Protestors hang a banner out of a window in Old Schools' building during the occupation this morningRosie Bradbury

It is alleged a group of around 50 students, including Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), this morning entered Old Schools, the main administration site for the University, and are currently occupying two floors.


Mountain View

Live: Vice Chancellor Toope’s Open Meeting

CDE, the student-led activist group which fights alongside staff for an “empowering […] vision of education”, claim the action follows two weeks of refusal by the University to enter into negotiations with UCU and was “taken by students in support of striking staff, and was part of the escalation to pressure the university into accepting UCU demands”.

The news comes as the staff strikes enter their third of four weeks while UCU’s demands have still not been met. The dispute surrounds fairer staff contributions to the the USS pension scheme and improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

Last week Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope held an Open Meeting to address the industrial action, at which he hinted University recognition of UCU may be on the table. But CDE dubbed the meeting “deeply inconclusive”.

A group of students occupying Old Schools this morningCDE

The protestors, which also included members of Cambridge’s Marxist Society, entered Old Schools through the front doors at 9.15 am this morning. The group allege security reacted “fairly calmly” once they were inside and have left the premises after around half an hour.

“Students have now taken it into their own hands, by entering into the halls of power, occupying the rooms where decisions are failing to be made,” said a spokesperson for CDE.

The group have informed Varsity they do not plan to leave the premises until all their demands are satisfied. They currently have five demands, but are meeting within the next hour to discuss whether they want to add any more demands too.

In full CDE's demands so far

1. The Vice Chancellor should make a public statement, calling on national employers’ bodies UUK and UCEA to meet UCU’s demands.

2. The Vice Chancellor should make a public statement setting out the University of Cambridge’s plans to meet the national UCU demands.

3. The University of Cambridge should officially recognise Cambridge UCU.

4. There should be no attendance monitoring of any kind during the strike period, to ensure migrant students and workers can participate in strike action

5. There should be no disciplinary action against students or staff for action in support of the strike

Click to show

“While students are sat here in peaceful protest, Stephen Toope is sitting on an annual salary of £475,000 yet lecturers and academic staff are seeing the hours they put into work going unpaid and undervalued.”

“Taking this space, which is normally sealed away behind locked doors and security guards, for the true community of the university represents a democratisation of space,” they added.

In response to the occupation, a University spokesperson told Varsity that they “are aware that a group of students have blocked themselves into a staircase and some meeting rooms”, but that “the business of the University carries on as normal”.