Lecturers join students’ protest to stop London Met university closing Whitechapel campus
PUBLISHED: 15:54 10 December 2015 | UPDATED: 17:24 10 December 2015
Lecturers have come out in support of a students’ mass protest at the London Metropolitan university’s east London arts campus at Whitechapel.
Around a dozen turned up this-afternoon to join the students’ rally outside Central House in Whitechapel High Street which faces being closed.
The protesters have occupied part of the building to try and force the university to withdraw plans to sell off the lucrative City Fridge site.
The university wants to bring all functions onto single site at Holloway in north London in a £125 million expanded campus.
But the unions fear this will lead to courses being run down and staff being made redundant.
“This is a brilliant education space, worth far more than selling it off to luxury property developers or the banking industry,” student Barbara Ntumy, one of the occupiers who has since left, told the East London Advertiser.
“The university is being short-sighted and is letting courses run down and not doing much to retain students.”
The shut-down at Whitechapel will affect 2,000 students and 99 staff who fear an uncertain future if courses are transferred to Holloway, where 18 staff already face redundancy in the Life Sciences & Computer department.
“There isn’t the room at Holloway for another 2,000 students, which already has 10,000,” Barbara added.
“Our most pressing demand is that they take Central House off the market now—selling it off would be a disgrace.
“Shrinking London Met to one campus will mean course cuts, job losses and a cut to student places.”
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.
The university, however, insists there’s plenty of room and points out that the Holloway campus has 40,000sq meters of excess space.
Today’s protest was called by London Met UCU Secretary Mark Campbell with London Met Unison, after the unions received a letter from the university last night which they say didn’t respond to their demands to halt the sell-off.
The sale of the Whitechapel campus has also been condemned by Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, fearing the “devastating” effect its closure would have for East London.
It would put “this valuable heritage at risk in order to address the university’s financial mismanagement” which he described as a tragic threat that would diminish the community.
London Met sent out a ‘reassurance’ statement this-afternoon, following the students’ rally, in an attempt to end the occupation at Whitechapel.
The Cass was “not closing, nor will its ethos of teaching be lost”, the statement says.
Moving to Holloway was to end the faculty’s current split between Central House in Whitechapel High Street and the nearby Commercial Road, following a previous merger between the schools of Architecture and Art & Design to form ‘the Cass’ three years ago.
The statement added: “Another move can only be positive and we are inviting students to work with us to shape the Cass’s future together.
“We would urge those occupying (the Cass centre) today to accept that offer.”
London Met, however, has been dogged by financial crises since 2009 with ‘repayment’ demands by Whitehall of £36 million following allegations of mismanagement over its student roll numbers when negotiating government funding.
It left 550 posts axed and walk-outs that year by lecturers which brought all the campuses at Whitechapel, Moorgate and Holloway to a standstill.