THE LONGEST ever student occupation at the University of Edinburgh came to an end yesterday after six weeks of action.
Over 50 student and staff protesters initially took up position at the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre in March in support of university staff striking over proposed changes to their pension scheme.
However, the protesters continued their occupation after the strike concluded by setting up their own “Futures Institute” in order to “build momentum to addressing wider issues”.
Réka, one of the occupiers, added: “Leaving occupation is in no way an end. It marks the next stage in our campaign for a democratic university - it’s time now for us to organise outside of this space.”
Over 100 “teach-outs” and workshops, centred on “critical discussions about the University and higher education”, have been held in the hall over the past month.
The students are now in ongoing dialogue with senior management and academics at the University about their raised demands, which include an end to mandatory short-term contracts and mandatory mental health training for staff.
Nina, another occupier, said: “The marketisation of universities and the lack of democracy in how the University is run are at the heart of these problems.”
The Edinburgh occupation has received high profile attention, with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard having visited and expressed support.
Students at Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Strathclyde and Queen Margaret universities also occupied premises over the course of the month.
Two weeks ago, 64 per cent of University and College Union (UCU) members voted to accept modified proposals after Universities UK backed down on pension changes.
The occupants’ departure from the hall was marked by a rally and march involving staff, students and local trade unionists.
A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said last week that “the university supports the right of people to protest lawfully and peacefully”.