Protesters display banners during the silent protestAndrew Griffin

Cambridge academics today held a silent protest outside Great St Mary’s Church in opposition to the coalition government’s higher education policies.

Academics, Students, University Staff and members of the public convened outside the church at noon to hold a three-minute silence.  There were approximately 250 people in attendance.

The protest was organised by CACHE: Cambridge Academic Campaign for Higher Education. They describe themselves as a “group of academics and members of the Regent House (the official governing body of the University), who have come together to address the challenges posed by the ongoing attacks on British universities and university funding.”

Standing in front of the railings around the Old Schools and Senate House, the protestors held banners with slogans such as “We are the many, they are the few” and “CACHE not Cash” as they staged their silence.

Old Schools is a symbolic choice for the site of the protest due to it being the administrative centre of the university. It was also the location of the peaceful occupation that took place at the end of Michaelmas term last year.

Master of Trinity College, Baron Rees of Ludlow, at the protestAndrew Griffin

A notable attendee of the protest was Baron Rees of Ludlow, Master of Trinity College. Speaking to Varsity, Lord Rees said he was in attendance of the protest with other academics because “We are concerned about the university system in general, not just Cambridge. We think it is right that the students should pay part of the cost of university, as the benefit is to both the student and the public. However there is a concern that there is no money under the new system especially for humanities.”

He added, “I support the way the university has handled the situation and the Vice Chancellor’s Statement. The university is fully concerned with the students’ matters.”

Other academics in attendance were more critical of the way the university has handled the government’s proposals. Speaking to Varsity, Dr. David Hillman of King’s College said “We are trying to put across the point that we feel the University’s response has been insufficient and too meek in relation to government’s cuts.”

He added, “Cambridge University should lead in the opposition of the Browne Report’s attempt to turn universities into market-based institutions.”

A number of academic-related staff also took part in the protest including Bruce Beckles, a member of staff for the university computing services. He said “Its really important to show academic-related staff are concerned about what’s happening and show that we stand in solidarity with the academics and our students.”

A university spokesperson said, “The University respects academics’ rights to a peaceful protest.”