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Students occupy Warwick University

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

image captionThe students are using the time to discuss the issues they are protesting about

A group of Warwick students are occupying university buildings in protest at a £42,000 pay rise for its vice-chancellor.

Calling themselves Protect the Public University, the students have been planning the occupation which began on Friday, for about a month.

They want to highlight how higher fees are leaving students with debts of about the size of the pay rise.

Warwick said it would take all steps necessary to deal with the issue.

A spokesman for the protesters said: "The council chamber is the symbolic heart of university decision-making and we are taking the platform of our own university to begin a dialogue about the threat to public higher education.

"A £42,000 pay increase comes at a time when students are becoming dramatically more indebted because of higher tuition fees but the widening access targets are not being met."

He said protesters were also concerned about reports that the terms and conditions of student loans could be changed with higher interest rates ahead.

"This places students in a precarious position in relation to the government."

He also claimed many university staff had seen real-terms pay cuts and there had been an increase in short-term contracts.

"University is now making inequality not challenging it and this has been driven by this government's higher education policy," he said.

The students, who have been sleeping in the council chamber since Friday night, are equipped with sleeping bags and laptops.

They said it was actually "incredibly comfortable" and that they had received deliveries of food and provisions from well-wishers.

A teach-in is being organised on Tuesday afternoon at the chamber with 150 people expected to attend.

'No right to be there'

However, they claim security guards on the campus have warned them that university officials are going to mount legal action to remove them.

The university spokesman confirmed the size of Prof Nigel Thrift's pay rise, but said it was awarded in 2011 after several years of no pay rises.

He played down the significance of the occupation, saying they happened "all the time across the university sector" and "about every two years at Warwick".

"This group of about 17 students have their own particular range of concerns," he added, but he was clear that the students had "no right to be there".

He stressed that there were plenty of opportunities for students to express their opinions about the way the university was run in a democratic way.

The university was "keeping all its options open" and would take any actions it deemed necessary, including legal action, to remove the students, he said.

More on this story

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