Occupation turned into residence

When students decided to occupy a Leeds University building in protest at the planned tuition fee increase two weeks ago they did not expect a lecture room to become their second home.

But for the past 14 nights a group of around 100 protesters has been camped out in the Rupert Beckett lecture theatre, which has become an unofficial headquarters for students wanting to campaign against the Government's plans.

The occupation, which has attracted students from both Leeds and Leeds Met universities along with school and college pupils and supporters from trade unions, is set to come to an end at the weekend to allow the hall be used for graduation ceremonies.

However, those involved said it had inspired them to continue to fight against the planned tuition fee hike regardless of the result of tonight's vote.

Occupation spokeswoman Georgia Emblen said: "I don't think anyone thought we would have stayed in here this long. We just thought it was people spontaneously going into the lecture hall. When people started talking about staying and getting some food I turned to my friend and said 'We'll go in an hour' – and we have ended up staying for two weeks.

"We have had a good relationship with staff. Lecturers have come in signed a petition in support of the occupation and given unofficial lectures. We are just disheartened that our vice chancellor won't oppose the fees increase."

Joanna Spence, who is in her first year at Leeds, said protesters were determined to stop funding cuts. She said: "I study English and I find what's happening to arts and humanities shocking – these subjects are a fundamental part of our country and our culture."

Dane Kelly, a final year sociology student from Leeds Met, said: "My lecturer told me this occupation was the best thing to happen to higher education in 30 years. It has given us some of the best moments of our lives."