Students protesting against budget cuts and the proposed relocation of the Cass School of Architecture have occupied the university’s Bank Space Gallery
The students are angry about the London Metropolitan University’s planned sale of its home at Central House and relocation of the east London-based Sir John Cass Faculty of Art.
Under the plans, approved by the Met’s board of governors in October, the Cass School of Architecture’s current Commercial Road home would be sold off, along with the remainder of the university’s East End estate, with proceeds going towards a £125 million revamp of the Holloway Road campus.
The controversial move has prompted protests from staff and students and a petition, which has so far been signed by more than 2,800 people.
The occupation began just hours after it was revealed that Robert Mull had been suspended as dean of the art school.
In a statement on the ‘Occupy the Cass’ website, the protest group said it was ‘taking direct action to stop the proposed sale of Central House’.
It added: ‘Occupy the Cass – London Met’ has been undertaken as a means of creating a student platform for expression, borne of necessity and frustration in light of the evasive and duplicitous action of the University’s senior management in consulting students.’
They have five demands which include taking Central House off the market, and a commitment to not make any cuts to student places, staff and courses.
Occupy the Cass: five demands
- That our campuses are not for sale - take Central House off the market now. Our fantastic Central House building, which has only recently been refurbished, is a brilliant learning environment and the perfect place for students of The CASS to study art, architecture and music. Selling off Central House to luxury property developers or the banking industry would be a disgrace. There is not nearly enough room to house all the courses taught here at Holloway Road. Shrinking London Met to one campus will mean course cuts, job losses and a cut to student places.
- No cuts to student places. By pursuing these cuts the university management are cutting student places from 12,000 to 10,000. We consider this an attack on access to education for poor and marginalised groups in society. London Met University is an incredibly diverse institution that has provided opportunities to many people who would otherwise be excluded from education. There are more Black students at London Met than the entire top 20 universities combined and this University currently supports the largest number of women returning to education in the country. The University has to do more in involving the student union and students in its recruitment process.
- No course cuts. We are alarmed that the University has put application for certain courses in ‘hold’ – we say no.
- No staff cuts. We call on the university to extend the consultation process from the minimum 30 days. Hundreds of staff have lost their jobs over the past few years at London Met University – losing more staff is just going to continue the spiral of decline our university is experiencing. Lift the suspension of Robert Mull, Dean of the Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. We stand in solidarity with our staff.
- No disciplinary action to be taken by the university against staff and students involved in this peaceful protest.
- Free access IN and OUT of the Occupation.
Barbara Ntumy, a student at London Metropolitan University and one of the occupiers, commented: ’London Met University once again finds itself at the sharp end of the Tory government’s cuts agenda. Shamefully, the University management of London Met, rather than stand up for students and staff and make the case of proper, adequate funding for our university, is being a cheerleader for brutal, excessive cuts.’
Statement from a university spokesperson:
’We are investing £125m to create a new home for The Cass at our Holloway campus, complete with new workshops and studio spaces.
’We appreciate that some students are concerned about the move, but we’d like to reassure them that the Cass is not closing, nor will it’s making ethos or successful studio model of teaching be lost.
’By moving to Islington, the Cass will be in one location as opposed to the faculty’s current split between Central House and Commercial Road. Students have already highlighted the success of the previous merger between the School of Architecture and School of Art and Design to form the Cass three years’ ago, and we believe another move, with considerably more investment, can only be positive.
‘We are inviting students to work with us to shape the Cass’s future together, and we’d urge those occupying today to accept that offer.’