Today, thousands of students are expected to take to the streets for the second time in a fortnight in protest at plans to raise tuition fees and scrap the education maintenance allowance.
More than 25,000 college and university students across the UK have signed up to a Facebook page organising a co-ordinated walkout from classes at 11am.
Scores more regional groups have sprung up and are organising their own events, amid signs that the scale of the London protest has emboldened the wider student movement.
Many of the largest demonstrations are expected to take place in cities with big student populations such as Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and London, but hundreds of students – many of them sixth-formers or in further education – have also organised protests in towns across the UK.
In Bury, over 1,100 people have signed up on Facebook to say they are planning to join the walkout; in Milton Keynes, 600 people have signed up and a similar number in Colchester and Bournemouth have said they are taking part.
Last night, an effigy of Nick Clegg was hanged and set on fire outside the Guardian offices in north London, where the deputy prime minister was delivering the Hugo Young lecture.
Students from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London School of Economics and Westminster Kingsway College were joined by protesters from the Socialist Workers party, Right to Work and the Government of the Dead. There were chants of "Nick Clegg, shame on you for turning blue" as police officers looked on.
The stunt came as it emerged that student activists on the radical fringe of the campaign against the government's education cuts will be the target of a national police intelligence operation.
Speaking on the eve of a student day of action, the officer in charge of monitoring "domestic extremism" in the UK said his officers' focus was on the "fringe" where protest "spills over" into violence and disorder.
"It is quite right in our role as Acpo [Association of Chief Police Officers] goalkeeper to watch where the social protests are going and how they are developing and to try, where possible, to identify flashpoints," said Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, who took over the role of national co-ordinator for domestic extremism last week.
Tudway's comments came after a small minority of people involved in protests two weeks ago occupied the Conservative party's headquarters, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and leaving protesters and police injured.
The day has now arrived, and it's going to be massive …
… but you still have time to get even more folk out. For example, you could chalk the details on the pavement outside your place of education, or sent a text out with the core details (time of walkout, meeting point etc) and a request that folk "send the text viral" – ie text it to their own friends to text on to their friends …
AND AS SOON AS YOU WALK OUT, SEND TEXTS TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES ETC TELLING THEM YOU'VE WALKED OUT AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO THE SAME AND TO JOIN YOU.
Turn up to your initial meeting point with placards, instruments, whistles, good spirits and good chants.
Grab students planning to go into their lessons, and persuade them to join your protest.
After creating lots of noise and pulling in lots of students, it is time to take to the streets!
There's an interesting debate taking place on the national campaign against fees and cuts (from here-on NCAFC) Facebook page regarding the difficulties some students, particularly those at college or sixth form, face in taking part in the walkout today:
STUDENTS FROM ROYAL HOLLOWAY, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON HAVE OCCUPIED PART OF THE FOUNDERS BUILDING. THIS ACTION STARTED YESTERDAY AT 4PM.
On the Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance website, which JMG89 kindly links to, student have been posting video and text updates of their progress so far: http://rhacc.wordpress.com/
The Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance has occupied the picture gallery corridor in the Founder's building. Forty students descended on the administrative wing, where senior management were holding a meeting in the boardroom, to be joined shortly by more supporters and SU representatives.
The alliance received the immediate support of administrative staff and local PSCOs while issuing a statement of alliance principles and list of demands to all staff.
The Royal Holloway Anti-Cuts Alliance has been receiving a constant flow of support and solidarity from university anti-cuts groups, trade unions and campaign organisations from across the country. They are later going to be joined by some staff for a "teach-in", as well as by members of Save Our Services in Surrey.
If you are joining in the protests today, we'd love you to get in touch with updates on your progress, pictures, videos, links or generally any information that you think is useful.
As well as including posts and tweets on the blog, we're going to try and create a gallery of images taken by protesters around the country: if you'd like to send in a picture, please email it to the address above, with a short caption explaining where it was taken and what it depicts.
The Guardian's irrepressible northern editor Martin Wainwright will be out and about today, and has just sent this report:
Leeds students were up late last night making banners for today's march into the city centre, with a march to town and a rally due between 1pm and 2pm outside the art gallery. The reclining bronze nude by Henry Moore, a famous former Leeds student, will be watching from her outdoor plinth.
