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Student spokesperson Sarah Davidson-Steinhardt
"Occupation is a way of empowering students"
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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 19:40 GMT
Students occupy education department

police outside dfee Police later mounted a guard

Students have staged a demonstration against tuition fees - inside the Department for Education's headquarters in London.

Several dozen students from London University's Goldsmith's College got into the foyer of the building, sat down and refused to move when officials asked them to.

A students' union spokeswoman, Sarah Davidson-Steinhardt, said: "The students are here because they are angry."

"We want to obstruct this building for as long as possible. We want to challenge these policies at the place where they are made," she told News Online.

They had demanded to see the higher education minister, Tessa Blackstone.

Ms Davidson-Steinhardt said Baroness Blackstone had offered to see a small delegation, but the students had interpreted that as an attempt to get them to leave, and had refused.

They later did meet the minister, but did not come away with any sense that their grievances had been understood.

Facing expulsion

Their main complaint was the government's policy of making students contribute up to 1,025 a year, according to their means, towards the cost of their tuition.

Twenty-three Goldsmith's students are currently said to be facing expulsion because they have not paid this year's fees.

Last year eight were expelled, but Ms Davidson-Steinhardt said earlier direct action by the students' union had resulted in their being reinstated.

In a written statement to news media, the protesters called on the government to implement "across Britain" the recommendations of the Cubie report on higher education funding in Scotland.

Cubie solution

Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians in the Scottish Parliament have agreed, following the Cubie report, to exempt all Scottish students from up-front fees.

Instead they will be required instead to pay 2,000 once their income after graduation exceeds 10,000.

The students' statement said: "New Labour's policies have forced the management of universities into aggressive tuition fee collecting stances, acting as unpaid tax collectors.

"Many thousands of students nationally can be expected to drop out, be expelled or be forced into choosing between food and fees, rent and fees or books and fees."

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Anger at 'shabby' fees agreement
26 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Cubie welcomes tuition fees package
21 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Cubie's Christmas gift unwrapped
12 Nov 99 |  Education
Students picket loans company

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