LECTURES are cancelled at the University of Sussex today as students from all over the country descend on campus to express solidarity with striking lecturers.

In an email leaked to The Argus, deputy vice-chancellor Saul Becker told staff a group of Sussex students had organised a national demonstration in support of the University and College Union (UCU) strikes that have swept the country in recent weeks.

Hundreds of students are expected in Falmer to back their lecturers’ demands for an improved pensions deal after the UCU rejected an offer from Universities UK (UUK) designed to bring an end to the row.

It is thought protesters – acting independently of the University of Sussex Students’ Union – have chosen Sussex because of vice-chancellor Adam Tickell's key role in the settlement negotiations.

While it is true that UCU claim that its members will lose £10,000 a year, this is not because of increased contributions.

In fact, UCU had suggested that employee contributions increase to 10.9% in order to maintain the defined benefits that members currently enjoy.

The UUK proposal is to keep contributions as they are and move towards a defined contribution scheme. 

Picket lines have surrounded Sussex campus since the nationwide unrest began last month.

Students occupied the fourth floor of Bramber House, which is used by admin teams, in solidarity with teaching staff on Monday.

Mr Becker said: “Although the scale of the demonstration will not be known until the day, we are anticipating and planning for large numbers of non-Sussex students, and other groups not associated with our university, to come to campus.

“Critical discourse and public demonstrations in support of issues that students and staff feel passionately about have been a part of Sussex’s history since its inception.

“The university respects the rights of students and individuals to take part in a peaceful protest. If the demonstration does go ahead, we hope it will be done in such a way that other students, staff and visitors to the campus will be treated with respect.”

But he confirmed all remaining teaching would be cancelled on Thursday, with all but one of the university canteens – Eat Central, in Bramber House – also closed for business.

A university spokesperson said: “We are aware that a national demonstration is being organised by a group of students at Sussex, in relation to the industrial action on pensions. “The university respects the rights of students and individuals to take part in a peaceful protest. If the demonstration goes ahead, those involved have been asked to ensure that other students, staff and visitors to the campus are treated with respect.

“However, our primary responsibility is to our community, and we must therefore plan for different eventualities. As such we have had to regretfully cancel teaching for that day.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Police are aware of a demonstration being planned on the Sussex University campus in Falmer on Thursday.

“We are in close liaison with the university which respects the right for people to peacefully protest.

“The demonstration will be managed by the university’s security team and they will be in touch with us should we need to respond to any significant disorder.”