Protesting students call on archbishop





The Archbishop of Canterbury has been called on to help end a dispute between a university and students who are continuing an occupation in protest at rises in tuition fees.







The students have been staging a sit-in at the Senate building at the University of Kent in Canterbury since December 8 and have remained there throughout Christmas.



University officials aim to regain control of the building by seeking a possession order at a hearing at Canterbury County Court on January 7.



But the five-strong group of students vowed to stay put indefinitely to highlight their opposition to the rise in tuition fees and cuts in higher education.



The students want the university and its vice-chancellor Julia Goodfellow to condemn the Government's plans publicly.



They said their occupation was a reaction to Prof Goodfellow signing a letter, published in the Daily Telegraph on December 8, endorsing a hike in tuition fees.



Prof Goodfellow has since written an open letter in which she said she deplored cuts to higher education funding, but the students said this did not meet their demands.



The students have now written to the Archbishop, Rowan Williams, in the hope that as a visitor to the university he will act as mediator to help resolve the impasse.



No response has been received, one of the occupiers, 20-year-old philosophy student Ben Stevenson, said today.



The occupiers said in a statement that the "savage cuts and substantial rise in fees should not be under-estimated".



Their statement added: "We feel that education should be seen as a public good and therefore a crucial investment, and that if education has to be perceived as a commodity, then it is one of our last great exportable commodities, and deserves to be protected.



"We oppose cuts that will result in university institutions being a privilege accessible solely to the few.



"Our occupation is completely peaceful and we maintain consistency in our objectives and feel this is imperative until our demands are met."







The students alleged that the heating was turned off during the cold weather, that they have been unable to leave the building for fresh air and that their internet connection has been cut.



People have been turning up with food donations for them and they have been passing the time watching films and maintaining contact with supporters via Twitter and Facebook using a 3G dongle.



The students intend to issue a letter to universities encouraging students and staff to sign as a counter-measure to the letter signed by Prof Goodfellow and other board members of Universities UK.



Their statement went on: "We have also been in contact with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.



"Due to his capacity as Visitor to the University of Kent, we hope he may act as mediator in our current dispute with the university administration."



Fellow campaigners at universities across the country, including Bristol, University College London and Leeds, all staged occupations but most ended after two weeks.



A candlelit vigil will be held at 5pm on January 1 outside the occupied Senate building to show support for the protesters.



The students added: "Our university occupation is now officially the last running in Great Britain and we are aiming to maintain action throughout the Christmas and New Year period until we feel that our demands have been met.



"We stand in solidarity with all those who are fighting the cuts and will stand behind those sectors of the society who feel the force of the Government's austerity measures which are wholly unnecessary, as these reforms will not just impact educational institutions but all areas of welfare.



"The struggle against cuts is ongoing and this occupation is one form of opposition to the Government's austerity measures.



"If the movement against cuts is to have any impact then it will need to be diverse in its methods, dedicated to its aims and well coordinated between the various sectors of society."



Nobody from the university was available for immediate comment today.



In a previously-issued statement, it said the university had sought to establish common ground with the students.



As the students had indicated no intention to leave, they felt it necessary to take legal action and seek a possession order through the courts.



The Senate building is due for essential maintenance work and will be needed for university meetings after the Christmas closure, it added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future