The union has stressed the need for peaceful protest to its 33,000 members; last night saw the vice-chancellor Michael Arthur, chair of the Russell Group and a big player in national university politics, hold one of his regular Q&A sessions in the union foyer.
Leeds has nearly 70,000 students when you count in Leeds Met uni and the various colleges, so the potential for a big crowd is there. To date, demonstrations have been relatively modest and good-humoured. Last week, a couple of hundred put on Nick Clegg face masks and capered about on campus to appropriate tunes such as Take That's Never Forget.
The Lib Dem MP for North-West Leeds, Greg Mulholland, has spoken out against the fees plan. Check out student opinion on the Leeds Union's Facebook site
Protests and 11am walkouts are also expected at Newcastle's two universities, the two in York, and in Hull and its satellite campuses. York University bucked the gloomy trend a tad this morning, though, publishing details of the new bar, bistro and social centre planned for its £500m campus extension, Heslington East. If York planners approve, there'll also be 600 extra student bedsits and 17 staff jobs.
Hull's Scarborough campus has emerged as a centre of well-organised protest, sending the biggest satellite group to the 10 November London rally. The local student union vice-president, Matthew Brown, fixed up a visit to Jon Trickett, Labour's shadow minister of state, at the Cabinet Office and sorted a system for finding Yorkshire students lost in the capital.
The down to earth tone continues today in his blog on www.hullstudent.com, walkouts or not. After discussing the fees issue, he reports: "It is my pleasure to announce that bottles of squirty sauce have been introduced at dinner times to replace the sauce sachets that were previously in use thus removing the restriction of the amount of that could be used. So thank you to catering for listening to the union's views."
On Twitter, @lasthours – "an online and occasional print zine for the anti-authoritarian, DIY and punk communities" – has got in touch to share a link to a Google map of the occupations so far.
Mike O'Neill emails to say that Birmingham University has gone into occupation and provides a link to the occupants' online statement:
Despite some difficulty with security guards preventing many of our students getting in, more than 30 Birmingham students are currently in occupation of the Aston Webb building, the site of the prime ministerial debates. This is a copy of our written statement:
Students at the University of Birmingham have embarked on this occupation because we believe the government's cuts to be economically unnecessary, unfair and ideologically motivated.
We stand in solidarity with unions and seek to be active members in a broader anti-cuts coalition. The government must understand that if they continue to destroy the livelihoods of the majority to benefit the rich and powerful minority, they will face increasingly widespread and radical action.
The government is, however, not the only catalyst for our action. This university currently adheres to a strategy which prioritises corporate profit above the value of education. To this end, we have set out an alternative budget proposal that fairly shares the burden of government cuts. If the government and university continue with their marketisation of people's lives, this will only be the beginning.
Plymouth has also been occupied, Mike writes, and the students there have included a live webcam feed:
My colleague Paul Lewis, who reported on the protests two weeks ago, has been speaking to protesters and predicts the "epicentre of action" today will be London.
Anticipating what a protest will look like is never easy. The disparate nature of today's demonstrations – with potentially thousands of coordinated walkouts across the country – means much of the action might go unseen by TV cameras.
But most expect the epicentre of action will, as ever, be in the capital, under the full glare of the cameras. While there were many people quietly predicting unrest ahead of the last student march in London on 10 November, the picture is more complicated this time round.
Some of the anarchist and hard left activists I've been in touch with believe there is need for a "cooling off period", and fear roaming police surveillance teams will be picking off those identified as troublemakers and arresting them with so-called "snatch squads" that dive into the crowd and pull out suspects.
I think they're right about that, and everything points to a heavy police presence, courtesy of Bob Broadhurst, the Met commander responsible for the G20 policing operation.
A man loathed by protesters as much as he is loved by rank and file in the territorial support group, I don't imagine he'll be averse to a "kettle" around or near Trafalgar Square. The containment tactic is seen by police as an effective tool to isolate protesters to prevent them from having the freedom of movement that, top cops fear, will enable them to re-enact the attack on Tory HQ.
You can be pretty sure activists, many of whom will be wearing masks this time, are going to try to avoid being herded, and if their numbers are bolstered by schoolchildren and solidarity groups, that might make for a volatile mix. Then again, the key will be the turnout. And whatever indie singers say about riots, they're hard to predict.
Paul will be out following the protests in London today – you can follow him on Twitter @paul__lewis
• @hbardy @adamgabbatt Newman University College students walking out at 11am in solidarity with others.
