University of Manchester: Occupied!

Sarah Green, is a trainee educator, tenants union organiser and YCL North West member.

In addition to marking an unavoidable uprooting of the Tory party’s flaws and the neoliberal policies it answers to, 2020 marked the 10 year anniversary of the Milbank Revolt. On 10th November 2010, students marched in their tens of thousands to the Milbank Conservative Headquarters in resistance to the coalition government’s tripling of tuition fees and removal of the £30 per week Education Maintenance allowance scheme for post-16 education.

The National Union of Students had organised the event, which comprised of various anti-fascist organisations including the YCL.  They had marched in hopes of seeing these harsh austerity measures revoked. When it didn’t come into fruition, what followed was a historical moment of collective momentum that sent a shockwave to parliament – who responded with a fully optimized state-sanctioned crackdown – it left a trail of agency in its wake for the next decade of students to take forward.

Now in Manchester in 2020, in response to the government’s failure to protect the “partying students[i] they’ve sought to use as a means of circumventing responsibility for their strategic ineptitude and £12bn failed track and trace scheme, students are once again refusing to be diligent piggy banks for an increasingly-monopolised higher education system and the private property investors taking a generous chunk of capital from student-occupied halls during lockdown. With the majority of learning taking place online and vital resources such as library access significantly reduced, students now find themselves paying on average £200 per lecture whilst being confined to rooms hundreds of miles from home.

9k4what demand more: Full compensation of rent for semester one, partial reimbursement of semester one tuition fees, adequate living conditions for students living in halls, priority testing for students on campus, and better provision for mental health services. With the recent occupation of Owens Tower[ii] gaining insurmountable traction and solidarity from universities throughout the country, students and university staff across Manchester are demonstrating that organised people power is the only driving force that will meet these demands.

With the third recession since 1990 pending and the government’s seizing of any opportunity to compartmentally privatize the NHS in response to chronic out-sourcing, it’s once again inexorably transparent that people will never take precedent over profit as far as the Tories are concerned. We are under no illusions that we can reason with people for whom people are not a concern – we must demand it. From Blair’s promise of no loan top-up fees in 2004 to the coalition government’s tripling of the same fees 6 years later, these ‘promises’ are vapid gestures of sophistry designed to divert from the damning attacks these austerity measures really have on students living in precarity. In response to the equally callous treatment of students during the pandemic, 9k4what says this: No, will not be used as a scapegoat for the Tory’s abject failure to protect the public’s livelihood.

Sarah Green



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