Students have been warned that if they continue to protest cash will be taken from their union, teaching and research budgets.

University of Sussex vice-chancellor Michael Farthing made his feelings clear about the activists, who have been occupying the Falmer campus’ Bramber building for nine days, in an open letter to staff.

The students responded by calling it a “pathetic attempt to impede their right to protest”.

A spokesman said: “They are trying to show themselves in a good light by allowing us to occupy the space while, at the same time, threatening us to get out or else.”

The students are occupying the top floor conference centre in protest against the privatisation of campus catering and facility management jobs.

They say that university bosses have not consulted them or workers on the plans, which will affect 235 jobs.

In the letter, Mr Farthing said the protest had distressed staff who worked in the building.

He said: “In relation to the costs incurred, aside from the Students’ Union, the only other place where loss of revenue can be replaced would be from our teaching and research funds, which are the only other main sources of revenue for the university.”

Stop spread

He added that he was working with senior staff to stop the occupation spreading to other buildings on campus – a plan he said had been discussed by students.

A spokesman for the students responded by saying that no such plans had been discussed and Mr Farthing’s comments were “nothing more than a petty attempt to cause division”.

The protest has received widespread support from around the world since it began on February 7.

On Thursday (February 14) Caroline Lucas, comedian Mark Steel and writer Will Self visited the occupation to offer words of support.

Film director Ken Loach is the latest famous face to send a message of support.

Mr Farthing added that those who work in the conference centre continue to be denied access to their place of work.

But, when asked last night whether they would use legal powers to evict the students, the university refused to say.

A spokeswoman added: “We are keeping the situation under review.”

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