Student protests planned on a national scale on 24 November

Proposals drawn up for national day of direct action as head of lecturers' union at Goldsmiths, London praises students' actions

Student demonstation against higher tuition fees
Students, one dressed as Edward Scissorhands, demonstate against higher tuition fees and cuts in university funding in Westminster on Wednesday. Photograph: Tony Kyriacou / Rex Features

Emboldened by the numbers who took to the streets of London to campaign against the proposal to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees, students are planning a wave of direct-action protests across the country.

Protesters occupied a building at the University of Manchester today, demanding access to accounts to see how government spending cuts may affect students and staff.

Grassroots groups were drawing up plans for a national day of action in two weeks' time. Michael Chessum, the co-founder of the National Campaign Against the Cuts, predicted there would be widespread disruption as students staged sit-ins, occupations or walkouts at universities and colleges on 24 November.

"We went off script: the script that said a few thousand people would turn up, complain a bit, and go home; and the cuts would go through pretty much as planned," said Chessum, 21, a sabbatical officer at University College London. "That has changed. Now students really feel they can stop this."

A statement published by student leaders praised the storming of the building housing Conservative party headquarters by a fringe group of protesters on Wednesday. "We reject any attempt to characterise the Millbank protest as small, 'extremist' or unrepresentative of our movement. We celebrate the fact that thousands of students were willing to send a message to the Tories that we will fight to win. Occupations are a long established tradition in the student movement that should be defended."

The statement was signed by Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union, Cameron Tait, president of Sussex University's student union and Lee Hall, author of Billy Elliot, among others. It puts local student representatives at odds with the NUS national leadership, which condemned Wednesday's violence.

The Millbank protesters were also praised by the president of the lecturers' union at Goldsmiths, London, who said their actions had brought attention to the cause. John Wadsworth said: "Yesterday was a really good natured but equally angry demonstration against the damage that the coalition is doing to higher education.

"The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased and if massive reductions in HE funding are implemented."

The NUS plans to campaign locally against Lib Dem MPs, reminding them of their pre-election pledge to vote against a rise in tuition fees that will apply in English universities. NUS president Aaron Porter said: "Its an issue of principle. Clegg talked about no more broken promises – they made a promise, and we will hold them to it." The union plans to raise petitions in constituencies with high numbers of student voters, warning MPs that they face losing their seat if they break their word on fees.

A number of Lib Dem MPs plan to vote against the proposal, due to be presented to parliament before Christmas. The 20 Lib Dem ministers, including Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and the business secretary, Vince Cable, are expected to vote in favour. The resolution must be passed by both houses but cannot be amended. Clegg today admitted he should not have signed the NUS pledge on fees, blaming the state of public finances for the party's U-turn.

"I should have been more careful perhaps in signing that pledge," he said. "At the time I really thought we could do it. I just didn't know, of course, before we came into government, quite what the state of the finances were."

Writing in the Guardian today, Lib Dem MP Tim Farron describes fees as "the poll tax of our generation". He writes: "It is not for me to tell colleagues how to vote, but I believe that we need to move away from burdening young people with debt, towards a fairer system. Education should be available to all – not just those who can stomach the debt."

Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt said the party was "stuck between a rock and a hard place". She added: "This is not our policy. We are not comfortable with it. In the coalition agreement we didn't manage to get our own policy but we have modified the Browne report [on higher education funding] to inject a considerable amount of fairness and progressiveness into the programme."

Lib Dem opponents of a rise have not coalesced around an alternative policy. Martin Horwood, who plans either to abstain or vote against, said: "The long-term alternative is really to pay for student finance through income tax and probably an inevitable reduction in student numbers, neither popular options with our Conservative partners. So short term, I fear the alternative would be cuts in other areas like science or FE, which is why I'm hesitating to vote against."

Student protests today included a three-hour sit-in by 60 students at Manchester, demanding access to the university's accounts. "This is just what a few students who had the energy left after the London demo managed to achieve," said Jeremy Buck, 22.

In Cambridge, students protested at the university's annual science, engineering and technology careers fair against "the marketisation of education".


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  • Bauhaus

    11 November 2010 8:09PM

    The Police will be out in force next time, I`d wager more than a few students get a proper battering.

    Lets hope its no worse than that.

    Good luck!

  • SRRonny

    11 November 2010 8:13PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.

  • DunnersO

    11 November 2010 8:14PM

    Would be great if other sections of society could coordinate their efforts with the student protests. I'm trying to get the Leyton Orient Boarders Committee on board.

  • JonDess

    11 November 2010 8:14PM

    Good luck to the students - I hope they can bring London to a halt next time. Look out for the para-military police thugs waiting next time, they'll be itching to batter as many protesters as possible, so cameras and mobile phones fully charged and ready for action!

