University of Birmingham suspends two students for nine months after protest

Institution defends 'robust action' and says 900 students were affected and staff kept away from their place of work for a week

The University of Birmingham has suspended two students for their involvement in a protest at the university last year.

Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers were among students who occupied rooms at the university as part of the Defend Education Birmingham campaign, calling for more democracy and student representation at their university, greater pay for staff, and for their senior management to “take back their position that fees should be increased”, among other demands.

The university defended its 'robust action', saying the protest caused significant disruption, with some staff prevented from attending their place of work for a week. Disabled and fire access routes were blocked and nearly 900 students were affected.

Furse and Rogers, both 22, have been suspended from their courses for nine months, and will not be allowed to return to their studies until March 2015. A third student, Hattie Craig, 21, was also handed a formal reprimand and a de facto “suspended sentence”. She also faces immediate suspension should she breach any university regulation.

The students were informed of the university’s decision on Tuesday, although a three-day hearing is said to have taken place in June, the culmination of a seven-month disciplinary period. According to Defend Education Birmingham, university management issued a recommendation to the disciplinary panel that Furse be permanently expelled.

In a statement published by Defend Education Birmingham earlier today, Furse said: “I have been suspended from the university despite the fact that the only evidence against me is a 20-second video of me telling other protesters that they can go into a peaceful occupation.

“University management have clearly decided that they don’t want any more protests against their policies, and have decided to victimise us to try and deter others from voicing dissent.”

The students and their supporters believe they have been treated unfairly throughout the disciplinary period, citing as an example their claim that they were denied the right to legal representation.

Rogers has told Defend Education Birmingham that she is “shocked” at the announcement: “We protested peacefully to call for a better education for ourselves and future students, and for better working conditions for staff at the University. As a result, we have been punished for expressing our right to freedom of protest and freedom of speech. These rulings are vastly disproportionate.”

In a statement, the university said: "Universities are places of free speech and we respect the rights of students and staff to protest peacefully and within the law. This is clearly outlined in our Freedom of Speech Code of Practice.  

Indeed, the University helps to facilitate a number of safe and lawful protests and demonstrations on campus each year, addressing a wide range of issues.  Participation in a protest is not a disciplinary offence and the University does not invoke disciplinary procedures lightly.

However, following the events that occurred in November 2013, significant disruption was caused to students and staff: nearly 900 students had their teaching and learning disrupted or displaced, members of staff were prevented from attending their place of work for a week, and disabled and fire access routes were blocked.

The University has a duty of care to its staff and student community and will not tolerate behaviour that causes harm to individuals, damage to property or significant disruption to our university community.

We have therefore taken robust action to uphold our responsibilities in this regard. The University cannot comment on matters relating to individual cases."

*This article was updated on 23 July after a longer statement was released by the University of Birmingham.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Guru Careers: Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant

£16 - 20k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Editor / Editorial Assistant is needed to ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor