Manchester students occupy university building in protest over living conditions

A student protestor looking out at Manchester from an occupied high rise window as coloured flare smoke fills the air
Support us and go ad-free

Students have occupied a University of Manchester building in protest against paying high fees despite living in “appalling” conditions amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The students are seeking a reduction to their rent and £9,000 tuition fees after face-to-face classes were halted and a series of issues with their accommodation.

“This is an occupied building”

They arrived at the OwensPark Tower, which the university has said is unoccupied, at 10am on 12 November, unveiling large banners and lighting flares from its windows.

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 12, 2020
Banners were unfurled out of the tower’s windows (@rentstrikeUoM/Twitter)

They said they are sticking to coronavirus (Covid-19) guidelines and have enough food and supplies to stay for at least a week. Politics and sociology student Ben McGowan told the PA news agency:

We have enough resources and solidarity funding from other groups to mean we can stay here for as long as possible and to be honest it’s nicer than my usual halls. We’ve had appalling accommodation conditions ranging from flooding to leaks and rat infestations.

We have a severely under resourced mental health support network even though mental health amongst students has never been more dire. Last week it reached boiling point with the fences around campus – now we’re expected to pay rent for December when Government guidelines mean we won’t even be in uni halls for the whole of December.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Last week, Manchester students tore down fences erected outside their campus in Fallowfield at the beginning of a second national lockdown.

Coronavirus – Thu Nov 12, 2020
Students are protesting over the conditions they face amid coronavirus lockdown (@rentstrikeUoM/Twitter)

Action

A University of Manchester spokesperson said:

We are aware of the protest by a handful of students in an empty residential building. We have made it clear to them that they shouldn’t be there and that they may also be in contravention of current national Health Protection Regulations.

We are already engaging with elected Students’ Union representatives about many of the issues being highlighted by the protestors. The University is fully committed to freedom of expression.

Students in England will be allocated staggered departure dates during a “travel window” between December 3-9 so they can return home after the four-week lockdown. McGowan said the university has repeatedly refused to meet with students about the issues they face – with students looking for 40% off their rent bills. He added:

We felt the only option we had left was direct action so we’ll continue to occupy the building until (they) agree to meet with us

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us