edinburgh and University of Strathclyde in solidarity with staff in the University and College Union strikes.

At the University of Edinburgh, students have taken over the ground floor concourse area of the David Hume Tower building, which contains seminar rooms and lecture theatres. Students at the University of Strathclyde (pictured) have blocked a lecture theatre.

The occupations started on 26 November, as strikes by the University and College Union entered their second day. Members of the UCU are on strike at 60 universities across the UK over pensions and pay disputes.

The row over pensions is based around increased contributions to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, while the argument on pay and conditions concerns salary rises and workplace issues, including casual contracts and the gender pay gap. The University of Edinburgh is one of 42 universities where UCU members are striking over both issues.

Students occupying a lecture theatre at the University of Strathclyde demanded an investigation into “rampant mismanagement” and “irresponsible fossil fuel investment” at the university, as well as the resignation of three senior managers, including principal and vice-chancellor Jim McDonald.

In Edinburgh, students occupying David Hume Tower set out a list of demands aligned to the UCU strike disputes, including fair pay and secure pensions for staff.

“Students of the University of Edinburgh have occupied David Hume Tower in solidarity with striking workers,” they wrote in a statement. “We will occupy the building until the demands put forward by the UCU have been met.

“Our university and quality of education is in continual decline due to the policies of the UK government and university management. We are here as students to express that we will no longer accept the further marketisation and commodification of education and teaching”.

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said it hoped further national negotiations on pensions and pay and conditions could resolve the dispute.

He added: "The University respects the right of staff to take industrial action, and we understand the strength of feeling among staff over the issues that have led to the planned action. However, the higher education sector as a whole faces economic challenges and pay and pensions need to be affordable and sustainable.

“We also have a duty of care to our students to keep any disruption to a minimum. We have measures in place to reduce the impact on our students and will offer them as much advice and support as possible.”

The University of Strathclyde has been contacted for comment.