‘WE’RE HERE TO GET FREE EDUCATION BACK’ say students

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Students angry at ‘sky-high’ fees
Students angry at ‘sky-high’ fees

Students on a 1,000-strong march through London on Wednesday called on the trade unions to act to restore free education.

Students marched from University of London Union in Malet Street, central London, to the Business, Innovation and Science Department in Victoria, as part of a nationwide day of protest called by the National Union of Students against £9,000 tuition fees and cuts in EMA and university funding.

The front banner said ‘Students and workers unite and fight’.

There were delegations with banners from Occupy London, Camden School for Girls and the Open University.

A lively delegation from the Young Socialists Students Society chanted: ‘What do we want – free education! When do we want it – now!’ and ‘No privatisation – kick the government out!’

News Line spoke to some of the participants before they moved off.

Farah Cahn, a second-year student from King’s College London, said I came on the protest last year.

‘It’s terrible that government can do something like this, it’s unsustainable.

‘It’s important to keep the momentum going from the protest last year and for the movement against the cuts not to lose steam.

‘The trade unions should take action, there’s power in solidarity.

‘The government should step back and review all of their choices because they haven’t had a positive effect.’

Queen Mary College second-year student Mike Jones added: ‘I’m an English student.

‘The thing I’m most concerned about is getting funding for my subject.

‘It’s disgusting how they are still giving money to the sciences and not the humanities.

‘It’s a government that doesn’t care about art.

‘I’m against the £9,000 fees – it’s ridiculous putting people through a lifetime of debt.

‘People won’t stand for this anymore.

‘This demonstration is good because it raises awareness for the public.’

Mo Paechter was with a group from Camden School for Girls.

He told News Line: ‘Our sixth form had a walkout today.

‘It was a reasonable turn out.

‘We’re here protesting against the cuts, speaking out the only way we can.

‘A lot of people across the country won’t be able to go to sixth form and won’t be able to afford the uni fees.

‘It’s been very unfair; twenty-three of the people making these decisions are millionaires and had free education, including higher education minister David Willets.

‘We have to raise awareness.’

Imogen Gomperts-Mitchelson, also from Camden Girls, said: ‘EMA is an incentive for those who wouldn’t normally go to sixth form to continue into higher education and see university as an opportunity.

‘Without EMA, they will stay at the bottom and not have the chance to grow.

‘We have to raise awareness and get people involved again.’

University of East London Students Union campaigns officer Shaka said: ‘Our education was being practically stolen from us, a few years ago.

‘Now they are trying to get us to buy what was stolen from us back.

‘It’s unjust and inhuman.

‘I’m here to show solidarity will all students and to get our free education back.’

Yazzie Hussein from Bath, a first-year student at SOAS, central London, added: ‘I just missed the raise in fees.

‘If it had been that expensive, I wouldn’t have been able to come to university.

‘I didn’t come to look for a job but to gain knowledge.

‘I don’t see why we should pay for that, particularly at somewhere like SOAS.

‘Raising fees won’t benefit society in any way.

‘I got EMA when I did A-levels and that really helped me.

‘My twin brother dropped out of sixth form when his EMA did not come through.

‘It makes me angry. It makes you lose faith in the whole system, especially when you’re paying tax as well.

‘The trade unions should take action as well as the NUS – everyone should work together.’

Sybie Ross-Talbot, from Colliers sixth-form College in Horsham, said: ‘Most people in Horsham are middle class and can afford fees. But a group of us can’t. In any case, I don’t think fees are right.

Everyone should have the right to education.

‘People are being denied this by the Tory cuts. The cuts in EMA have been devastating. A lot of people have dropped out of Horsham College over the EMA cut.

‘Again young people are being denied the right to education.

‘The Tories are driving the cuts through and the economy is worse now because of the cuts. The unions should get involved.’

Third-year Goldsmiths College student Matthew Thacker told News Line: ‘I hate this government and what they are doing.

‘The worst thing about them is that the Tories didn’t win an outright majority in the election and had to go into coalition.

‘It’s clear the electorate didn’t vote for their manifesto and they don’t have a mandate for all their reforms.

‘They are vandalising a lot of the things that I value, like the NHS, universities and free education.

‘They even wanted to sell off the forests. They just don’t care, it’s all about money and profits.

‘The unions should take action, we need a stronger leadership.’

Pierre Marshal, an Oxford Brooks University first-year student, said: ‘I am here to protest in solidarity with students in Chile, Canada and Germany who are also fighting for their education.

‘I am in favour of bursaries rather than fee waivers.

‘I am protesting in favour of free education and against government plans to marketise universities.

‘I am against tuition fees. Education should be free for everyone, even for international students.

‘Occupations and protests are things students can do. They can also take action alongside lecturers and other workers.

‘Student occupations give confidence to lecturers, and lecturers give students confidence when they go on strike.

‘I want to see the end of this Cameron government.’

Announcing the march,the NUS said on Monday: ‘Students around the UK today begin a week of action calling on government and universities to “Come Clean” on their plans for higher education.

‘The week of protest, lobbying and debate will focus around a national walkout on Wednesday 14 March at midday on campuses in every part of the UK and will see students take part marches, rallies, teach-ins, discussions, petition signings and other campaign actions.

‘Amongst many other actions around the country students at Kings’ College London will hold teach-ins and stunts on Wednesday.

‘Students at University of Sussex will walkout on Wednesday and hold discussions about the white paper before lobbying local MPs on Friday.

‘Students from University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University will hold a rally on Wednesday; and throughout the week, students at University of Manchester will be asked to sign cheques and add them to a money tree stating how much they have to pay for their education.

‘Students will demonstrate their anger at ministers who have not made clear their plans for increased marketisation of higher education, or how they will fix the student support system that sees the gap between government support and the cost of being a student rising to over £8,000 a year, and are pushing universities towards partial fee-waivers rather than the bursaries that help vulnerable students when they need it most.

‘Students will also be protesting about the hidden costs of university education such as books, trips, and other essential equipment like lab coats, which universities don’t make clear students will be liable for.’