Leeds Trinity University academics back sit in students

Top academics at Leeds Trinity University are backing students who have gone back into occupation in protest at the Government's decision to axe billions of pounds in higher education funding and treble tuition fees.

Demonstrators are carrying on their sit-in at the campus for "as long as it takes" in their fight against the policies which they say have put the university's future in doubt.

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Leeds Trinity's most senior figure is among the staff lending full support to the campaign.

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Principal and chief executive Professor Freda Bridge told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The students initiated a sit-in in December which has continued into the New Year. They have a well-organised, peaceful protest that is not disruptive to our business and have been professional at all times.

"We are supportive of their campaign against government cuts in higher education and have worked positively with them to ensure that they can carry out their protest."

In a recent report by academics' union the UCU, Leeds Trinity was said to be facing a "high risk" of possible closure because of government plans to slash the national higher education budget from 7.1bn to 4.2bn by 2014.

Professor Bridge believes Leeds Trinity is facing its biggest crisis ever as a result.

She said: "As a result of the major changes being introduced, we face the most turbulent and potentially dangerous period for years. The almost-certain withdrawal of public funding and reliance on student fees is a real concern.

"This situation is not one of our own making but we need to do what is best for our institution, its students and staff."

Student demonstrators are committed to fighting for a reversal of government policy and seeking the support of the wider community.

They hope to involve MPs, councillors, trade unions and community groups in their occupation at two offices on the Horsforth campus.

Campaigner Andy Smith, in his second year studying psychology, said: "The protests need to involve all individuals and organisations opposing these cuts so that we can all work together.

"We plan to stay here for as long as possible and we are determined to win. It took three years to overturn the poll tax but people did it in the end. There is a lot of anger out there at the savage way in which the cuts to higher education have been implemented."

Under Government proposals, all funding for courses in arts, humanities and social sciences is being removed as the Government substitutes financial support with higher tuition fees of up to 9,000 a year.