Statement from the University of Birmingham

The demonstration on Wednesday 29th January organised by Defend Education Birmingham, a small group that is not affiliated to the Guild of Students or in any way representative of our student body, was not a peaceful protest. The actions of this group included: injuring staff, throwing smoke bombs and fireworks, smashing down doors, damaging historic buildings including Aston Webb and the Old Joe clock tower, graffiti and defacing buildings and property. Given the serious nature of their actions, the University had no choice but to ask the police for assistance in restoring order and protecting students, staff and university property.

Following this disruption we understand that the police made 13 arrests and are investigating possible offences of violent disorder, aggravated trespass and criminal damage. Whilst many of those involved were not from the University of Birmingham, the University suspended a small number of its students, who were amongst those arrested or charged with these offences and were on bail.   The University has reviewed the cases following changes in bail conditions for some of the students and has lifted the suspensions for some of the students, who remain on bail and under police investigation for possible offences.  The suspensions remain in place for the other students on bail, due to the very serious nature of the allegations or charges they face. The University will continue to keep the cases under review informed by the ongoing police investigations and changing circumstances.

Violence on campus is always unacceptable and the University has acted in a reasonable and proportionate way. In the event of a suspension the University will always review the case of each individual student in the light of changing circumstances; and balancing their situation with the seriousness of the alleged offences, the need to protect the safety and well-being of our students, staff and the wider community, and the risk to property and of serious disruption to the University community. The University will not comment further on individual cases.

Whilst peaceful protest is part of university life, the University will not tolerate behaviour that causes harm or harassment to individuals, damage to property or significant disruption to our University community. Our priority is protecting the safety and well-being of our students, staff and the wider community. As a charity the University is under a duty to protect and preserve it assets. It therefore reserves its right to take appropriate legal or disciplinary action as necessary. This in no way impinges on the rights of staff or students to protest peacefully and within the law on campus and there have been many protests on campus which have passed off peacefully and without incident.

Universities are places of free speech and we respect the rights of students and staff to protest peacefully and within the law. This is clearly outlined in our Freedom of Speech Code of Practice (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/university/legal/freedom-speech.pdf). Indeed, the University welcomes debate on key policy issues and there are a variety of ways in which the legitimate concerns of students can be raised and responded to, for example via the 115 students who sit on key University committees