This statement was read at the end of the occupation on April 10 at 1pm.
From next year, Queen Mary is cutting £317,000 out of its bursaries for students from low income households. This change was quietly implemented with no consultation or fanfare, against the objections of the few Students Union officers who were notified about it. The university did not expect students to notice, they did not expect us to get organised, and they did not expect us to resist. We did.
Since beginning this occupation on the twelfth of March we have transformed the issue; it has gone from something no one was aware of to a major concern on campus. More than four hundred members of staff at Queen Mary and more than sixty Members of Parliament have signed open letters to Principal Colin Bailey in support of our occupation, and hundreds and hundreds of students and supporters have signed our petitions.
As a result of our occupation, the university has committed to reviewing its bursary levels in consultation with students for future years. We are also proud to announce that following final negotiations with senior management yesterday, we have secured an interim fund of £260,000 per year for the next two years that will be available to students to cover the money lost from bursaries – this is a massive material victory. We have proven, once again, that students have the power to take control of the university and bring about real changes. This is the most powerful lesson we have learned in our time at University, and one that will not be forgotten.
The last month has been an unprecedented period of solidarity between staff and students; from the picket lines to the Octagon, we have stood together and pushed each other forwards in our shared fight against the commodification of education. But we have also spoken together, organised together, cooked and dined together, danced and sung together, and, by disrupting the university’s ordinary operation, we have learned together. We thank all the staff for their political and material support, the donations of bedding, cash, hot meals, and bouquets of flowers, and we stand with the UCU in defence of pensions; we will see you on the next picket line.
We are in the process of establishing a long term organisation to continue to scrutinise the university’s decision making around bursaries, the administration of the interim fund, and to work with staff on broader issues such as university governance, the gender pay gap, and institutional transparency.
Today we celebrate a major victory.
Tomorrow, the fight continues.
We are the Octagon!
We are the University!