EDUCATION NOT FOR SALE! – 100,000 students march against tuition fees

The demonstration was a sea of anti-fees and anti-cuts placards and banners as students filled Whitehall on Wednesday
The demonstration was a sea of anti-fees and anti-cuts placards and banners as students filled Whitehall on Wednesday

OVER 100,000 students from all parts of Britain joined a massive demonstration against tuition fees in Westminster on Wednesday.

The march called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) quickly filled Whitehall after assembling near Trafalgar Square.

There were loud boos and hisses as crowds of youth made their way past Downing Street.

The street was jammed with demonstrators as it approached Parliament Square.

And outside the Houses of Parliament students holding up banners and placards shouted: ‘What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!’

Some students were wearing T-shirts saying: ‘No Lib Dem Con’.

Students were still joining the march as the front of the demonstration reached a rally at Tate Britain.

As the march passed Millbank Tower on its way to the rally, hundreds of students broke off and laid siege to the building, housing the Tory party headquarters, and some got onto the roof of the building and unfurled a banner, before riot police were called to the scene as nightfall approached.

There were hundreds of homemade placards and banners.

Some had placards saying: ‘Save our EMA’ – against government plans to scrap Education Maintenance Allowance’ for college students as well as treble university fees to £9,000 a year.

Among the banners and placards were ones saying: ‘My future Con-Demned’, ‘No to fee hikes’, ‘You lied to me Clegg’ and ‘Clegg resign’, and ‘Education for all’ and ‘Students must not pay for wars and bankers bonuses’, ‘Education not debt’, ‘Stop education cuts!’ and ‘No fees’.

One banner said: ‘We are your future, so give us a future’.

Young people were arriving from all directions as the march assembled.

The Young Socialists March for Jobs and Free State Education from Manchester to London travelled down to London for the day to join the demonstration and were welcomed enthusiastically by students.

Lecturers also joined in and retired UCU member Tony Hodges, who was with Carshalton College UCU banner, told News Line: ‘I support the aims of the Young Socialists march because education is a right for everyone.

‘I benefited from free state education, just as the people in government did in their day, and at the end of the day it’s not for us to pay for the debts of the bankers and the capitalist crisis.’

He added: ‘Abolition of EMA as well is going to be devastating for many students and for the courses they would have been on.

‘If the students can’t go to college then the managers will shut the courses down and sack the teachers.

‘So the abolition of EMA has huge consequences for the teaching staff as well as the students and their ability to get a decent education and skills for the workplace.’

He said: ‘I think all tuition fees should be abolished and all levels of education should be free.

‘I think the Tories and Cameron are taking advantage of the financial crisis to roll back the Welfare State and dismantle whole areas.

‘I think we should fight for a socialist future and I think pressure has to be brought from the rank and file on the union leaders to make them fight back.’

Jolene Fenwick was with a big contingent of more than 500 students from Northumbria.

She said: ‘I think it’s a damn good cause. Hell yes, we have to abolish all fees.

‘If Scotland can have no fees, so can we!

‘It seems the only thing (that will stop fees) is to bring the government down.’

Matt Teft said: ‘This government wasn’t elected, the two parties have joined together.’

‘And we vote for pathetic little promises that have never happened,’ added Jolene.

Ben Poser, from Thomas Hardy Sixth Form in Dorset, said: ‘I think education should be a right and I think anybody who wants to go to university should be allowed to go.

‘If you have the drive and ambition to go, I think you should be able to go, and I want to see all fees abolished.’

He added: ‘I think a lot of people will not go to university, and it’s not only that, they’re removing EMA, and I know a lot of my friends will not be able to go to school because they won’t be able to afford to travel anymore.’

Dan Horn, also from Thomas Hardy Sixth Form, said: ‘I don’t like this government. They have been elected, but unfairly, and I’m marching to abolish fees.’

Jason Roberts, from Westminster Kingsway College, said he thought the Young Socialists marching against all fees from Manchester to London was ‘great’ and ‘amazing’.

Janine Marks, also from Westminster Kingsway, said: ‘Abolish all fees. Education is our right. Education for the working class.’

There was a big contingent of drama students from central London.

Jordan Misfud, from RADA, said: ‘Students are walking out of RADA and the Central School of Speech and Drama and Italia Conti as well to be here today.’

Josh Silver, another RADA student, said: ‘I think it’s massively important to march today.

‘University funding is being cut 100 per cent, which means only people who have £9,000 a year will be able to go to university and the amount of people applying to drama school will decrease, which means there will be wasted talent because of money.

‘I support free state education.’

Sabeen Chaudhry, from King’s College, and Katherine Soroya, from Queen Mary College, said £9,000 a year tuition fees ‘is absolutely ridiculous’.

‘People can barely afford it at the moment,’ they said.

‘The Lib Dems are a complete sell-out.

‘They’ve sold out for 15 seconds of fame and Clegg’s just Cameron’s little lap-dog.

‘There should be an end to tuition fees. The fact they brought them in in the first place is ridiculous.

‘University’s going to be about who can afford it.’

There was a contingent of UCU leaders from the South-East Region holding a big banner.

Lorraine Monk, chair of the South-East Region, said: ‘We want good education.’

She said everyone should have ‘an equal right to go to college and university’.

Mick Dawson, South-East Region secretary, said: ‘You shouldn’t pay for it, education is an investment on which everyone gets a return.’

Thomas Felder, from Austria, was with a contingent from Oxford Brookes University.

He said: ‘About 150 of us have come down from Oxford Brookes and I think tuition fees are way to high already.

‘I think this government is plotting a Conservative course to hell.’

Outside parliament, students were standing with a banner saying ‘Education not for sale’.

The marchers kept going towards Tate Britain where a rally was being staged on a big bus, next to a giant video screen.

Students from Lancaster students union, the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Cumbria were among those waiting for the rally to begin.

Emily Blanchard and Shaun Kawalek, from Lancaster, said: ‘We’ve brought five coachloads down from Lancaster.

‘UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire) have brought at least four coaches and Cumbria have brought at least two.’

Shaun said: ‘I think people coming out of university with huge debts is a huge problem.

‘A lifetime of debt is a lifetime wasted.’

Emily said: ‘All I’m looking forward to is paying all my debts.

‘My little sister will have to pay £40,000 if she does the course in medicine that she wants to do.’

There were loud boos when a video with Nick Clegg appeared on the video screen at the rally.

Jim Walker, from St Edwards Sixth Form in Romford, was in the crowd that filled the street and filled the steps of Tate Britain as students at the front of the march waited for the rally to start.

He said: ‘I think it’s ludicrous. I don’t know anyone who can afford £9,000 a year.

‘What the Tories and Liberal Democrats are doing is screwing over the country for the next generation.’

James Coombs, from Birmingham University, said: ‘I’m disappointed in Judas Clegg. I hope he enjoys his 30 pieces of silver.

‘I think education should be free and fair for all.’

He said 11 coaches had come down from Birmingham and at least 51 coaches from West Midlands NUS altogether.

TUC Deputy-General Secretary Frances O’Grady brought a message of solidarity on behalf of the TUC’s seven million members to the rally, which was also addressed by UCU leader Sally Hunt and NUS President Aaron Porter who said it was the biggest student demonstration seen in Britain for many years.

‘We’re in the fight of our lives,’ Porter declared.