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20 campuses hit by protests in anti-fees day of action

Campaigners storm universities' headquarters in battle for free education

UNIVERSITY occupations mushroomed across the country yesterday as students called for a return of free education.

Lectures came to a halt on 20 campuses in England as campaigners staged sit-ins, banner drops, blockades and occupations against the £9,000 annual fees.

In London a large group of students stormed the headquarters of the universities umbrella organisation Universities UK (UUK).

Speaking to the Star on the importance of targeting the group, Soas student Tom King said: "They're instrumental in the marketisation of higher education.

"They're also the body proposing huge cuts to staff pensions."

He added: "We as students stand in solidarity with staff in their fight and support their industrial action."

Mr King and dozens of students from other University of London colleges took over the lobby of UUK in the afternoon, chanting: "Whose university? Our university" and throwing around Monopoly money.

A student samba band played outside for support.

Elsewhere, Sheffield, Lancaster and Manchester universities went into occupation and Bath students blockaded the main entrance for most of the day.

"This afternoon we have gone into occupation as part of a nationwide movement against tuition fees, and in favour of free education," read a statement by Sheffield occupiers.

They added that the occupation was taking place in a university restaurant "designed purely to generate private profit," and would transform it into a place of learning including organising workshops.

Another occupation at Warwick University ended in violence as police on the scene proceeded to taser and teargas protesters.

Three were arrested while many more reported assault by unpredictably and unnecessarily violent officers.

Cambridge students also took radical action by breaking into the East Office of the business department and emblazoning the front of the building with the slogan "education: not your business."

An anonymous source explained the actions, saying: "Recent years have shown that voting and peaceful demonstrations have failed.

"We have been ignored, lied to, kettled and beaten.

"This confirms the need for more direct tactics, of which tonight's action was a small part."

Yesterday's events came on the back of a national demonstration for free education last month that saw over 10,000 young people march on the streets of London.

More direct action is expected this Saturday with marches planned in Brighton, Birmingham and south London.

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