  • grimbos

    11 November 2010 8:14PM

    What did these guys hope to achieve in Manchester today? The University will still be getting to grips with Browne and have not been told how much their teaching budget will be cut. Idiots.

  • newsed1

    11 November 2010 8:15PM

    The Left will bugger it up, as usual.

    There'll be too much violence and a clear sense they just want a fight.

    Which they do.

    Funny they didn't protest when fees came in and when they went up to £3k.

    Wonder why?

  • SplitEnz

    11 November 2010 8:15PM

    If refuse collectors were to go on strike (as many did last year against Harman's 'equality' legislation downgrading their jobs), most of us would notice. Students protesting about fees (12 years after Labour introduced them) with sit-ins and so on will make sod all difference to the general public.

  • DaoTe

    11 November 2010 8:17PM

    Although it may be necessary to, over time, substantially raise tuition for university studies, the government's proposal is one that is monumentally stupid and evidence of heartless cruelty. It's the sort of policy decision often made by lunatic third-world countries, when a despotic government, in complete disregard for the welfare of its citizens, triples the cost of fuel or some other item overnight, throwing entire economies into chaos. How can students (excepting of course the rich, many from overseas) who have carefully planned their budgets, suddenly adapt to such a drastic change? It's simply not possible. What kind of cretins are now in power in No-Longer-Great Britain?

  • JonDess

    11 November 2010 8:17PM

    www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/11/student-protest-demonstrator-fire-extinguisher

    So the police want to charge the person who threw the fire extinguisher which "nearly" hit a policeman with attempted murder. That would be as opposed to the policeman (sorry, jack booted thug) who casually killed Iain Tomlinson and was let off by the corrupt system (plod and CPS).

  • Oldmanmackie

    11 November 2010 8:18PM

    Glad to see it. At least someone is standing up to the ideological cuts.

    If there's anything planned for Edinburgh, count me in. Direct action is the only way to make these buggers take notice.

    Well done to everyone who took part. You have my congratulations.

  • holzy

    11 November 2010 8:18PM

    Good to see Tim Farron sticking to his principles - these days a remarkably rare sight in the political arena.

    As for more protests - brilliant!

    Seriously impressive sense of civic responsibility amongst our students - only an idiot could confuse this with an over-riding concern for some office furniture. Heck, turns out that our PM is just this kind of cretin.

    Frankly this government can be under no illusions and must realise it got off lightly yesterday. And I wouldn't much fancy being a Russell Group VC right now, although judging from their respective track records I imagine private security firms will be inundated with calls over the next couple of days. Perhaps this is what the Tories mean when they rabbit on about job creation in the private sector. They'll probably generously give frontline security jobs to those disabled 'shysters' they've been crucifying today.

    Of course it would be nice (nice maybe isn't the right word) if the Condems actually responded by engaging meaningfully with the massive surge of collective anxiety we mere mortals are now being subjected to ... some actual politcs from the politicians would make for a refreshing change.

  • lordylucan

    11 November 2010 8:21PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.

  • ADJWilson

    11 November 2010 8:21PM

    grimbos,

    The University of Manchester had already made some cuts in expectation of the Browne report, including a number of voluntary redundancies. The demonstrating students wanted to see the extent of other (admittedly preliminary) planned cuts.

    As an aside, I don't know how many of the pictures of the event are in wide circulation, but the sight of students protesting (unknowingly) in front of Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell's shiny new Jaguar is rather amusing.

  • boooombastic

    11 November 2010 8:24PM

    Edward Scissorhands is a really bad image for these cuts. Edward's gentle character beautifully depicts Aspergers, and Tim Burton is an example of what someone with Aspergers can go on to do if given the support and resources to pursue their interests and abilities, as Burton got at Disney.

    Universities could also provide this haven, and the chance for those people whose ONLY chance is to develop their strengths, and often high levels of ability, with huge contributions to make to society. Achieving correct provision for this was however, an inconsummate battle prior to the cuts. These potential changes would prove insurmountable.

    The autistic stand very little chance in the society being constructed by the current govnt.

    So unless this image of Edward Scissorhands represents all of those on the autistic spectrum rising up, it is completely out of place.

  • HalBerstram

    11 November 2010 8:26PM

    Now this could be getting interesting. It's quite possible that mass protests could bring this reactionary govt to an end within months - and not before time. The students, much derided over the past few years to be sure, are showing the rest of us the way to go.

  • Hopesprings

    11 November 2010 8:27PM

    The Police should realize they are in the same boat sa the students.

    as long as none of the officers who murdered Blair Peach or Jean Charles de menezies or who killed Ian Tomlinson are present.