• @devilrebel @adamgabbatt appears nothing happening at nottingham trent seems a normal day
• @RichAlexWhite @adamgabbatt hundreds of sixth formers in milton keynes are heading to the town centre for a march at 11
• @lasophielle @AdamGabbatt Hi world. The #womensbloc = an exciting part of #dayofaction in Oxford to come. Hashtag we're using is #oxuncut. Carnival style
As we gear up to the second mass protest in two weeks, the legacy of the first looms large: the Press Association is reporting that Edward Woollard has admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of 30 Millbank during the riots on 10 November.
Woollard pleaded guilty to violent disorder at City of Westminster magistrates court today.
Miss England will be joining in the protests today, a flustered-looking colleague has just told me.
Jessica Linley, 21, who was crowned Miss England in September and is studying law at Nottingham University, has warned that raising tuition fees will mean only the wealthy will be able to go to university.
"Everyone should be entitled to an education, but too few people will be able to afford one at £9,000 a year," Linley told PA, which has devoted over 400 words to her presence.
"I certainly wouldn't be able to study at university with the increased fees and I am concerned that, once I return to my studies, I may also have to pay these ridiculous rates.
"I am already two years into my law degree and need to carry on studying so I can go on to train as a solicitor. These sweeping austerity measures are unacceptable."
So there you go.
The Anti Cuts Protests website, which has lots of information about the different action taking place today, has mapped out the locations where it expects protests to take place. Click on the blue blobs for more info:
Reports are starting to come in of walkouts around the country. Martin Wainwright sends this from Leeds:
Hundreds of teenagers poured out of Allerton Grange high school in Leeds just now to join the protest.
The well-planned action has seen almost the whole school empty, with carefully prepared banners picked up from prepared stores.
The students are now marching to the nearby Roundhay high school in the hope of encouraging students there to join in. The two schools are high-achieving comprensives in a largely prosperous part of Leeds. Both regularly win Oxbridge places.
The students are chanting: "They say cut back, we say fight back." Two 16-year-olds said that the focus was on the loss of the educational maintenance allowance. One said: "Without EMA I'll never be able to go to university. I want to follow my dream."
Matthew Taylor files from London:
About 500 students are gathering outside ULU in central London. The crowd seems much younger than last week, and very animated about the scrapping of the EMA as well as the hike in tuition fees. At the moment, it is good-natured but noisy.
Steven Morris is in Bristol, where students have been occupying a cafe on the campus of the University of the West of England since Monday.
Two tents are set up in the middle of the room. There's a table full of donations for the occupiers – bread, tea, crisps, piles of butter.
They've been up all night drawing up a list of demands from UWE's board of governors. They claim the "quality of education" is worsening because of internal restructuring and government cuts.
The walkout to protest over tuition fees began at 11am. Finishing touches are still being made to banners including one that reads: "Torys (sic) stop screwing my little sister." Off now to Bristol city centre, where UWE students are to meet up with their counterparts from Bristol University and other colleges.
Eloise Veljovic, a first year politics student at the University of Leeds, has sent this account of action at the university so far today:
People have been here since 8.30am, forming picket lines outside three entrances into the uni, and crowds have begun to gather.
Alicia Blackett, a first year student and a member of the group organising today's resistance, said: "We're all ready for action. We've been getting a sense of the mood here ... students are angry because the whole classics department is being shut down, and language students are being denied the right to change to have their third year abroad, which is going to directly affect their studies."
Attending my seminar at 11am, I was encouraged to walk in, explain why we should resist the cuts and walk out at 11.15am. In the seminar, the mood was tense ... everyone was excited and anticipating change.
People at Leeds are not just worried about the funding cuts affecting (and directly leading to the closure of) their faculties, but also the extent to which this will change the socio-economic background of students here in the future.
As a place where people from every possible background come to study, students realise that people from less privileged backgrounds simply won't be able to afford to study here in future years.
As 11.15 drew closer, the seminar leader, Jide Okeke, addressed today's events and said: "I do sympathise with you and I hope it makes a big difference".
Paul Lewis reports from London, where he has been told that 800 police officers will be deployed today following the Metropolitan police admitting that the policing of the last protest was "an embarrassment".
