Students invited to take part in national protest
A mass demonstration has been announced following Lord Browne’s proposal to lift the cap on tuition fees and slash governmental university funding. Taking place on Wednesday November 10 in London, Leeds University Union (LUU) is in the process of organising subsidised transportation to and from the capital.
The protest, which is being dubbed ‘Demo-lition’, directly opposes the recent Browne Review and the estimated cuts of £4.2bn in university funding. If Lord Browne’s plans come to fruition, English universities will be allowed to determine their own tuition fees. The current £3,290 cap will be completely lifted and universities will be permitted to charge a fee which they determine. This could mean fees of as much as £12,000.
The campaign, entitled ‘Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts’ has been organised by both the NUS and the UCU (University and College Union). University of Leeds Welfare Officer, Jack Cheyette, stated “this protest has the potential to be one of the biggest and most influential student political events of our generation”. He also expressed the Union’s desire to provide as many coaches down to London as possible.
The majority of the Student Exec campaigning budget and a £400 NUS donation will fund coach travel to the event and 200 Leeds students have already signed up. Due to the high costs involved and a lack of financial support from the university, the Union is seeking additional funding from external student-run organisations.
Provisionally, students will pay £5 for a ticket, lecturers and university staff £10-£15. The Student Exec team is also exploring a scheme whereby University staff can sponsor students to attend the demonstration in their absence.
Beyond Leeds, student unions across the country are uniting in opposition to the radical reforms, with many running their own campaigns and subsidising transport. University of Leicester Students’ Union, amongst others, has tried to gain support by lobbying local MPs. Locally, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds Northwest, Greg Mulholland, has pledged to vote against the plan – in line with the personal pledges made by the party’s MPs earlier this year.
Umbrella organisations such as the British Youth Council and the Trade Union Congress are publicly backing the march. On an individual level, supporters are being encouraged to attend the demonstration and display posters, available to download at www.demo2010.org. For those unable to secure a place on union coaches, National Express is offering discounted fares to London on the day.
Talking at the televised Channel 4 debate last week in Leeds, Dr Steve Davies, from the Institute of Economic Affairs said the reform would “lead to an improvement in standards”, creating an increase in competition. This shift towards a free-market higher education structure is what students will be opposing in the march, many unwilling to accept the changes for England’s university system.
The demonstration starts at 11.30am, Horse Guards Avenue, London. Those wishing to book a coach place will be able to do so soon, via the Union website. ‘Demo-lition’ is potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity to influence an educational reform that many believe is a step in the wrong direction.