‘St Andrews Occupied’, a group opposed to the increase in tuition fees next year, have carried out two protests in recent weeks.
Following on from their occupation of the Samurai Garden on the Scores in October, the group occupied St Mary’s Quad, on November 2nd and St Salvator’s Quad on November 16th.
On each occasion, a small group of around 20 students set up camp for 36 hours to represent their opposition to increased tuition fees, which will reach £36,000 for students from the ‘Rest of the UK’ studying for a four year degree.
St Andrews Occupied states that this makes St Andrews the “most expensive university in Europe” due to the high living costs and four year degrees, and feel that the voices of students were ignored due to the decision being passed during the summer.
“The student representation in the University Court is completely insubstantial, and, while the rector sided with our representatives, the fee increase was passed in part by the fact that our University Court doesn’t have adequate representatives of the students it serves,” a St Andrews Occupied statement asserted.
“The undemocratic and underhand nature of the fee rise means we feel occupation is a legitimate measure.”
The occupation of St Salvator’s quad was the third in a series of occupations and the group said that they “have stated to the Principal that these occupations will continue regularly until there is some progress.” The occupations were peaceful and there were no serious incidents.
The protest in St Salvator’s Quad took place during a visiting day. As Lower Parliament hall is the starting point for prospective students, the protest provoked the attention of visitors. Significantly, these prospective students will be the first generation to pay fees of £9,000 a year.
A third year Geography student present at the occupation told The Saint, “by occupying we are showing potential students that the elitist reputation of St Andrews students is unfounded.
“We encourage those looking at the university to ask the awkward questions about funding that the University is trying to avoid answering. Our actions are based on our concern for the University that prospective students will inherit.”
The Students’ Association have stated their support for the movement, saying they “support all peaceful forms of expression. The SRC recently passed a motion condemning the rise in RUK fees as socially exclusive and extremely detrimental to the academic health of the University in the long term, as they will lead to the admission of the best of those who can pay rather than simply the best students. We resolved to support peaceful protest against the RUK fees, like this one.”
“Throughout the debate on RUK fees the student community has offered alternatives,” a Students’ Association press statement continued.
“[We have] expressed our views peacefully and debated the issue openly and reasonably. In short, where leadership on this issue should have come from university management and the Scottish government, they have tamely followed the failing path of the Conservative coalition while students have consistently shown innovation, integrity and courage.”