Cologne 2006

Cologne 2006

Student Strike in Cologne 2006

Boss of the University Senate Faction Die Linke


The beginning of the strike was kind of surreal. I had

heard that something had been approved but I had not

foreseen the chaos that was to ensue when all the

students turned up for class only to find the Die Linke

faction of the University senate present handing out

leaflets, giving their messages out to their generals from

their command bunker in in the centre of the

philosophical faculty, and barricading off the classrooms

with a row of steel and plastic seating. “No, you’re not

going to classes today are you? Cross my picket line at

your peril”, she said with an icy stare. So, even though I

found it rather inconvenient at first and wanted them to

solve the overcrowding issues and lack of sufficient IT

resources at the university, I had no choice as to

whether 500 euros student tuition fees per semester

was viable for me or presented value for money.


However, I do believe that a yes to tuition fees as it was

at the University of Essex is a slippery slope to paying

11,000 euros a year. This was to be the second phase of

the introduction of fees. The first stage to charge for

people staying on and doing a second BA where they

could have previously enjoyed total academic freedom

for nothing proved very unpopular and the

management had won that process. So, the students

had fallen back behind the lines of protecting their

rights to a first degree for free.


Many of the staff were complicit.

Being the NRW a traditionally socialist area of the

country many people were for the status quo of zero

fees and Professor Reuvekamp-Felber who taught us

medieval German upstairs where the classrooms were

open was even inclined to say, “The official line is that

you are to go to class and stay here, but I’m not going to

complain if you want to disappear downstairs and

defend your interests!” or words to that effect. They

were lovely the staff of Cologne University it would

never happen at any university in England now.

The Protest on Albertus Magnus Platz


There must have been a good 5000 students there on

Albertus Magnus Platz that day when I came into Uni I

just joined them in their standing protest. Outside the

main building Axel Freimuth the Rector of the University

had come out of his office to address the crowd. He

made the argument for investment for the future and

thinking about the research rating of the university as a

priority. One student argued passionately for a free

university education. She was poor and she wanted to

preserve the right to a free university education for her

children in the future and preserve it for future

generations. Then another male student, suited and

booted, and much less of a hippie, argued for better

facilities and for the students to go back to their

classrooms. Axel thought him a bit of a traitor to his

own kind and took the Mickey out of him saying that he

could come into his rectorate to view his personal art

collection which has a sexual implication in German. It

wrapped up with no progress being made on that hot

sunny day so the students escalated their efforts up a


The Senate Meeting


The battle for zero tuition fees for the 1st degree

reconvened several weeks later in the main building

outside the hall the Aula. People gathered with their

bongos and other drums clapping and stamping their

feet and chanting the following line

Es ist aus! Einfach raus! Freimuth macht die Bildung aus!

It’s finished! Just go! Freimuth is is cutting out our education!

The Verdi Boys


Someone then got the boys from the Verdi union in

from the pay dispute down the road at the hospital.

They had been camped out there in a marquee for

weeks. They had a very attacking style with Claxon

horns and 5ft flags they were raising and waving inside

the main building. They laid siege to Freimuth

conducting a senate meeting in which the decision for

tuition fees of 500 euros a semester was being made.


Baton Rounds


The police beat back the protesters with batons to stop

them entering the senate room and crashing the door

down. They then bundled Freimuth away in the back of

a police car under armed guard for his own protection.

Never again was the senate meeting with student

representation to take place on campus. There were

posters up everywhere saying Freimuth is playing

Scotland Yard with us we’ll find out where the meeting

is going to be before it is too late, but we never did and

the decision was made to bring in tuition fees of 500

pounds a semester with staff members of the senate

alone which was illegal. This is probably why they

eventually offered to reverse the decision to keep free

university places for all and the students won. The

management are still trying to introduce tuition fees

and the student strikes have become almost a yearly

occurrence in Cologne now.

Freimuth Gets the Boot

As a final stunt by the students that year as an ultimate

expression of distaste against Freimuth’s invitation of

the male student to see his art collection. They all gate

crashed the party and held a sit in protest 24/7 in the

rectorate for 2 weeks ejecting Axel Freimuth from his

place of work and living in there. They placed his big

black leather chair outside and handed out their leaflets

from it. Being a German thing when the protest was

broken up the students were legally obliged to clean up

the office most likely so when girlfriend Marina

collected her degree I distinctly remember walking past

and hearing their hoovers going and people climbing out

of the windows on ladders with full dusters