Morning yoga session for students occupying the main hall at Cambridge University since Friday.

Just because vandalising the Conservative Party’s headquarters isn’t their style it doesn’t mean Cambridge students aren’t just as angry about tuition hikes. To show their discontent, they are prepared to occupy their University’s main hall for as long as it takes. Our Observer is taking part in the sit-in.
Oxford, UCL, Brighton, Bristol and Cardiff… The list of student sit-ins at British universities keeps getting longer.The students are protesting the Conservative government’s plan to allow maximum tuition fees of up to £9,000 [more than 10,000 euros] a year while making cuts of up to 80% in university teaching budgets. Current maximum tuition fees are of £3, 290 [around 3,700 euros] per year.
Calm, polite debates, studious atmosphere and tea all around: even in the heat of a tense standoff with university authorities, well-behaved Cambridge students don’t lose their cool. Video made by our Observer Joanna Beaufoy and published on the website of Varsity, Cambridge’s student newspaper.

Musical protesting

UCL students protesting the tuition hikes with a dance number.
Song addressed to Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg, whom protesters see as having broken campaign promises made to students.Videos posted on the YouTube profile UCL student protesters.
Post written with Paul Larrouturrou, journalist.

Photos of the sit-in

Slogans hung under University windows.
A calm (notice the girl knitting in the centre of the photo) yet determined general assembly
There are 200 students occupying the hall by day, and about 50 sleep over at night.
Morning yoga session.
Even under a snowstorm, four students permanently guard the entrance to the hall. All photos courtesy of Sophie Smith.

“We will only succeed in making our voices heard if we remain calm and organised”

Joanna Beaufoy, 21, is a student in French and Spanish literature at Cambridge University. She is against the government’s austerity measures and has taken part in the student sit-in since Friday.
For over 20 years, prestigious British universities have made considerable efforts to ensure that students from lower-income backgrounds have the same  educational opportunities as their wealthier peers. We’re really worried that with the Conservative’s return to power, top universities will once again only be accessible to a small elite.
We are sick of politicians telling us that austerity is inevitable, that spending cuts are the only way. They are ready to spend millions of pounds on wars or nuclear weapons. So it’s just a question of where their priorities lie. Education should be a top priority, as should healthcare.
We’re all the more angry because we feel betrayed. It’s us students who voted Liberal Democrats into office, and they are not keeping their promises. They campaigned on free access to education for all!
“We’re not a bunch of slackers!”
We’re very angry, but we will remain calm and organised. Only that way will we succeed in making our voices heard. Violence will get us nowhere. To be taken seriously, we need to act like adults, not hooligans. Our petition was signed by 200 professors. Yes, we have had a legal injunction, but we’re still here because the teachers are secretly supporting our movement.
We keep up a busy schedule to make sure everyone’s anger is channelled: yoga sessions in the morning, concerts in the evening. We have set up tables outside to explain our position and get other students to join us. Despite the cold and snow, four people are posted at the entrance of the hall at all times to make sure police and university authorities don’t get in. And since this is Cambridge, everyone is studying a lot. We’re not a bunch of slackers. Finally, we’re getting the word out on our protest through student newspapers, live-blogging and social media networks. Skype allows us to stay in touch with students in other universities who are also on strike. And we won’t risk being short of food: Cambridge market sends us free provisions every day!”