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UPDATE: Students occupy Brookes' campus
The students are protesting against the planned increase in tuition fees, which will see degree courses at Brookes costing £9,000 per year, and about the university’s fee waiver and bursary package.
At noon yesterday, undeterred by heavy downpours, about 25 students set up tents and banners outside the reception at Brookes’s Gipsy Lane campus.
More were expected to join them overnight.
Rosalind Glennie, who is studying politics and international relations, said she planned to camp at the site indefinitely to mirror other Occupy encampments that have set up in cities across the world, most famously outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The 24-year-old said: “We are here because we think what’s happening to higher education is terrible.
“At Brookes, the fee waiver scheme they are bringing in is really inadequate. They are dressing it up as a really good thing, but bursaries are what students really need.”
She added: “It’s pouring with rain but we are still here.
“I will stay here until they listen to our demands and take us seriously.”
The university has pledged £3.5m in fee waivers and bursaries for students starting in 2012, with up to £2,500 available in fee waivers and up to £2,000 in bursaries.
The group, Occupy Brookes, was calling on vice-chancellor Janet Beer to make a personal commitment to fight the ‘marketisation’ of education and to make a commitment to abolish fee waivers in place of increased funding for bursaries.
Dr Lucy Ford, senior lecturer in international relations at the university, was among the protesters.
She said: “In the run-up to the General Election, Nick Clegg came here and, in a building not 30 metres from here, said we will not introduce top-up fees. I fully agree with the demands of the students.
“Universities have to provide help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Sports student Jo Woolford, 28, from Abingdon said: “I couldn’t get there today but I’m definitely going to camp out with them at some point.
“There’s a lot of people I know who are put off by the cost and don’t want the debt hanging over their heads.
“It’s tough to tell if it’s actually worth the money because there are no jobs.”
Within minutes of the camp being set up, head of estates Richard Monk told protesters to let the university know if they needed anything.
It was planned for toilets and facilities to be left open for the campaigners to use.
Registrar Paul Large believed what the university was offering was “the right balance” and said about 20 per cent of students would qualify for full bursaries, a third would receive a bursary and 40 per cent would receive partial fee waivers.
He said: “The bursary scheme we are operating for 2012 is very similar to the one we were operating for 2011, similar levels of support for similar levels of disadvantage.”
He added: “We fully support the individuals’ right to protest.”
STUDENT VIEW ‘It’s not going to affect me at all, but if I was in their position, I definitely would have joined them.’ Homayun Yavari, 26, studying business and marketing management ‘I agree with them. Hopefully someone listens to them.’ Caitlin Marriott, 21, studying business and retail management ‘I back their protest, I would not pay that much to study in my own country.’ Najd Al-marri, 21, from Qatar, studying business and marketing