‘ONE, two, three, four – education, not war!’ ‘Five, six, seven, eight – occupy and demonstrate!’ shouted large contingents of students on Sunday’s national NUS march against tuition fees in London, attended by 25,000 students.
Many students were angry at the NUS leadership’s position of pleading for fees to remain capped at £3,000 a year, at the same time as demanding restoration of free state education at university level.
A contingent from the Young Socialists Students Society (YSSS) kept up chants of ‘Grants not loans!’ and ‘NUS leaders say keep the cap – we say smash all fees!’
There was a deafening noise of constant chanting and whistling along the whole route of the march.
There were placards saying ‘Save Our Education’, ‘Admission Impossible: No to the Marketisation of Education!’, ‘Fund Education not War’, and more chants of ‘What do we want? Free education! – When do we want it? Now!’, ‘Education must be free! – We won’t pay tuition fees!’ and ‘Top-up fees have got to go!’
The young demonstrators assembled outside the University of London Union (ULU), near Tottenham Court Road, before making their way to Westminster, past Downing Street and along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where students’ and teachers’ leaders addressed a rally.
Several police suddenly rushed into the march as it was going along the Thames Embankment towards Big Ben to grab one protester, which angered the young people around him.
‘We’ve got the fashion police, you may get arrested for your hood!’ shouted one young demonstrator.
Another young person was also handcuffed at Trafalgar Square.
Many students spoke to News Line as they were assembling for the march and during the demonstration.
Balan Anthony Samy, 18, from London, said he had just finished his A-levels and wanted to go to university.
He told News Line: ‘I want to see all fees abolished.
‘You shouldn’t have to pay for your education: without education, you can’t work and earn money, which means you’ll end up even poorer, while the rich will become even richer.’
Eddi Perkins, 21, from London, who also wants to go to university, said: ‘I think the NUS must fight for the return of free education.
‘I think it’s outrageous the fees have been tripled and they shouldn’t have stopped grants in the first place.’
Asifur Rahman, 20, from Middlesex University, part of the YSSS contingent, said: ‘We’re fighting for revolutionising the education system, for free education, fighting the fees, more grants – fighting for new policies.
‘We need a socialist society.’
Cleo Longworth, education officer and deputy-president of Warwick University Students Union, backed the position of the NUS leaders, saying: ‘We want to keep the cap, so fees don’t get any more than £3,000.
‘Now we find ourselves in an undesirable position and we’re trying to do our best to prevent them going any higher.
‘It’s just a shame to see the way education is going.’
Sophie Nicolaysen, 21, Alice Liddell, 19, Alice Wainwright, 21, Hannah Skelton, 22, all students at Newcastle University, said: ‘We don’t want fees increased at all.
‘Tuition fees of £3,000 a year is ridiculous. It’s putting people off going to university.
‘We’re still paying taxes and paying our fees, so where’s all the money going – it’s going on war!
‘The quality of education hasn’t increased and students have no time to do sports and other activities because they’re so busy working to pay for their education.
‘It’s strengthening the class divide.’
Felicity Addison, 18, a student at Newton Rigg, University of Central Lancashire, said: ‘I think we should all have free education, rather than a cap on fees.
‘Even with the fees, it’s not like taxes are coming down.’
Kati Brown, 22, University of Central Lancashire, Cumbria campuses officer, said: ‘I want the National Union of Students to fight to abolish all fees and restore grants.’
John Oliver, 23, from the University for Creative Arts in Farnham, said: ‘We’re all up in arms over fees. Students can’t afford to go to university as it is.
‘Education should be free for everyone. It should never have had to come to this.
‘The government have pushed us to take action.
‘All these things we’re campaigning for now should have been done already.
‘We want a return to free education.
‘We may look like children now, but we’re the adults of tomorrow.’
Katie Anderson, 18, from York University, said: ‘The NUS should be fighting for the abolition of all fees.
‘The government should be investing in the future generations, not alienating them.
‘They didn’t pay for their education, why should we pay for ours?’
Chris Carr, 19, also from the University of York, said: ‘The NUS should reverse the decision to endorse the cap on tuition fees.
‘There should be free education for all.
‘The students have to take up the fight for free education.’
Ben Cassidy, 30, from Manchester Met University in Cheshire, said: ‘Education should be free, otherwise it’s not equal.
‘We don’t just need a different government, we need a different system.’
A group of Greek students on the march also spoke to News Line.
Leanne Voutsinou, 18, said: ‘There are lots of us here. We’re here to fight for no fees in England and to support the Greek students and teachers’ uprising.
‘The struggle in Greece has been going on for two months now.’
Among the speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square were NUS President Gemma Tumelty, UCU lecturers’ union leader Paul Mackney, and Tony Benn.
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