The police presence outside Birkbeck College in London, where about 1,000 students have gathered, is predictably heavy. Eight TSG vans are parked around the sidestreets, but most officers – around 200, including reinforcements from the City of London force – have surrounded the march, which is heading toward Trafalgar Square. This time round, they're wearing riot gear beneath their normal high visibility jackets. They look quite nervous, too, although it is all suitably civil.
I'm reliability informed there are 800 officers deployed in London today – three times more than were on the streets for the far larger march on 10 November.
So while it is clearly going to be difficult at the moment to judge the numbers of students protesting far today, here's a round-up of what we know so far:
• In Leeds, we've heard that "hundreds" of students are protesting at Leeds University, while as Martin reported, "hundreds" have walked out of Allerton Grange high school alone.
• In London, there are around 1,000 students outside Birkbeck college, while Chloe Wade has emailed to say that 300 students from Goldsmiths are making their way to a rallying point at Trafalgar Square.
• No numbers from Bristol yet, but students from University of the West of England, Bristol University and several colleges are expected to gather there.
• James, a student at Durham University, says some 700 students from Durham are protesting.
• Oliver Miocic, a student at Nottingham Trent University, reports that around 60 school pupils from Tooting school, in Bingham, have gathered outside Nottingham town hall. Oliver also says students from the two universities in Nottingham are expected to protest this afternoon.
• Queen Margaret Union, one of the University of Glasgow's two student unions, says 200 students there are marching on the principal's office at the moment to present an anti-cuts petition.
• An emailer who works at the University of Manchester and has asked to remain anonymous says "upwards of 800 students" from universities, colleges and schools are gathering at University Place in the city. The source says police "look nervous", adding: "I've just overheard them asking for more officers."
• James Norrie emails to say "hundreds of UCL students" have occupied the Jeremy Bentham Room in the central campus of the university. Apparently they are "demanding management condemns all education cuts".
Bibi van der Zee emails from central London, where she is entrenched with protesters:
Wow, atmosphere in Trafalgar Square fantastic – excited students and schoolkids all over Nelson's base and the lions, singing: "Fuck David Cameron" very, very loudly.
The excitement of bunking off school AND climbing public statues AND swearing in front of police very obvious. Huge cheer as a group arrived from Pimlico. Tourists just drop-jawed.
They've now taken an autonomous decision to head down Whitehall ahead of schedule. A policeman, looking a bit rattled, just said: "Yes, we're not quite sure of timings at the moment – they're a bit ahead of themselves."
There's no traffic control going on at all.
And here's a picture of students protesting in Leeds, courtesy of Alice Salfield.
Eloise Velijovic is a student at the university, and is at the scene:
Things are heating up now, and more people are getting involved. Builders have put down their tools to watch us, traffic slows down as it nears and the march has just started.
The police presence here is noticeable – riot vans are lining the streets and mounted police follow the crowd tentatively. Police cars are covered in egg, and policeman on foot are on every corner, obviously having learnt their lesson from Millbank.
Rhiannon Wilkie, a third year philosophy student, said: "It feels like the police are marching with us".
The chants so far are the same as those at Millbank, and cries of "Tory scum" echo around the campus. Students here seem genuinely upset at the proposed cuts, and many here are hoping the frustration doesn't turn into violence.
Matthew Taylor reports that thousands of students are now being 'kettled' near Parliament Square, in central London, where a police van has been mounted by some protesters.
There are several thousand students kettled at the bottom of Whitehall, near Parliament Square. They've been stopped here now for about 10-15 minutes. It has been predominantly good-natured, although very noisy.
Just now, though, a group of protesters have isolated a police van, and there are people climbing on top of it as others rock it to and fro.
The van has been abandoned by police. However, a couple of hundred police officers and half a dozen police vans lie in the way up ahead.
Some people have just begun throwing burning placards at police officers, although previously the mood has been quiet.
More than 2,000 noisy students have marched through University of Leeds and the half a mile into Leeds city city.
The chanting crowds, well policed by about 50 police officers that I can see, are currently in good spirits. There's been no trouble so far. Plenty of anti-Conservative and anti-cuts chanting – students in high spirits.
• @paul__lewis Police van in the middle of the crowd now being ripped up. Smoke bomb inside. #demo2010
As the news channel show violent scenes in central London, Steven Morris reports on the situation in Bristol:
Minor scuffles in Bristol between protesters and police when some demonstrators get through a cordon and make it into the city centre.
