On Sunday October 29, 150 York University students joined a National Union of Students (NUS) organised march across London in protest against the plans to lift the £3,000 cap on tuition fees.
Under slogans such as “education is a right, not a privilege” the students marched from Bloomsbury to Trafalgar Square in protest at plans to lift the cap on top-up fees which could see tuition fees rise as far as £15,000 at some institutions.
The number of students attending was significantly lower than the 12,000 students estimated to be attending by the NUS. Despite this, YUSU Campaigns officer, Matt Balding, said: “This is a very different protest than before. The decision [to lift the cap] isn’t being made by parliament for a number of years.”
Students converge on London in Top-up fees protest
Rich Croker, YUSU President, said “This year for the first time it [fees] shows the effect its had on the applications to university” and that Leeds Metropolitan University, who have introduced a reduced, fee have “had an application increase of 8% compared to a 3% decrease, nationally.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Felicity Riddy, said that “[her] personal view is that higher education ought to be free for all because it is a social good and not merely a personal good. The difficulty in the higher education sector is, and has been for a long time, under funded and has to have additional sources of income. It seems pretty clear that the taxpayer is not willing to pay. The only other source then, at present looks as if it is student fees.”
Gemma Tumelty, NUS President said, the position of the NUS is, that we “firmly believe that education is a benefit to society as well as the individual. We believe education should be free and funded by the public purse.”
A student in Langwith College, who asked not to be named said that tuition fees “almost put me off going to university. When I leave I will be in £20 000 worth of debt. It’s ridiculous.”
However there is consensus amongst the political parties on fees. The Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said in a recent talk given at York that as unfortunate as the situation was, there doesn’t seem to be any alternative that isn’t at least as expensive. Rich Croker acknowledged this: “[the abolition of fees is] not going to happen over night, its part of a longer process, we know that.”
However, Tumelty refuses to be put off, saying: “Students are angry, we still care. This issue is not dead and we are not going to go away. We need to start building all these student activists so that when we have another battle ahead, when our education is under threat, we’ve got the next generation of ‘fee fighters’.”
By Matthew Kilburn
and Antonia Moura