Education & Family

University of Arts sit-in ends after High court ruling

Students protest Image copyright University of the Arts Students Union
Image caption Students were angry at plans to cut hundreds of foundation course places

Students occupying part of University of the Arts, London, have ended a four week sit-in after a High Court injunction against them.

The order prohibits named students carrying out "unlawful trespass" on any of the university's sites.

They took over part of the university's Central St Martin's site at King's Cross over planned cuts to courses.

The university says it wants to lose a total of 580 foundation course places over the next two years.

Hundreds of students have joined the occupation since it began on 19 March.

Impact

On Tuesday, the High Court instructed the group OccupyUAL to end the sit-in.

"It is a great shame that the protest had to be resolved in this manner, but we tried for nearly four weeks without success to negotiate with OccupyUAL," said UAL Vice-Chancellor Nigel Carrington in a statement published on the university's website.

"Legal action was our last resort to protect the interests of the overwhelming majority of our students and staff and prevent further disruption as we head into the all-important summer term.

"The university remains committed to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly within the law."

UAL says that if allowed to continue, the occupation could have had a serious impact on forthcoming degree shows.

It adds that foundation courses will continue to be taught at UAL - but courses offered at its London College of Communication site will be discontinued "where foundation is generally not a pre-requisite of entry to undergraduate courses".

Shelly Asquith, the president of UAL's student union and one of 15 individuals named on the court papers, told BBC News they had now ended the sit-in, but were considering further protests in the coming weeks.

No costs

"By taking us to court they wanted to silence us but that has backfired in terms of the wider campaign.

"So many more people have heard about the cuts in the media coverage," said Ms Asquith.

Encouraged by the judge, the two sides also reached an out of court agreement that the university would not pursue legal costs against the named individuals if they vacated the space.

Ms Asquith took to social media to thank supporters.

"Today I stood inside a court representing activists who are defending education.

"The fight to save foundation courses (as well as our right to protest) continues but today we managed to get the university to back down on serving us legal costs... I am very proud of our students today," she wrote on Facebook.

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