The protest, which started peacefully at midday on Wednesday 10th November, saw in excess of 2,500 students from the regions universities. Towards the end of the protest, anarchists hijacked the demonstration which brought chaos and violence to the otherwise successful march.
The latest plans by the coalition government suggest that from 2012, students will have to pay up to £9,000 per year for tuition fees, which will result in students having debts of up to £27,000 when they finish a three year degree at university.
Tom Thompson, President of Birmingham City Students’ Union said:
“‘The proposed fee increases are another blow to students already being hit left, right and centre by government cuts. They will let the rich universities and students race ahead, leaving newer institutions and students from ordinary middle and working class backgrounds behind’.
As this is the biggest attack to higher education in decades, members from Birmingham City University have already taken action by signing a pledge committing them to voting against a rise in fees, in hope it will contribute towards receiving parliamentary support for the campaign against tuition fees. The union believe this pledge will go towards supporting many Birmingham City students living across the region.
Kat Higgs, Communications Officer for Birmingham City University Students’ Union added:
“The union believe the proposed funding system will create a market based university environment, which will mean that those that can afford to pay more for their education will then receive in relative terms the better education. Consequently those better funded and resourced universities with a better reputation will then be able to attract not necessarily the most able students but the wealthiest students or those that are able to pay for it.”
The University and College Union (UCU) and the Nation Union of Students (NUS), organised the demonstration that had an estimated turnout of 50,000, which was considerably more than the 10,000 protesters that were expected.
With threats to cut higher education funding by 40%, students marched the streets of Westminster to stand up for their student rights. Many believed the demonstration would show the coalition government that they don’t agree with their wide ranging cuts initiative and the direct attack they are making on further and higher education.
Andy Speed, President of University Camp Suffolk (UCS) said:
“I think the cuts are outrageous, we’re a very small institution and it’s likely to put off the majority of our students going into higher education, and the split between the £7000 and £9000 cut will stop some of the poorer students wanting to go to the perceived better universities.”
Looking towards the future of higher education, upcoming students are going to be most affected by the cuts to education as they will effectively be the ones looking to attend university when these proposals are put into practice.
Speaking with Lucy Long, a prospective student that attended the demonstration, she commented:
“I’m currently still studying at school, but I think the cuts are completely wrong. I wanted to attend today because as a prospective student, I’m going to be really affected by the proposed cuts as I definitely want to attend university next year, but I’m not going to be able to afford £9,000. In addition to this we’re not allowed to pay the money back until we’re earning over £21,000 which means we’ll be in a huge amount of debt because of interest rates, it’s just not fair”.
The protest, which has been described as the biggest demonstration against the coalition government so far, initially started with students marching through Whitehall past Downing Street and Parliament.
The demonstration took a downward turn during the afternoon when anarchists hijacked the protest and took to vandalising Millbank Tower, the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Many workers were evacuated from the building as around 50 protesters got onto the roof where missiles were thrown and placards and banners burnt. The Metropolitan Police have been blamed for not anticipating the seriousness of the demonstration, consequently they were not prepared for the actions that took place.
Kat Higgs, Communications Officer for Birmingham City University Students’ Union further added:
“The protest was a huge success and the turnout was really good, 1000’s more students turned up than initially expected. It’s a shame about the violence that broke out towards the end which got a bit out of hand with windows being smashed and missiles being thrown from buildings. However the majority of people were very peaceful and took the demonstration very seriously”.