    Let us pray that the Met loses the right to kill.

  • ElectricFanny

    11 November 2010 8:28PM

    Now this could be getting interesting. It's quite possible that mass protests could bring this reactionary govt to an end within months

    WALOFS

    The Tories want Students to riot, it allows them to say look these idiots don't deserve your taxes.

    Students were a lot brighter 30 years ago.

  • SplitEnz

    11 November 2010 8:28PM

    JonDess

    11 November 2010 8:17PM

    www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/11/student-protest-demonstrator-fire-extinguisher

    So the police want to charge the person who threw the fire extinguisher which "nearly" hit a policeman with attempted murder. That would be as opposed to the policeman (sorry, jack booted thug) who casually killed Iain Tomlinson and was let off by the corrupt system (plod and CPS).

    What if the fire extinguisher had landed on one of the other protesters causing injury to him or her? Would you defend whoever had thrown it then? I've seen Leeds United football hooligans behaving in the same way, throwing stuff from near the top of a television gantry onto the terracing below, where other Leeds United fans were, I kid you not.

  • sunfish

    11 November 2010 8:30PM

    That one who lobbed the fire extinguisher should be in court, asap, and in my view the NUS should contribute to the clean up costs at Millbank and the police officers' medical bills Disgraceful behaviour by idots who expect hard-pressed tax payers who are already worried about losing their jobs to chip in more tax money so an arbitrary 50% of Brits get a so-called university education.

    This isn't the X factor - just because they really want to study Media or Gender Studies or the Lambeth Poly equivalent of PPE doesn't mean we should pay for it. It's not as if the new plans are going to bankrupt them. If education is that important then pay for it yourself. Do a part-time degree if necessary. £15.00 a week when you're earning over 25k pa sounds fine to me.

  • snappinwrappin

    11 November 2010 8:30PM

    @grimbos

    What did these guys hope to achieve in Manchester today? The University will still be getting to grips with Browne and have not been told how much their teaching budget will be cut. Idiots.

    The University of Manchester have already scheduled cuts in terms of voluntary redundancies. We, as students at the University, are totally opposed to all voluntary redundancies when we have a Vice-Chancellor in Nancy Rothwell is paid 20 times the average salary. Furthermore, the finance director denied that the University was going to make cuts (then, about 2 days later, they announce voluntary redundancies and cuts have already been made to combined studies departments). This is clearly unacceptable.

    Today, we told the hierarchy at the University that we will NOT stand for cuts and we will stand in solidarity with staff.

  • robbo100

    11 November 2010 8:30PM

    Clegg today admitted he should not have signed the NUS pledge on fees, blaming the state of public finances for the party's U-turn. "I should have been more careful perhaps in signing that pledge," he said. "At the time I really thought we could do it. I just didn't know, of course, before we came into government, quite what the state of the finances were."

    What utter disingenuous bollocks! It is absolutely typical of the man. He knew well enough the state of the economy during the election campaign and whether or not it was a basis for making such pledges. This was just part of his cynical appeal to the young and left of centre voters who form the core of the Lib Dem vote - voters who he's subsequently pissed all over. But it's a trick he won't be able to pull off twice so best of luck as a right wing party courting disaffected Tory voters. They're called UKIP.

  • Chase3

    11 November 2010 8:30PM

    This was the most awesome protest ever.

    Images like this need to be spread around to really

    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2010/11/10/1289409560985/A-girl-warms-herself-by-a-028.jpg

  • maggieTee

    11 November 2010 8:30PM

    "Funny they didn't protest when fees came in and when they went up to £3k."

    They did protest, long and hard and peacefully. Wonder why it didn't get reported?

  • Katali

    11 November 2010 8:31PM

    @teaandchocolate and others

    So far the students have emphasised their solidarity with other groups who are affected by the proposed cuts. I hope they keep doing that, and keep any direct action non-violent - certainly avoid injuring people.
    Good luck to them.

  • maggieTee

    11 November 2010 8:31PM

    "The police need to be joining the students, as they are going to end up in the same boat."

    Sorry, no space on my picket line for the gov's bootboys.

  • FiveEachForFighting

    11 November 2010 8:32PM

    Even though I don't agree with their ideology, and condemn the violent aspects of their demonstration, it's nice to see students putting down their iPhones and doing some good old fashioned protesting. It's good for democracy.

  • NpNp

    11 November 2010 8:32PM

    Did they do this when Labour introduced fees for the first time ever?
    Did they hell as like.
    They're just a bunch of idiots, being used by Marxist Labour and the Unions.
    Let 'em protest and then ignore them. Simples.
    I was a student once, and no way would I be violent or break things.

