University of Manchester students ‘dragged’ out of campus by bailiffs after striking over rent payments have refused to ‘back down’.
Since February 13, students had been occupying the Simon Building, which houses facilities such as lecture halls, laboratories and HR offices.
All were withholding their rent payments due to the cost-of-living crisis, with a growing share facing increasing financial and emotional strain.
The students in the ‘UoM Rent Strike’ group demanded a 30% reduction in rent at halls of residence and a three-year rent freeze.
Bailiffs, the strikers for weeks said, would be the only way they’d ever leave.
This became a reality early yesterday morning when footage shared with Metro.co.uk shows officers carrying people out by their arms and legs.
After securing an order from Manchester High Court on Monday, the university gave notice to the occupiers on Tuesday before bailiffs were sent to evict them.
After students began sitting cross-legged, the officers ‘dragged’ them out of the campus building (Picture: UoM Rent Strike)
The University of Manchester said it ‘regretted’ the decision (Picture: UoM Rent Strike)
Dylan Taylor sat cross-legged after an enforcement officer gave the occupiers a ‘first warning’ (Picture: Dylan Taylor)
Dylan Taylor, 20, a second-year law student, was among those who watched as his friends were hauled by officers of the High Court.
He would know – he was one of the first to be taken away.
‘The vibe was intense, to begin with. We had 15 bailiffs basically burst into the room, making no effort to warn us before walking in. Waking everyone up – it was, like, 5am,’ he said.
‘But the students within the building really came together. We kind of huddled together, had a chat, really digested the situation and made a coordinated response to it.
‘We made the spontaneous decision to stay – we thought it was worth to show the uni we, as protesters, are not gonna back down lightly to this aggression.’
Dylan said it was ‘nerve-wracking’ when the bailiffs first entered, with a High Court enforcement officer giving them their ‘first warning’.
As a law student, Dylan raised his eyebrow about what that exactly meant.
‘This seemed to frustrate him even more,’ Dylan claimed. ‘He didn’t choose to communicate with us at all, he was just like: “You’re on your second warning”.’
Dylan responded by sitting cross-legged on the floor, saying: ‘He got security to carry me out first, but I think it only showed the other occupiers it was ok to do.’
The student added: ‘So when they started to drag us out, there was a lot of solidarity with one another. It was tense but we made our best effort to support one another through it. Thankfully, no one was injured.
‘I think we made a very clear message about what the university is willing to do to protesters, and just in their ignorance of what issues are really affecting students living.’
Bailiffs lifted the students one by one (Picture: UoM Rent Strike)
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: ‘On Wednesday morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order, on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since February 13, 2023.
‘This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on March 15, 2023.
‘The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.
‘We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.’
The University has offered a ‘huge amount’ of welfare and support services, with well-being ‘driving many of our core initiatives’, he added.
Patrick Hackett, registrar, secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the University of Manchester said the college recognises the difficulties around student housing and said the government’s 2.8% maintenance loan rise was ‘insufficient’.
But as the cost of food grows for students with little or no income, Dylan described how the situation has become ‘unsustainable’.
The rent strikers had been occupying the building for more than 40 days (Picture: UoM Rent Strike)
‘Students have to decide, “am I going to work two jobs and still try to study, or am I going to sacrifice my ability to learn to live?”‘ he said, adding that he is feeling the ‘brunt of the cost-of-living crisis’ himself.
‘I’d say it’s really harmed my ability to engage academically, which has been the case for most students,’ he said.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in November found half of all students in England were facing financial difficulties. A third skipped classes to cut costs, while a quarter had gone into debt.
The sight of students sneaking in a pint (or two) after classes isn’t so much a rite of passage these days, it’s a choice, Dylan, who has a part-time job, said.
‘You’re either choosing between getting a bus to uni or choosing to have a pint with your mates,’ he said.
Britain’s inflation rate rose last month to 10.4% in February, granting little relief to cash-strapped Brits.
The strikers hope to keep the rent action going until April when the next payments are due (Picture: UoM Rent Strike)
Food inflation climbed again, with prices rising at a rate of 18% – the highest in more than 45 years. Some supermarket essentials have doubled in price.
‘When shifts come in that contradict with my lessons, I choose the shifts because I need the money,’ Dylan said. ‘I can’t put a number or explain the depth of how this affects my education.
‘But I think it’s obvious. I’m missing valuable material for my degree because I can’t afford to live.’
What the striking students see as the ‘ridiculously high rent’ the university is charging for dorms isn’t helping, they say.
In January, more than 350 students withheld their rent before taking over a number of campus properties, such as the MECD, Samuel Alexander and the John Owens building.
They also asked for a 30% rent refund and for 40% of halls to meet the National Union of Students’ definition of affordability, which is half of the highest student maintenance loan.
Dylan said the occupation felt like a ‘commune’ for the students (Picture: Dylan Taylor)
All of this could be funded through Manchester’s record £119,700,00 surplus, the
The students, after being pushed out of the three buildings in only a few days, soon settled into the Simon Building.
For weeks it became something of a ‘commune’, Dylan said, with donated food always on the table and even movie nights being thrown.
‘I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say it was a really nice area that we’re all going to miss,’ he said.
Though they were evicted, Dylan said he and his fellow strikers have ‘no plans to stop’ as the eviction ‘doesn’t mean our problems are resolved’.
‘It’s ironic for because in the court hearing on Monday, we were told by the judge that it would be bad for justice if we didn’t try to do something and that’s one of the reasons they pushed through the possession order,’ he said.
Moments before granting the university its order, the judge said to laughs: ‘If they didn’t try to occupy somewhere else it wouldn’t be a very good protest.’
Dylan said the students will keep up the rent strike until the second rent payment on April 20, where they hope for more than 1,000 students to take part.
‘We plan to get even more rent strikes involved and highlight that the conditions the university has fostered are unlivable,’ Dylan said.
‘Students should be able to live the lives they were promised and deserve.’
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University of Manchester students have been striking over rent.