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What began as a temporary occupation of the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) humanities faculty is quickly becoming a nation-wide student movement against the commercialisation of higher education. On 13 February, a group of students occupied the humanities faculty of the UvA in response to the administration’s apparent unwillingness to discuss a programme of radical changes to the university. Demonstrators were evicted eleven days later, but shortly after took over the university’s administrative centre, where they remain to this date. Under the name of the “,” the growing group of students and staff is demanding the “democratisation of university governance, greater transparency of the university’s finances [and] halting plans to restructure and cut a number of departments,” among others. The Maagdenhuis occupation has received plenty of attention from the media, and with the help of Facebook, appears to be sparking revolutionary sentiments in a number of campuses around the world.
The origins of the current occupation can be tracked to November of last year, when, in the face of an internal financial crisis, the UvA announced a number of structural changes and programme cuts. The School of Humanities was to be especially hard hit: Resources would be redirected into career-oriented majors and many of the Humanities degrees would be consolidated into a single, Liberal Arts major. Enraged students responded by occupying the Humanities building –the Bungehuis—and later the Maagdenhuis, in symbolic rejection of the university’s administration and the market-oriented changes it is attempting to push forth.
Public support for the nascent student movement has been high. Over 7 000 people, including internationally renowned scholars such as Judith Butler and Noam Chomsky, signed an a fight against commercialisation”. An administrative room in the London School of Economics (LSE) has been occupied since the 18 March by students protesting the neoliberal education model that, they say, LSE embodies. Similarly to their Dutch counterparts, they want a “Free University of London.” Other movements have similarly sprung up in Toronto and York, Canada.The Guardian