The court injunction issued by the University of Birmingham against student occupiers has been found to have cost the university £27,457 plus VAT.
The last few months have seen a bout of student occupations and staff strikes at universities across the country. On November 21 students at the University of Birmingham went into occupation of the Senate Chambers over a list of demands including decreased tuition fees and a living wage for all university staff. After a week in which the university refused to engage in negotiations, the occupation culminated in the eviction of students by police, bailiffs and security staff following the release of the injunction.
The considerable cost of the injunction was partly a result of its rapid enforcement. Targeting two named students, the university rushed the court order through allowing little time for the students to seek legal advice of their own. One of the named students, Hattie Craig, remarked in her blog that she had been threatened with personal fees of up to £25,000 if the court proceedings were not concluded swiftly.
Many feel the cost of the injunction contemptible considering the wage disparity at the University of Birmingham. One student speculated that the amount spent on the injunction would go half the way to ensuring all support staff at the university received a living wage. Courses continue to be shut down and teaching budgets continue to be cut, yet the university has the means to issue expensive court injunctions and pay their Vice Chancellor David Eastwood - the highest paid VC in the country - over £300,000 a year.
Aside from financial concerns, many also feel it an abuse of power for the university to have issued an injunction at all, considering that Amnesty International and Liberty have previously condemned this type of discipline as "worrying, aggressive and censorious". Financial and legal pressure is not an appropriate way for university management to handle peaceful student protest.
As long as the University of Birmingham continues to spend money in this way, students and staff unions will continue to voice their concerns. The next planned action will be a National Demonstration and meeting of student groups from around the country. This is set to take place on January 29 on University of Birmingham campus.