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Students storm Universities UK building in solidarity with striking lecturers

STUDENTS stormed the headquarters of a university bosses’ club today as a meeting of top vice-chancellors took place upstairs.

The Universities UK (UUK) building in Tavistock Square, central London, was overrun by activists in a show of solidarity with striking lecturers.

Around a million students at British universities were thought to be affected by yesterday’s strike — the first of 14 days of action against pension cuts.

“This is not just about lecturers, this is about the marketisation of education,” one student, who asked not to be named, told the Star.

Joe Trapido, a striking lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, said: “This is about more than solidarity.

“This is what needs to happen. In sectors with limited industrial power we need to draw on not just producers, but the consumers too.

“I’m proud to see some of my students here.”

The UUK building was playing host to a meeting of the Million Plus group of post -1992 universities, which are covered by a different pension scheme.

Students entered the building at around 11am, with reinforcements joining shortly after.

Security guards were overheard telling police officers that the automatic door mechanism was broken in the surge.

They also claimed a radio dropped by a guard was taken by the occupiers.

Security prevented more protesters — as well as the press — from entering later on. The protesters later left voluntarily just after 5pm.

Meanwhile at the University of Sussex in Brighton, supporters of the strike said a student had been “violently assaulted” by a classmate.

A statement published on the Sussex Supports the Strike page on Facebook said: “The marcher in question was violently tackled into a wooden table by another student.

“University officials stood by and watched this assault that was only ended by the quick intervention of other marchers.

“This university has rightly emphasised that our protests will be peaceful but it seems that this message has not been sent to the opposition.

“And students are only protected from violence when they are on the same side as management.”

A University of Sussex spokeswoman said: "There was a brief incident between students earlier today, which was resolved very quickly.

“University staff were on hand immediately to support our students, as they always would.”

Newcastle University vice-chancellor Professor Chris Day even broke rank with Universities UK to support striking lecturers and called for negotiations on pensions to resume.

Mr Day said he “absolutely supported staff’s decision to strike,” saying he didn’t know “what else they could do to express their concerns about the current situation.”

The University and College Union (UCU) commissioned independent research on the impact of changes to the University Superannuation Scheme, which covers staff in pre-1992 universities.

The researchers found lecturers could lose as much as £200,000 each across their retirements.

UUK has been leading the charge for altering the scheme, claiming the current one carries too much financial risk.

A UUK spokesman said union leaders’ “dismissal of the funding challenges is hugely concerning” and said the risk to pensions was “very real.”

But they said the organisation would “remain at the negotiating table to engage with UCU.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “I have made it clear from the start of this dispute that this mess can only be resolved by negotiation.

“We have been calling for talks for weeks either directly or through [conciliation service] Acas, so if UUK are willing to now meet without preconditions with a view to resolving this dispute this is good news.”

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