The Students are Revolting! Protests against Fees and Cuts build momentum

Posted on November 19, 2010 by

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Student campaigners in Southampton are building momentum in their protests against upcoming fee rises and university cuts, with protests planned for next Wednesday (24/11/10) after at least 250 Southampton students attended the national NUS demo last week.

SUSU did march - but now what?

The NUS demo last Wednesday (10/11/10) saw around 6 coaches of students from the University of Southampton along with Southampton Solent and College students go to London to march against fees and cuts.  The main point of discontent are the Government’s position to allow fees to dramtically treble after the recent Browne Review reccomended unlimited fees, and huge cuts to teaching budgets at universities that will see humanities subjects entirely unsupported, class sizes increase and teaching quality squeezed.  Ultimately many worry this will lead to the complete marketisation of education and the loss of study for wider society’s benefit.

Many students fear this will make higher education more elitist with working class students put off by the huge debts after graduating, poorer quality teaching as budgets are squeezed and the loss of many subject areas deemed to be ‘uneconomic’.  Supporters counter that the coalition have to make cuts somewhere and that getting the people to pay for something  they benefit from in the long-term is fair, but it is clear that this has become a rapidly polarised debate linked to the nationwide conflicts over the cuts agenda.

Over 50’000 students attended the march through Westminster, and some students also took part in widely publicised (and controversial) direct actions across the city: the infamous Millbank Siege at the Tory HQ, where students broke into and occupied the Tory party HQ, along with sit-ins at Parliament Square and some property damage at the Lib Dem’s HQ too – it is unclear how many Southampton students joined with these (if any).  Right-wing papers have since launched a hunt to find those who committed property damage at Millbank, with many commentators and the NUS blaming militant anarchists for the trouble despite over 2000 people (mostly non-affiliated, pissed off students judging from most reports) being involved.  The infamous ‘fire extinguisher moment’, when a fire extinguisher was droppedf from the roof towards police officers, has been widely criticised, and the police have arrested an 18 year old Southampton college student with attempted murder.

To keep up the momentum, groups across the country acting under the umbrella of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC – see http://anticuts.com/) have been building to a nationwide day of action on Wednesday 24th, with plans ranging from marches, demos, walk-outs, sit-ins and occupations being mooted.  In Southampton, the Socialist Students society are planning a protest against nationwide fees and cuts as well as the University’s current policies embracing them* on Highfield Campus’s concourse from 12pm, and in future solidarity marches with Solent students and outreach to colleges are being planned.  The Lib Dem society have also been out and about gathering signatures against the Lib Dem policy ‘betrayal’ which has angered many students the most.  Some campaigners hope that student activists will take this opportunity to form a wider network between societies to campaign on this and other issues, which would make it easier to campaign.  (*Despite the University claiming they didn’t lobby for the removal of the fees cap, recent revelations by the Wessex Scene suggest they may have in fact done so, making the University very trustworthy and definitely transparent…)

It seems that a new generation of students are becoming politicised to both ends of the political spectrum, with large-scale protests and trouble not seen on the streets for 20 years now taking place.  With other public-sector workers as angry as students, it probably won’t be long before we see more like it across wider society.  Let’s hope that either way this will clear out the cobwebs of activism and reduce apathy amongst students and wider culture, and that people’s demands and opposition will be heard and acted upon.  Pissed off with what’s going on?  Then get out there, make some links and do something about it!

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