Pro-Palestine student protesters claim ‘major win’ as first Australian university agrees to meet some demands

The University of Melbourne has become the first Australian education institution to agree to some demands of pro-Palestine protesters, who have been camping inside a department building for more than a week.

It comes as Deakin University’s pro-Palestine encampment in Victoria was scheduled to end on Thursday evening. But students at multiple campuses across the nation vowed to continue their sit-ins that are calling for universities to disclose, divest and cut ties with weapons manufacturers linked to Israel, arguing it makes them complicit in the war in Gaza.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the University of Melbourne said from next month it would make additional disclosures about its research project grant arrangements to help improve transparency.

It said this would include disclosing parties who fund research and the amounts. But it said disclosures would be subject to confidentiality obligations, national security regulations and laws and the safety of researchers.

“This commitment reflects the University’s dedication to fostering informed dialogue and understanding about our contributions to Australia’s social and economic wellbeing, including in our commitment to the defence and national security of Australia,” a statement said.

The university said it had engaged with a broad range of staff members and student groups about the issue since last year, including some involved in recent protests.

Related: University of Queensland bans chants as pro-Palestine camp in Melbourne threatened over fire safety rules

Pro-Palestine protesters have been camped inside the university’s Arts West building for eight nights, prompting administrators to threaten police and disciplinary action.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry earlier this week backed the university’s directive for students to leave the building.

“There is a right to protest but absolutely no right to seize buildings, to deny access to others, or camp on university grounds,” co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin said.

On Wednesday evening, student activists promised to dismantle the encampment after the institution made a public statement agreeing to disclose its ties to weapons companies – a key demand of the activists.

The students have unofficially renamed the Arts West building “Mahmoud’s Hall” in honour of a Palestinian who was killed with his family in Gaza before he could begin his studies in Australia on a scholarship.

On Wednesday, University of Melbourne for Palestine organiser, Dana Alshaer, said the university’s disclosure commitment was “a major win, but it’s also a first step”.

Across Australia, encampments of between 20 and 50 students remain at the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University in Canberra, RMIT in Melbourne, and Curtin University in Western Australia.

Students at remaining encampments say they have achieved increased awareness about institutions’ ties to weapons manufacturers, despite some Jewish groups and politicians labelling them a disruption to learning.

The federal opposition spokesperson for education, Sarah Henderson, earlier this week called for police to be called to university encampments to “restore and law order”. While David Southwick, the deputy leader of the Victorian Liberal party and a Jewish MP, said he had met a number of Jewish students at the University of Melbourne who he said felt intimidated by protesters.

Related: Victorian premier accuses pro-Palestine protesters of bringing ‘violence, homophobia and antisemitism’ to Labor conference

Liam Parry, from the Students for Palestine University of Queensland group said the encampment had been “more successful than any of us could have thought.”

Deaglan Godwin, from the Students for Palestine Sydney University group, said a group of encampment protesters were planning to meet with the vice-chancellor, Mark Scott, and other senior executives on Friday afternoon.

“We’re hoping the university accepts our demands and offers to meet them,” he said.

But he said the group would not accept a commitment to only disclose, arguing full divestment was also needed.

A University of Sydney spokesperson said it was encouraging a meeting was planned with student leaders of the encampment.

RMIT encampment protester James McVicar said the University of Melbourne’s commitment was a step in the right direction.

“Students ought to at least know what sort of deals that universities are doing,’ he said.

Pro-Palestine encampments in Australia followed a wave of protest at campuses in the United States.

Briana Symonds, a protester at the encampment at the University of Adelaide, said she felt a sense of solidarity with students in the US.

“We were inspired by the encampment in Sydney but also in the United States who were standing steadfast against their administrations. We wanted to be part of this global movement,” she said.

Over the past week, the encampments at La Trobe University and Monash University in Victoria also ended after threats of disciplinary action including expulsion.