Students protest in London

by Daphne Liddle

TENS OF thousands of students from all over the country braved stormy weather and assembled in London on Wednesday to protest against the Con-Dem Coalition’s cuts and how they are affecting young people.

They are especially angry at rising tuition fees that are deterring many young people from seeking higher education.

"Education should open doors, but the government is slamming them shut," said National Union of Students (NUS) leader, Liam Burns.

"The damaging effects of recent changes to education have restricted access for future students and created new barriers for those currently studying," he said.

A recent survey published by the NUS indicated that voters are still angry with the Liberal Democrats on their broken promise never to increase tuition fees. The survey of 2,025 adults indicates 58 per cent of those with children under the age of 18 believe that MPs who broke their promise over tuition fees should not stand at the next election.

It found that 62 per cent of these parents aid they would not vote for an MP who had broken their election pledge on fees.

"Nick Clegg won the trust and votes of young people and their parents by signing the pledge, but has now lost them once and for all by breaking it," said Liam Burns.

Two years ago a similar protest saw the anger of some students boil over, leading to an attack on the Tory party headquarters and clashes with the police. This year’s march was more peaceful but the anger was still there.

The main march organised by the NUS but was joined by a separate feeder march by the more radical National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

After passing through central London and the Embankment the march went south of the river to end in a rally in Kennington Park.

Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary of the Unison union, told demonstrators: "Tory education policies are turning the clock back to the time when education was the preserve of the rich.

"Young people, especially those from poor families, are already being put off going to university by the huge cost.

The loss of the EMA [Education Maintenance Allowance] has forced many others to drop out of school altogether.

"Young people, faced with a tough jobs market or an education they cannot afford, are left without options."

Liam Burns said that student anger at the tripling of education fees was not the only issue causing concern for students. He spoke of the lack of blighting the young generation as a result of education funding cuts, including the educational maintenance allowance (EMA), and high youth unemployment.

Burns said that today's students know they are going to be "tens of thousands of pounds in debt before they even graduate and they know there's little prospect of graduate employment".

He added: "There's a sense of desperation that people have. They're slowly seeing opportunities being taken away and are powerless to do anything about it."

Prior to the march in a U-Tube video, Burns told students: “You’ve got a lot to be angry about.

You’ve had your education systematically attacked across the board by the coalition. And even if you get to the other end, what have you got to look forward to?

“Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, getting on the property ladder is next to impossible and we don’t even have the safety net of pensions to look forward to any more.

“In a year in which there are no votes in parliament and no legislation coming before politicians, it’s about time we started setting the agenda.”