The idea of proposed ‘top up’ fees by the government has spurred many more students to protest against what they see as yet another policy which will erode access to university for those from low income backgrounds and saddle those who do make it to university with even more debt.
Under government plans universities will be able to charge "differential" rates of up to £3,000 from 2006 to help fund its target of getting "towards 50%" of young people into higher education by 2010.
At the demonstrations closing rally in Trafalgar square students were addressed by speakers including the Labour MP Frank Dobson and Paul Mackney, General Secretary of the lecturers union NATFHE. Mr Mackney accused government ministers "of pulling up the ladder of opportunity behind them" after they themselves had received the benefits of a grant maintained higher education system. He also questioned the governments willingness to spend large sums of money on the war in Iraq whilst holding back on public service spending at home.
In an impressive turnout around 300 students from York University attended the demonstration. Sabrina Jantuah, a first year Politics student said, "I first heard about the demo at freshers fair. I think things like this are more visible than just sending letters, although getting in contact with MPs who agree with us is important as well". YUSU campaigns officer Siobhan O’Gorman said that the next step was to wait for the government’s white paper to appear before parliament and to organise a "wave of student protest including occupations and lecture walkouts" if the government didn’t back down on the issue.