Statement from Open Birkbeck

Open Birkbeck is an ongoing event in which students, staff and faculty from Birkbeck College create an open space for discussion and deliberation on how we can participate in a society committed to Higher Education for all. In the first manifestation of this event, and in the spirit of the founding principles of Birkbeck College, Open Birkbeck reclaimed the Council Room for a period of 24 hours from December 8 to December 9 2010. During this first event, participants in Open Birkbeck agreed on a series of principles and demands, which we feel address many of the major problems both within Birkbeck and in the country as a whole. These principles and demands are subject to ongoing discussion and debate.

We are committed to the following principles:

◦      Free universal education funded by the state

◦      Recognition of the right to education

◦      Recognition of the value of universities beyond market value

◦      Equal value of the Arts and Sciences

◦      Funds for education and not war

Our demands to the government:

◦      No cuts to public services

◦      Maintain at least current levels of the Education Maintenance Allowance

◦      Reinstate ORS funding for international students

◦      Combat tax avoidance and tax the banks to pay the debt

◦      End the UK Border Agency’s policing and surveillance of international students and staff

◦      End the aggressive police targeting of protesters and abolish the practice of kettling

◦      Send Nick Clegg back to University

Our demands to Birkbeck College:

◦      The Master to revoke support for the Browne Review and join the 15 other vice-chancellors who have publicly opposed the cuts; otherwise we call for a vote of no-confidence regarding the Master’s failure to uphold and protect the founding mission of Birkbeck

◦      Board of Governors to issue a public statement against the cuts and use their power to lobby the government

◦      No fee increases

◦      No redundancies or real-term reductions in pay for any Birkbeck staff. No further outsourcing of jobs. All Birkbeck support services should be brought back in house

◦      A moratorium on pay rises for senior management and a cap on the pay of the Master

◦      Proper wages for sessional staff

◦      Protect full range of currently offered courses

◦      Refuse to comply with, and participate in, the Border Agency’s policing and surveillance of international students and staff, and end the non-consensual sharing of data with organs of the state.

◦      No victimisation of participants or supporters of Open Birkbeck and other protests. No police presence on campus.

We will continue to support the student and workers movements in Britain and around the world who protest austerity measures.


Blog Articles on Open Birkbeck

A couple of people who have experienced the Council Room take-over as part of the ‘Open Birkbeck’ initiative have blogged about their experiences. Have a read!

t.g.p.b.: Part Time Education / Full Time OccupationLatte Labour: Keep the invitation unbounded!

Latte Labour: Keep the invitation unbounded!

Some Photos

More to come!

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Birkbeck School of Law Releases Statement Against Cuts

The Birkbeck School of Law has put up a brief statement against the cuts on their website. This follows from a discussion involving both staff and students that took place at the end of the school meeting in the Council Room that was interrupted by the group that brought about the Open Birkbeck space. The statement reads as follows:

The School of Law at Birkbeck College publicly expresses its opposition to the proposed cuts to, and privatisation of, higher education. The Law School affirms its commitment to uphold the founding mission of Birkbeck College to provide open access to higher education.


Keep an eye on this page (or rather, a tab open) for updates regarding what’s going on at the Open Birkbeck space!


Thursday, 9/12/10

9.30-11.30am: Roundtable Discussion – Open Birkbeck: Where next? (brought the Council Room reclamation to a fine close!)
If you’ll be in the Bloomsbury area and have some time to spare before the march starts at noon, do come along to discuss how the Open Birkbeck initiative can and should develop in the near future even as we continue our struggle.

Wednesday, 8/12/10

6-9pm: ‘Open Mike’ Discussion (over, thanks all for participating!)
All are welcome to contribute to the debate surrounding higher education at this juncture of our history. Among the topics that will be talked about (and what is actually raised depends on each of you who attends and participates!) are the radical beginnings of Birkbeck, the political function of intellectuals, and the relationship between anarchism and education. Come, bring some ideas, and be prepared to speak up for a few minutes on anything that you feel is relevant to our situation (or just come and listen)!

9.15pm-late: General Meeting (over, brilliant turnout! thank you all!)
This meeting will decide, inter alia, upon the demands/focus of the Open Birkbeck initiative. Everyone is welcome to come and contribute towards the construction of the ideas that will drive this ‘project’.

Last updated: 10/12/10 1.07 a.m.

Open Birkbeck: An Invitation

‘. . . in this spot hereafter, the charms of literature shall be displayed, and the powers of science shall be unfolded to the most humble inquirers; for to the ‘feast of reason’ . . . the invitation shall be as unbounded as the region of the intellect.’ Lord Birkbeck, 1824

Open Birkbeck is an event in which students, staff and faculty from Birkbeck College re-claim the Council Room for an intended period of 24 hours to create an open space for discussion and deliberation on how we can participate in a society committed to Higher Education for all.

It is a peaceful event that welcomes discussion, debate, and exchange from all who are concerned with the fate of higher education, particularly in light of the cuts recently proposed by the coalition government. In the spirit of George Birkbeck and others who founded the London Mechanics Institution in 1823 (later to become Birkbeck College), we begin from the position that education should not be reserved for an elite and that as a society we have a duty to provide access to education for any who seek it. In rejection of its marketisation, the duty to provide education is seen to be of value not only as a means for economic development, but as a fundamental way in which we open space to share and exchange ideas and inspiration; as well as to challenge assumptions, values and ideologies. It is a space that should be accessible to all.

Among other activities we intend to complete a statement during the event addressed to both the college and to our Members of Parliament concerning the recent proposed cuts which we consider antithetical to a commitment to education for all. As the name ‘Open Birkbeck’ suggest, this is a process which is inclusive and welcomes anyone who wishes to participate.

We welcome anyone who is interested in the future of Higher Education to participate!

At 12:00 noon, December 9th, we intend to adjourn ‘Open Birkbeck’ until the next event.

An event re-claiming the Birkbeck Council Room to create an open space to deliberate on how we can participate in a society committed to Higher Education for all – a commitment threatened by the cuts recently proposed by the coalition government.

12:00 noon, 8th December 2010 to 12:00 noon, 9th December 2010, at which time we will adjourn until the next event

Council Room, Birkbeck College (Main Building), Malet Street

Anyone who is concerned about the future of Birkbeck College and the future of Higher Education!