Pro-Palestinian encampment to “conclude” before graduation after University notice

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In a statement, Durham Students for Palestine have said the encampment, based on Palace Green, “will conclude” on Friday, 21st June. This comes after Dr Amanda Wilcox, the University Secretary asked the encampment to “vacate University land” by Sunday, 23rd June.

The encampment has occupied Palace Green for 43 days on land which is owned by Durham University. Students have previously expressed their concerns about graduation days, which usually involve Palace Green, to Palatinate.

In preparation for upcoming graduation ceremonies, Durham University wrote to the encampment about their occupation of Palace Green saying it “plays an important part in ensuring that our graduations are a special and joyous occasion for at least 6,000 students who have worked hard over several years to get to this point.” 

In the letter, the University has offered the encampment another meeting with Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), Dr Shaid Mahmood to “discuss the matters” that they had outlined. The encampment met with the University on the afternoon of the 20th June, where they told the University that they would be vacating. 

The encampment stressed that “our choice to leave Palace Green is largely independent of this request [by the University]”, saying it was down to “progress” with demands, the end of the academic year, as well as “burn out”. They said, “for 43 days, we poured every ounce of our energy into this movement. […] We tried.”

On 19th June the encampment had sent the University an email where they had “reference[ed] graduation and the potential for [the encampment] to leave Palace Green for that.”  

For 43 days, we poured every ounce of our energy into this movement. […] We tried.

Durham students for palestine

They reflected that “to continue to pressure the University between academic years”, that shifting their tactics “away from the encampment is the best course of action”.

The encampment says that across five meetings, the University “acknowledged” some of their demands, including a review of the University’s Ethical Investment Policy, increasing support for Palestinian student scholarships, and pledging to rebuild higher education after the Israel-Gaza war. 

However, many of the encampments’ original demands – for the University to “disinvest” from organisations linked to Israel, to “call for a permanent ceasefire”, to “safeguard” academic freedom and freedom of speech, and “advocate for the rights of Palestinians” – have not yet been met.

In the University’s letter, they shared updates regarding their Ethical Investment Policy. With the support of Dan Lonsdale, Durham Students’ Union president, the University will “commission work through our investment partners, Sarasins, to provide an impact review of our Ethical Investment Policy including a list of companies that are currently excluded” and “report the outcome of the Finance Committee’s discussions on the Ethical Investment Policy at the next Council meeting in July 2024 and update on the intention for the policy to be reviewed.”

Durham University reiterated their support for all affected students, reaffirming increasing their financial commitment to scholarships for Palestinian students from Gaza and the West Bank whilst expressing their dedication to rebuilding higher education in affected conflict zones. 

In the statement the encampment expressed hope that they have been able to act as a “catalyst”, to encourage students already involved with the movement to “continue to advocate, agitate, and strive for all our demands to be met by the University.” 


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