London Uni students staging Whitechapel demo after occupying Cass arts campus
- Credit: Lond Met Uni PR
Students are starting a protest to stop their university selling off their Aldgate arts campus building at Whitechapel in East London. They are starting their demonstration outside the London University’s Central House in Whitechapel High Street at 1pm
Part of the Cass arts campus at Central House has been occupied since 9pm last night in a campaign to get the centre taken off the property market.
The university wants to amalgamate the Cass arts school along with its Moorgate business school into its main Holloway campus in north London.
But there isn’t enough room at Holloway for all the courses, the students’ union says.
Courses are bound to be axed and student places cut, they fear.
So they are demonstrating while waiting for the university to respond to their demands.
“We are overwhelmed with support we received last night,” student Barbara Ntumy, one of the occupiers who has since left, told the East London Advertiser today.
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“Our most pressing demand is that they take Central House off the market now.
“Selling off Central House to luxury property developers or the banking industry would be a disgrace.
“There isn’t nearly enough room to house all the courses taught here to switch to Holloway. “Shrinking London Met to one campus will mean course cuts, job losses and a cut to student places.”
Today’s demo has been called by , London Met UCU Secretary Mark Campbell with London Met Unison.
The university sent a letter to the unions last night, but didn’t respond to their demands to halt the sale.
“The university once again finds itself at the sharp end of the government’s cuts agenda,” Barbara Ntumy added.
“Shamefully it’s being a ‘cheerleader’ for brutal, excessive cuts, rather than stand up for students and staff and make the case for adequate funding.”
The sale of the Cass building has also been condemned by Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, who fears the closure would be “devastating” for students from East London.
He was in talks last month with the university’s vice chancellor in a last-ditch bid to stop the closure.
He said at the time: “To put this valuable heritage at risk in order to address the university’s financial mismanagement is a tragedy. This decision threatens this proud institutional history and diminishes our community.”
The Cass centre through its predecessor institutions has deep roots in the East End and was ideally situated “at the heart of the vibrant cultural industry quarter of the City fringe”.
Sir John Cass Faculty’s student union officer Amanda Marillier feared the cuts would “undermine London Met’s role in promoting access to education for working-class and disadvantaged sections of society.”
But London Metropolitan vice chancellor Prof John Raftery defended the relocation announced two months ago when he said the move “will benefit our students and our staff who will have more opportunities to collaborate”.
The university, which had 34,000 students in its heyday, has been hit by financial crises since 2009 with ‘repayment’ demands by Whitehall of £36 million following allegations of mismanagement for over-estimating its student roll numbers when negotiating its government funding.
It responded by axing 550 posts, which led to walk-outs by lecturers bringing the campuses at Commercial Road and Central House in Whitechapel High Street to a standstill, along with the Moorgate and Holloway campuses.
The university was hit by more trouble in 2012 when the Home Office revoked its license for immigration status for a year after recruiting high fee-paying students from outside the EU at the expense of UK applicants.