You will have heard a lot of things about the sit-in at King’s Cross, the reasons why it is happening and how UAL has responded to it. You may have a lot of questions, so we have put together a list of FAQs below. You can also read all of the correspondence between UAL and OccupyUAL.

1. Why are you cutting Foundation in Art and Design?
2. Why are you taking legal action against Occupy UAL and your own students?
3. Why do you think the sit-in is unlawful?
4. I thought UAL recognised the right to peaceful protest?
5. Why are you taking action now?
6. It looks like a peaceful demonstration: are Occupy UAL really causing as much disruption as you say they are?
7. Why did you not consult the Students’ Union on the changes? What opportunities did students have to oppose the decision to reduce numbers on Foundation in Art and Design?
8. What is the difference between the Student’s Union and OccupyUAL?
9. Why did you not negotiate with OccupyUAL?
10. Is UAL cutting 800 places to its Foundation in Art and Design courses?
11. Is UAL cutting Widening Participation by £500k?
12. Why did you close Central Saint Martins early before the Easter break?
13. If there is another threat at Central Saint Martins will you shut down the building again?


1. Why are you cutting Foundation in Art and Design?

We remain passionately committed to providing Foundation in Art and Design for art and design students. Foundation will continue to be taught at UAL in two centres at Central Saint Martins and Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon.

We are keen, however, to save other students from the need to have an additional year in education, with its associated costs. For that reason, the qualification will no longer be delivered through London College of Communication, where Foundation is generally not a prerequisite of entry to undergraduate courses.


2. Why are you taking legal action against Occupy UAL and your own students?

Legal action is a last resort by UAL in order to protect the interests of the majority of our students and staff, after having tried to negotiate with Occupy UAL for nearly four weeks. OccupyUAL are seriously and deliberately disrupting their fellow students, staff. It also hinders members of the public who want to attend events and exhibitions organised by our students and staff.

3. Why do you think the sit-in is unlawful?

We are not restricting freedom of speech within the law. The University is ending an occupation that is trespassing on university property and causing disruption to the day to day running of the college.  If allowed to continue the occupation could have a serious impact on the forthcoming degree shows and other aspects of the student experience, as well as to the staff who have been displaced.

4. I thought UAL recognised the right to peaceful protest?

We strongly support freedom of speech, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly within the law, as set out in our Freedom of Speech Code of Conduct. We feel that OccupyUAL have gone beyond this and are causing a serious disruption to our students, staff and the public.

5. Why are you taking action now?

The protest has now gone on for nearly four weeks and allowed to continue it could have a serious impact on the forthcoming Summer Shows; a crucial part of the year for many of our students. The continuing occupation is also placing undue stress on the large number of staff who have been displaced.

6. It looks like a peaceful demonstration: are Occupy UAL really causing as much disruption as you say they are?

The protest so far has taken a number of forms including the sit-in at Central Saint Martins which began nearly four weeks ago on Thursday 19 March and a protest march during which protesters forced entry to London College of Communication, activating the fire alarm and causing an evacuation. In addition, a demonstration outside Camberwell College of Arts forced us to close all our campuses to prevent occupation.

Access to the Lethaby Gallery is severely limited for student exhibitions, as Occupy UAL have been blocking fire exit routes. Furthermore, a quarter of all administrative staff at Central Saint Martins do not have access to their desks and vital materials, and reception staff have had to relocate to a space which is unsuitable for their duties. It is still not possible to pick up the numerous incoming calls from existing students, potential students and others attempting to make contact with the college. OccupyUAL regularly answer external calls which causes confusion and may put off prospective students or external partners.

We also have serious concerns about the safety of those occupying the space, due to the disregard of fire regulations including sleeping close to open heaters, preventing safe access to fire exit routes from the occupied and the gallery, using D-locks and rope to secure the doors.

The protestors have repeatedly made clear that they intend to escalate their action wherever possible, which we do not believe is fair on students or staff.

7. Why did you not consult the Students’ Union on the changes? What opportunities did students have to oppose the decision to reduce numbers on Foundation in Art and Design?

The Students’ Union was well aware of the decision to reduce Foundation places and had every opportunity to object for nearly a year before the sit-in but did not do so.

The President of the Students’ Union is a governor of UAL and the SU Sabbatical Officers sit on the major academic committees of the University, so they are involved in most aspects of University decision-making and discussions.

8. What is the difference between the Student’s Union and OccupyUAL?

Under the constitution of UAL we negotiate with our student representatives, SUARTS, elected by and from amongst the student body. OccupyUAL is a non-elected external body that has no official relationship with UAL and includes non-UAL people.  OccupyUAL has a changing constitution of members and does not have an official mandate to represent our students or their interests.


9. Why did you not negotiate with OccupyUAL?

UAL tried hard to have discussions with OccupyUAL, both directly and through the Students’ Union, but without being able to move this matter forward.

Key demands by OccupyUAL, such as free education, are outside the power of the University. Despite this, we did offer a way forward to end the sit-in. This was a joint review with the Students’ Union on our decision to reduce the number of places available on Foundation in Art and Design courses. This review would have involved a working party of up to eight members, co-chaired and equally composed of UAL management and Students’ Union elected officers. It would have embraced issues such as financial support for students, an equality impact assessment on students including ethnicity and social class, and student attainment. OccupyUAL rejected this offer out of hand.

10. Is UAL cutting 800 places to its Foundation in Art and Design courses?

No, we are reducing our Foundation in Art and Design intake by 580 over two years. We remain passionately committed to providing Foundation in Art and Design for art and design students. We will continue to teach it in two centres at Central Saint Martins and Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon.

The qualification will no longer be delivered at London College of Communication, where it is generally not a prerequisite of entry to undergraduate courses. In this way, we will continue to provide Foundation where it is genuinely useful while saving other students from the need to have another year in education, with its associated costs.

11. Is UAL cutting Widening Participation by £500k?

No, this is not true. There is no £500K cut to Widening Participation. Our proposed changes to this programme specifically support attainment, which Occupy UAL have called for in their campaign materials. In the face of wider budget pressures, we are maintaining our investment in our successful Widening Participation scheme, which helps people from disadvantaged backgrounds enter the university and supports them while they study.

12. Why did you close Central Saint Martins early before the Easter break?

We heard that OccupyUAL had plans to occupy further spaces around the University, including their attempt to flash mob the Camberwell campus. We have apologised to the students concerned for the inconvenience caused.

 

13. If there is another threat at Central Saint Martins will you shut down the building again?

To date we have done everything in our power to keep Central Saint Martins open with unexpected closures on only two occasions – once to the gallery and the second time on the Thursday afternoon before the Easter break. This has involved some inconvenience, but on the whole staff and students have responded to these changes with great patience and understanding. We will continue to do our utmost to ensure that the college remains open. Should we feel there is a real threat to our spaces at any time, then we may have to act, but this will only be as a last possible resort.