DMU march. Photo: Leicester SP
DMU march. Photo: Leicester SP

Adam Powell-Davies, Socialist Students national organiser

For a while, it looked as if university managements in the UK were taking a more conciliatory approach to the student encampment movement. However, the arrest of 17 students, and the forceful removal of protesters at Oxford University, have since shattered any illusion that vice-chancellors here would not recourse to the same heavy-handed measures seen in other countries.

It is possible that other universities will follow suit – not least because the summer is a key time for most universities to generate some much-needed income, by renting out rooms and facilities for conferences and other events.

The Cambridge pro-vice-chancellor, Bhaskar Vira, has made clear that management “retain[s] the right to intervene” in the encampments. Other university bosses have made similar veiled threats.


In other words, university managements are prepared for a showdown. It cannot be ruled out that the police, or private security forces, will be used in an attempt to physically disperse protesters, like what happened in Oxford.

Students who have participated in the encampments to this point will be determined to continue their action, including into the summer. Protesters have been clear of their intention to occupy for as long as their demands are not met.

In order to continue this movement, and maintain pressure on the universities and the government, students will want to take measures to defend their encampments. This points to the need for democratically organised stewarding by elected bodies of students in the encampments.

Democratic stewarding could include a night rota system, given that there have been small groups of counter-protesters in several places who have waited until dark to make cowardly attacks on peaceful student protesters.

An appeal could also be made to the campus trade union branches, or local trades union councils, which could assist the organisation of stewarding by drawing on the rich experience of the workers’ movement in defending protests.

Reaching out

However, the surest way to keep this movement going is to build it. There is strength in numbers. That means reaching out to students who have not yet taken part in the encampments, and convincing them that they should get involved.

According to a recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey of over 5,000 students, the number one issue facing students is the cost of living. The average maintenance loan now does not even cover the rent, let alone other basic living costs.

The student cost-of-living crisis has been allowed to fester by this rotten Tory government, as they have cut higher education funding over many years. It is this same lack of funding that gives universities an excuse to make income from companies profiting from war.

By boldly raising the need for free, fully funded, democratic higher education, the student encampment movement could target the root cause of university complicity in Israeli state terror, while simultaneously appealing to the mass of students, who equally have an interest in fighting for an end to the current marketised higher education model.

With a general election less than five weeks away, we also need candidates who will back this fight – standing against war and occupation, and supporting free education.

That’s why Socialist Students is part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). We are supporting efforts for the widest-possible working-class, socialist challenge at the election.

Over the coming weeks, we will be bringing this campaign down to the encampments, including organising teach-outs and open meetings to discuss what students should do at the general election. If you want to get involved in our election campaign, get in touch.

Leicester walkout and march

Socialist Students members in Leicester explain how they build their protests against the war on Gaza and in solidarity with the student encampment.


We had a lot of preparation to undergo for a student walkout and march from De Montfort University to the University of Leicester. We also had to spread the word about the demonstration to students and the public – we focused on campaign stalls and meetings. Students and lecturers were enthusiastic and supportive.

As the protest started, we had organised an open mic rally. Members of the University and College Union (UCU) had attended our meetings, expressing their support and desire to speak on the open mic. But then the university management did not allow them to speak. Despite all this, we had a good turnout of 30 people – students, lecturers, and the public.

Saada Mohamed

De Montfort march

The early afternoon of 24 May began just as any other campaign stall would, albeit with more campus security! We handed out leaflets about our demands, informing people about the event.

Someone who came to the stall mentioned how many people would be at Friday prayers, and that it might be a good idea to leaflet outside. So, some of us went down to the prayer room to try and spread awareness of the event.

It took an hour or two to gather momentum, and a crowd was beginning to gather. When we started the speeches, it caused more people to gather around.

We used the megaphone to voice our concerns, and the crowd followed suit, with some people shouting “shame”. It served as a good confidence booster for everyone.

There were some very passionate speeches. By the time we departed for the march, the crowd was in good spirits, with banners and chants following the march all the way.

Conor Schieferstein

Building a movement

Unfortunately, we received hostility from some people in the University of Leicester encampment. There were several occasions in which members of this group have kicked us off our own campus as we set up a campaign stall on the grounds that we were “political”.

Despite this, we organised a successful protest that united the communities of our city’s universities, with many staff, students, and the wider public in attendance.

Our critics’ main issue with us were that we sell our newspaper, the Socialist, which promotes the movement against the war, amplifies workers’ voices, and offers a strategy for the movement. They also objected to us asking anyone who agrees with our ideas, if they would like to leave their details to get involved with the socialists on campus.

We think it’s important to build organisations around socialist ideas to end war and oppression. It begs the question why raising awareness, challenging student unions, and engaging in fully open discussions are deemed inappropriate methods.

Ayomide Akinsinmide

Newham union solidarity with Queen Mary encampment

The following was passed unanimously by Newham Trades Union Council. It was drafted and moved by Socialist Party member James Ivens, a delegate from London North Equity union. And seconded by Socialist Party member Angharad Hillier, from Newham National Education Union (NEU). It was sent to Queen Mary student occupation in support, and Colin Bailey, principal of Queen Mary, in protest.

Newham Trade Union Council expresses its full solidarity with the protest encampment against the war on Gaza at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). We stand shoulder to shoulder with those students and staff fighting the institution’s connections to war and occupation, and all those fighting oppression around the world.

We are disturbed by reports that university management has laughed off violent provocations by counter-protesters attacking the camp. We note the same administration ordered a disgraceful break-in and attack on the campus facility of the UCU, an independent campus trade union.

We demand that QMUL management:

  • Apologise for these incidents, and respect the independence and safety of students, staff and their organisations henceforward
  • Guarantee that students and staff taking part in peaceful protest will not face any punitive or discriminatory measures
  • Open QMUL accounts to democratic inspection by the student body and campus trade unions, with the power to terminate all contracts and research tied to war and occupation, while guaranteeing jobs and funding
  • We invite the protest encampment to link up with the trade unions in Newham, by sending a speaker to a future meeting, and by calling a solidarity rally which we will be pleased to support and publicise

Solidarity with Oxford students arrested for protesting

Socialist Students statement

Socialist Students sends solidarity to the 16 students who have been arrested in Oxford for protesting against Israeli state terror. The students were arrested whilst occupying a university management building to demand divestment from Israeli companies by Oxford University. This follows on from the student encampment that started in Oxford on 6 May to demand that the university disclose its finances to democratic inspection by staff and students.

Oxford University management are clearly more concerned with maintaining their image than with engaging with students and their demands. No doubt they have been emboldened to send in the police following on from recent attempts by the Tory government to increase police powers, and clamp down on our right to protest – including at the recent anti-war demonstrations in London.

This is the first case of the police being used to try and break up a protest of this kind since the beginning of the student encampments in the UK, and resulted in some students being dragged and pushed out of the building, with at least one being carried out on a stretcher.

The student and workers’ movement must respond definitively to show the management at Oxford University – and at any other university – that we will not tolerate any attack on students or on our democratic right to protest.

We demand:

  • No police charges for those protesting against Israeli state terror
  • Oxford University must not victimise or expel any students for engaging in protest
  • The students’ union must support the student protesters, and publicly oppose the actions taken by university management
  • Defend our democratic right to protest! Oppose increased police presence at peaceful student demonstrations

See for the full statement