Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Thousands march in student protest over university fees

Thousands of students are marching in central London in a protest against higher tuition fees and "privatisation" in universities.
They are marching to the City of London, where a protest against corporate greed has been taking place outside St Paul's Cathedral.
Security is tight, especially in the City, with 4,000 officers on duty and plastic bullets on standby.
Some people broke away from the march and set up tents in Trafalgar Square.
But they have now been moved on.
Last year a wave of student protests ended in violent clashes.
Financial district This year, the event is being tightly controlled by the police.
BBC correspondent Mike Sergeant was with the protesters as they neared St Paul's and the City.
"The march is moving slowly, sedately even. It is quite extraordinary the way it's being policed," he said.
"It's the most tightly-controlled march through London that I have ever seen. Very little opportunity for protesters to break away - an enormous contrast to last year."
The student protest, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, is against the government's plans for a market-driven higher education system and the rising tuition fees.
"We are being told by a cabinet of millionaires that we will have to pay triple tuition fees," said campaign leader Michael Chessum.
Student protest organiser, Michael Chessum: "Police intimidation is unacceptable and irresponsible"
As a warning against any outbreaks of violence, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police had said that one of the tactics available was "the authority to deploy baton rounds [plastic bullets] in extreme circumstances".
As police and news helicopters hovered overhead, thousands of protesters set off from Malet Street in London's university district.
Protesters carried placards which read "Scrap Tuition Fees" and "Free Education" and chanted "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts" and slogans criticising the police over rubber bullets.
They are now making their way through the capital.
BBC Education Correspondent Sean Coughlan is at the march. At 1325, he said: "Chanting student protesters are going through London's Theatreland, lots of noise, lots of cameras and lots of police. It feels less predictable than last year's protests, but so far no trouble."

At the scene

Students are now gathering for the beginning of the protest march, with rows of banners against fee rises and spending cuts.
Above the chants, drums and loud-hailers is the drone of a police helicopter. There are police horses already lining the route and a concentration of barriers and police in the route into the City of London.
There are financial buildings there with windows boarded in anticipation of trouble.
So far the gathering march is good-humoured, the numbers perhaps edging into the thousands, but with no official figures so far.
It will all be played out under the eye of the cameras. One of the protesters had tied a camera to his hat like a media-age miner's helmet.
As the demonstration moved through Trafalgar Square, some protesters broke away from the march.
They set up about 20 pop-up tents at the base of Nelson's column, but have now been moved on by the police.
The police had said they would arrest those who refused to move, on the grounds that they had broken away from the authorised route of the march.
Earlier, one of the campaigners, Glynn, told BBC News he had come from another camp in London's Finsbury Park, to protest against a "corrupt government" which was fuelled by "corrupt money and bankers".

Start Quote

We are putting students at the heart of the system”
End Quote David Willetts Universities minister
The rally is being supported by the National Union of Students, but it is not being organised by them.
Much of the anger is over tuition fees, which are set to rise to a maximum of £9,000 a year at England's universities next year.
Universities in Wales are also raising their fees up to to that maximum level from autumn 2012 - but only for students from outside Wales.
In Scotland, Scottish students will continue to pay no fees, but fees of up to £9,000 a year will be charged to students from other parts of the UK.
Daisy Robinson, a London student, is among the marchers.

Start Quote

£9,000 will price out most students”
End Quote Annette Webb, Student
"It is just not fair, education should be available to everyone," she said.
Annette Webb, studying at Portsmouth University, said: "I was against it when they raised fees from £1,000 to £3,000, but to go up to £9,000 will price out most students.
"It will mean that education is only for the rich and I believe it should be for everyone."
James Dodge, 22, from Ashford, Kent, said: "I like to exercise my free right to protest, even when it is being curtailed by the Metropolitan Police."
Universities Minister David Willetts said: "We are putting students at the heart of the system, with a diverse range of providers offering high-quality teaching. Going to university depends on ability not the ability to pay.
Map of march route
"Most new students will not pay upfront, there will be more financial support for those from poorer families and everyone will make lower loan repayments than they do now once they are in well paid jobs.
"Students, like other citizens, have the right to participate in peaceful protest."
Competition a 'fact of life' Paul Clark, director of policy at Universities UK, which represents higher education institutions, says universities will not be damaged by increased competition.

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"I think that the level of private involvement in higher education at the moment is relatively small and is likely to remain that way for the forseeable future although we know there are plans to, to change this," he said.
"But we also know that competition is a fact of life for universities. They compete for part-time students; post-graduate students for research funding and for international students. So this is not something that we should necessarily be afraid of, as a sector."

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