by Kirsty Tobin
Over 24,000 students are expected to take to the streets of London today in protest at increased fees and proposed education cuts.
The protest, Demo-lition, is taking place in order to highlight students’ opposition to the raising of undergraduate tuition fees from £3,290 per year to a maximum of £9,000, as well as third-level education cuts of 40%.
Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), is staunchly opposed to the government initiative: “We will fight back against attempts to dismantle the funded education system we desperately need for economic recovery, social mobility and cultural enrichment. The Government’s short-sighted and self-defeating cuts to colleges and universities must be resisted and that resistance begins now.”
The increase in fees will lead to an average graduate debt expected to soar beyond £40,000.
The protest has been organised by the NUS and the University and College Union (UCU). UCU President, Sally Hunt, explains the rationale behind the march: “We are taking to the streets to deliver a clear message to politicians that we want a fair and progressive system of education funding. There is nothing fair or progressive about tripling the cost of a degree and axing college grants that are often the difference between students being able to study or not.”
The protest has received widespread support. Stand-up comic, Stewart Lee, has advocated the need for action on this issue. Speaking to the organisers of Demo-lition, he highlights the problem that will face many prospective students if these measures go ahead: “There is no way that I, a family university first-timer with a single parent, on a then full grant, for example, would have contemplated going to University under the current rules. I would have thought it was what wealthy people did, and was nothing to do with me.”
The increase in fees and the cuts in education spending are expected to affect the arts and humanities more than any other departments. In a YouTube video posted online, Lee worries that this will lead to the disappearance of “thinkers and artists and conscientious people.”
The march, which began at 12 noon, has departed from Horse Guards Avenue and will travel along Millbank. The mile long march will pass Parliament buildings. Students are expected to be joined in the protest by many lecturers, who will march with them in solidarity.
These protests take place a week on from a similar protest march, taking place in Dublin, Ireland. This protest sparked scenes of Garda violence. Irish students are taking to the streets again today to take part in a peaceful march in protest of the so-called Garda brutality.