  • Zzzxxxzzzxxx

    11 November 2010 8:32PM

    Well I'm shocked people are actually supporting these idiots. Why on earth should students not pay for uni education? It will let them earn higher incomes so that seems fair to pay. Or there are just too many of them anyway wasting time and end up working macdonalds or stacking shelves. I don't see why I should pay for these hooligans to waste time at uni. Wasters.

  • wutheringshite

    11 November 2010 8:33PM

    @jondess

    Quite right. Look what they are capable of. An innocent man loses his life and it gets covered up and swept away. Anyone thinking of protesting make sure you can't be easily identified.

  • AlbuterolGonzales

    11 November 2010 8:33PM

    This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. You know how you've been able to afford your insanely cheap fees? International students, like me, who pay £14,000 for the same degree that costs you £3,000, and have to take out loans to do so. And now you want to cap the number of international students? Of course fees will go up.

    Even at £9,000, do you understand just how cheap that is to the rest of the world? Where you'd need to spend upwards of £50,000 just for a Master's in the United States? Quit whining; it's very unbecoming of you.

  • WeAreTheWorld

    11 November 2010 8:36PM

    The only people who I see caring about this are the shop owners and elderly who may get caught in the middle of more violence.

    Other than that, Who really cares?

    We will still force these people to pay for their education.

    No matter how much they whinge, no matter which media outlets shelter them from reality, the student WILL pay.

    Do these spoiled 'students' even know how well they have it compared to the rest of the world who are literally dying to get in this country? Some of these immigrants have no education whatsoever, and even they can see that these 'students' don't appreciate anything.

    I would open the borders to thousands of African students who deserve a break before giving these spoiled 'indigenous' students places.

    Now, back to planning you irrelevant, shameful street event.

  • lierbag

    11 November 2010 8:36PM

    Target your local LibDem MP, by sending in question after complicated question via:

    http://www.writetothem.com/

    Keep them nice and busy. They're obliged to answer queries from genuine constituents, otherwise the negative non-reply stats start racking up against them.

  • ADJWilson

    11 November 2010 8:38PM

    SplitEnz,

    As someone who was present when the fire extinguisher was thrown, I can tell you that the crowd's reaction was a mix of disbelief and anger. Almost everyone present yesterday, even those engaged in acts of violence, realised that there was a line that needed be respected. One idiot crossed that line, and was (I'm told) promptly removed from the roof by other protesters.

    A video of the crowd's reaction (and their chants of "Stop throwing shit") can he seen here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAGNJMQD1rA&feature=player_embedded

  • shugsy

    11 November 2010 8:38PM

    I'm glad that this country has a few young people,often described as 'can't be bothered' and apathetic,that are prepared to go out and protest,and it says a lot that these fee rises won't affect these current students,but they are out there protesting for those that will come after them.

    Shame some of those who likely graduated 10,20,40 years ago and paid little to nothing are taking issue with protesting students 'taking their taxes'(taxes paid for your education too,and students will pay tax when they graduate and get jobs) rather then the politicans who intend to saddle them with debt whilst bailing out banks and spending billions continuing to fight a futile war.

    Hmm doubt police will get heavy-handed; silly Cameron hitting the force with cuts then expects the police to be his attack dogs?

  • StateResearch

    11 November 2010 8:41PM

    I'm pleased to see the students aren't buying this divide and conquer routine about the tiny minority and the schoolmarmish Daily Mail reproofs about 'violence never solving anything", which only someone with no knowledge of history could use.

    A million of us marched against the war and the government went ahead anyway. The only way to get anything done in this country, which is no longer a democracy, is direct action.

    Good luck to you.

  • thebeach

    11 November 2010 8:41PM

    This is not just affecting higher education. The plans for academies and free schools which will divert money from state schools to pay for what are essentially privatised schools are part of a wider marketisation of education.

    Teachers will soon join the debate and parents should be made aware of the potential changes being attempted. This runs deeper than just tutition fees. It is a move to weaken state provision and increase the cost of eductation.

    As a teacher I want to make people aware that marketisation is being attempted at other levels of education; secondary and primary included.

  • Endoctrination

    11 November 2010 8:42PM

    Even at £9,000, do you understand just how cheap that is to the rest of the world?


    Eeeer, In France the cost are about 300 to 500 euros.... And of what I heard, the level of educations is not so inferior to the one in UK. Furthemor, just because you are paying higher fees doesn't mean everyone should. Maybe you it would be a good idea for you to go in the street and protest as well instead of whining and ranging yourself in the wrong camp.

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