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Court to rule on student sit-in

A decision on whether to evict students staging a sit-in protest at University College London (UCL) over proposed hikes in tuition fees is set to be made in court.

It is understood that between 100 and 200 people have been taking part in the occupation, which began at the university's Wilkins Building in central London last Tuesday.

UCL lawyers commenced legal proceedings on Thursday, seeking an injunction to remove the students at the High Court after they failed to meet an ultimatum to leave.

Earlier in the day the legal representatives issued protesters with a letter, claiming the sit-in was "disrupting significantly the day-to-day operation of UCL". A university source said they were "95% sure" the injunction would be granted by judges.

In the letter to the students, UCL said it acknowledged students felt angry about proposed cuts to higher education funding, and Government plans to raise tuition fees. But it added that the occupation was disrupting university operations, with a number of planned events being cancelled.

"Please be clear that, if you do not vacate the Jeremy Bentham room by 11am, your continued occupation of that room (or your occupation of any other part of UCL's campus to which you may re-locate after leaving the Jeremy Bentham room) will be without UCL's either express or implied authority or permission," the letter said.

"As such, your occupation will be unlawful and UCL will be entitled to commence legal proceedings against you for an Order requiring you to vacate any part of UCL's campus that you are then occupying and preventing you from undertaking any future occupation of UCL's campus or conducting any unlawful activities which disrupt the day-to-day operation of UCL."

The students said they were served notice of the claim of a possession order before the start of a pre-arranged negotiation meeting on Thursday afternoon.

They said in a statement: "UCL management have entered into their claim at Central London County Court.Reasons cited in the notice are the increasing financial and reputational loss of UCL, which includes £10,000 in additional security costs and £10,232 in lost catering costs.

"The UCL occupations have created a safe space for students to exercise their legitimate rights to freedom of expression and protest. In light of recent and continuing police violence and the use of kettling at student protests it is absolutely necessary to facilitate and uphold students' rights in an environment free from fear of violence."

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