Students at the University of Glasgow occupation are celebrating this week after Principal Anton Muscatelli conceded defeat in his attempt to impose swingeing cuts on the University.
The u-turn comes after six months of pressure exerted by students occupying the Free Hetherington led to concessions ensuring a new postgraduate club, no further cuts to courses and no compulsory redundancies at the University.
As part of the deal secured by the Free Hetherington occupation, students will be able to quiz Principal Muscatelli directly in a mass open meeting in October over the lack of perceived transparency of management decisions at the University.
In exchange the students will end their six-month sit-in at 13 University Gardens to allow management to convert the former postgraduate club into lecturing space.
Students say they are enthusiastic about the outcome:
“Six months after management refused to engage with us, we’ve finally won these demands. Direct action and direct democracy work – we’ve proved that and management have accepted it, which in itself is a huge achievement.” - James Humphries, 24, postgraduate philosophy student.
They were keen to emphasise that the end of the occupation does not spell the end for activism on campus:
“While we’ve achieved a lot on campus this year the fight absolutely does not end here. We will continue our campaign against tuition fees and ensure management keep their end of the bargain. We will be back” - Laura Jones, 24, history of art student.
On 1st February 2011, a group of students entered the disused former Hetherington Research Club on campus and pledged to remain in the building until their demands, which included no course cuts and the reopening the postgraduate club, were met. In the past six months, a large body of students and staff have continually kept up pressure.
For almost two-hundred days the students have been sleeping, studying and campaigning in the former postgraduate club. Their efforts have received international acclaim and attracted visits from celebrities including director Ken Loach, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead. A packed schedule of events, lectures and workshops has made the Free Hetherington a focal point on campus for thousands of students and members of the local community.
As the longest-running student occupation in UK history, the Free Hetherington has become a lasting symbol of the wave of anti-tuition fees protests and occupations that swept the country in December 2010.
Students will bring the occupation to a conclusion on Wednesday 31st August.
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A bullet point version of the agreement is available. A finalized version is being confirmed with management. In short:
1. No more course cuts.
2. No compulsory redundancies.
3. A new postgraduate club, to be opened in the next year.
4. No cuts for student services, a guarantee of transparency with the SRC (Student Representative Council).
5. A public meeting with the principal Anton Muscatelli, where students and staff may address their worries.
6. No repercussions from the University for staff or students involved in the occupation.
7. An assurance that no information will be volunteered to the police about people involved.