Students from Exeter are occupying a university building in protest at the privatisation of student loans and in a show of solidarity with the National Week of Action against student debt.

The group, numbering around 20, plan to stay in Queen's Senior Common Room until the end of the week, having marched through campus yesterday evening.

In an attempt to promote the idea of free education, the students have organised a series of talks and discussions from lecturers and students throughout the week.

Mainly composed of members of the Socialist Students society, the collective have released details of their aims and the context of the protest, highlighting the treatment of peaceful student protesters, and the “broader marketisation of higher education” as causes for concern.

In a statement, they said: “The occupation calls on the Exeter Students’ Guild and the National Union of Students to campaign alongside students and workers to challenge university management and the government on these points. The occupation also calls on the University of Exeter, as part of the Russell Group, to back away from pressing for a further increase in the cap on tuition fees.”

Their action comes in conjunction with 45 other campuses who the organisers of The Week of Action, The Student Assembly Against Authority, claim are also participating. It is the second round of such protests, after a national day of action in November protested against the coalition's decision to sell off more of the student loan book.

A spokesman for the University of Exeter said: “Students have occupied a common room on the University’s Streatham Campus since Monday evening as part of a peaceful protest over proposals to privatise the student loan book.

“We respect students' right to protest provided they do so in a safe, legal and considerate manner.”