Roehampton Students Adopt 14 Hens As Part of Food Sustainability Project

Ex-commercial chickens saved from slaughter by Growhampton

Some of the chickens rescued from being slaughtered
Some of the chickens rescued from being slaughtered


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A flock of ex-commercial chickens that had been destined for slaughter are now at the heart of a community food sustainability project.

The flock of 14 hens have been adopted from the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) and now live at Roehampton Students’ Union’s ‘Growhampton’ project based at the University of Roehampton.

Now they are looked after by staff and volunteers as part of a project that aims to encourage everyone to think about sustainability issues.

Hillary Nevyjel, Chicken Care and Biodiversity Assistant, said, “We’ve rehomed hens three times since 2017 and they’re very friendly, much more so than when we first opened and had purebreeds.

“We have benches by the coop and when you sit with the chickens, they really cheer you up. You can just forget about everything and we get a lot of feedback that they’ve helped students cope with things.

“We’re an open campus so we have lots of people walking past them in the morning and families visiting at the weekend, the hens are popular with everyone.”

Alongside the chicken coop, the Growhampton project includes a café, built from former shipping containers, where eggs from the hens are sold, a polytunnel and various growing sites for fruit and vegetables.

Volunteers and staff at the site engage with outside organisations to help spread the message about sustainability.

Hillary said, “We try to engage not just with the university’s students but also the wider local community such as youth projects and elderly groups who come along to attend sessions about learning to grow and harvest your own food.

“The chickens are a great way to engage with people. Students, staff, and the community volunteer to take care of them and they’re a great focal point for everyone to learn more not just about hens but also to think more about where food comes from.

“Food sustainability and growing your own is becoming more important and people are beginning to realise that. Lots of visitors who come to our site take that message away with them and are inspired to try growing their own at home.”

If you’d like to adopt hens into your family or for a community project, find out when the BHWT’s next rehoming event is being held by visiting its web site.

To learn more about Growhampton, visit this page.


A rally is to be held this Saturday (9 July) in protest against proposed cuts at the University of Roehampton.

Closure of courses and staff redundancies are planned as the institution attempts to manage finances in the face of reduced funding.

The rally which begins at 10am on the university campus is organised by the Roehampton branch of the University and College Union (UCU), the trade union representing academic and academic-related staff. The campaign has been supported by students, academics, professional bodies and public figures.

Roehampton academics and students oppose management plans to close or cut back courses in Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Life and Health Sciences, Psychology, and Education. They say half the academic workforce, 226 academics, will be made redundant, although this number is disputed by management. The union says that those wishing to continue to work will be required to compete for fewer jobs with unmanageable workloads.

Roehampton UCU says says that The University of Roehampton is pursuing the cuts after incurring huge debts on the construction of new buildings and the financial argument the university is using to justify its decision is not valid. It believes that the reasons are ideological, part of a wider plan to refocus post-92 universities on vocational and technical courses while ‘elite’ institutions retain subjects that engage students in critical thinking.

It said on social media “Given the Uni's success with working class students in 'elite' subjects, it's an attack on social mobility based on fake economics”.

Roehampton students, who are mainly local, and have a significant representation of those from less well-off backgrounds and ethnic minorities are generally backing Saturday’s rally. Using the hashtag #RoeStopTheCuts, the student collective RoehamptonStudentProtest wrote on Twitter: “The reason we campaign so hard against these plans is because we know they will be detrimental to the university we love so much.” In another tweet they said: “Incoming students are not being accurately informed of the changes to the courses that are being advertised to them”.

Students recently organised their own demonstration. Delivering letters of protest to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Jean- Noël Ezingeard, they rallied outside his office holding placards with messages such as “Nightmare before Noël l”, “This is NOT the degree we pay £9250 for”, “Making 226 of our lecturers redundant does NOT improve our student experience” etc.

Anouska Lester, a PhD student, wrote on Twitter, “Education shouldn’t just be the privilege of an elite few. For many, studying at Roe is a chance we wouldn’t have had elsewhere. International students save for years and leave their home countries, specifically to study at this university.”

Fleur Anderson, Labour MP for Putney, has expressed her concerns about these plans in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor and has also held meetings with him, with Roehampton UCU and with students.

Bestselling writer and honorary professor at the University, Anthony Horowitz, wrote in The Times that the threatened redundancies are a “positively inhumane attack” and do not seem to make financial sense. Horowitz considers the closure of English literature programmes as “the first stirrings of a very cold wind from the Government”. “Are we really going to be comfortable in a society which has decided that subjects that promote critical thinking and the beauty of language and literature, […] should in the future be reserved only for a privileged elite?”, he asks.

The University of Roehampton disputes the number given for redundancies give be the union saying that the reduction in full-time equivalent posts was expected to be 64 rather than over 200. It has said that evolving student demand and financial challenges due to a range of factors, including caps on regulated tuition fees and the removal of the ‘London Weighting’ element of the teaching grant has required a rebalancing of the courses on offer.

A spokesperson said, “This will involve making some difficult and challenging decisions. If the proposals which are subject to consultation progress, we anticipate a net reduction of around 64 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) academic posts overall. We are doing our utmost to support everyone affected through this period and have established dedicated support services for all our staff, as well as our student community.”

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July 15, 2022

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