Line of eight police horses keep the rest of the protesters at bay. Probably a couple of thousand here now.
WimpleWinch writes on the Metropolitan police's tactics below the line:
Shouldn't they know by now that kettling can turn a peaceful demonstrations into an angry, frustrated crowd?
I just can't understand why they keep resorting to it, unless that's precisely what they want: to anger the protesters and put them on the brink of violence so they can identify and arrest the "extremists".
In that case, they should probably arrest themselves afterwards for incitation to violence.
My colleague Peter Walker writes:
Twitter is, as you'd expect, teeming with vignettes from the various protests under the #demo2010 tag. Someone – sorry, the tweets are moving so fast I missed their name – reports this exchange from the London kerfuffle:
• "'Come on, this is supposed to be peaceful.' 'Fuck off you hippy,' shouts another protester."
Tweeter stevegreer, in Aberystwyth, is amused:
• "Excellent computer science student protest sign: '404 Error Funding Not Found.'"
Meanwhile, LeedsStudent notes:
• "Never seen the queue for Leeds Greggs so big. Protesting obviously makes people hungry."
1.54pm: I've just talked to the Guardian's Paul Lewis from a very noisy sidestreet near Parliament Square, where the crowd is now "kettled":
2.07pm: Students at the University of East London have emailed to announce that they have occupied part of their institution, and have even set up a "ueloccupation2010" Gmail address from which to send it.
They are demanding the full support of university managers "to put pressure on the government on the issue of HE cuts and tuition fee rises".
The email adds: "The space we are occupying is going to be used as a community space where students and local people can exchange ideas and skills in the true spirit of learning, NOT as consumers."
2.08pm: Students from Westminster Kingsway College voice their anger at government cuts in this Guardian video (above), recorded this morning.
2.15pm: I've just spoken to James Russell, a 28-year-old international student at Durham University who hails from Massachusetts, in the US.
He said more than 700 students marched from Durham marketplace to the green in front of Durham Cathedral, and they were a mixture of protesters from Durham University and from colleges and sixth form colleges in the city.
"It was really peaceful," he said. "I was very impressed by the sixth-formers – they were really mature and very concerned about their future.
"I'm protesting because I'm concerned about the cuts to arts and humanities teaching funding, especially when you think that Britain is a nation defined by its literature – that's what the government is cutting.
"When word spreads that Britain is cutting funding to arts and humanities, it will stop others like me from coming."
2.32pm: Michael MacLeod, the Guardian beatblogger for Edinburgh, reports on protests from the Scottish capital:
Around 250 students marched from the city's university hub of Bristol Square, along Lothian Road, followed by three police vans, and they are now sitting down outside the Edinburgh Lib Dem office, in Haymarket. There is chanting, there are banners and there is anger.
I rang some student union representatives last week about the demo and the feeling was that this was going to be confined to England and Wales. Obviously, students had different ideas.
One of the Guardian Edinburgh Twitter followers, SillyCivilian, just tweeted:
"We are paying more and getting less" Edinburgh history lecturer joins students for fightback."
2.48pm: I've just spoken to one of a group of school pupils who are part of a larger crowd occupying the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
Jack Grieve, 14, left his classes at Cherwell School, in Oxford, at lunchtime after his parents wrote a note to teachers requesting that their son be allowed to join in the protests. He said:
Everyone's going to be in loads of debt when they leave university. Why should you have to pay so much money? It won't prevent me from going, but it'll mean I'm in loads of debt and it just makes everything a little bit worse.
I left school after lunch. My mum phoned the school and told them I was going to protest.
Grieve said his parents were fully supportive of his decision to stay off school, adding: "They like it that young people are getting involved with the protests." He said there were 10 of his friends in the library, and "at least 20 more" of his age were also inside, including his 16-year-old brother and his friends.
"There were a good 100 outside the Bodleian," he added. "And I could just see a load of people inside, so I jumped the barrier and ran in."
2.51pm: Steven Morris reports from Bristol:
The protesters walk a quarter of a mile up to Bristol University's student union building.
Hundreds pile in, [there are] hundreds more more outside. Police playing catch-up, prompting the sight of four police horses charging up the hill towards the union building. Mood pretty cheerful.
3.15pm: Just spoken to the Metropolitan police – they said three protesters have been arrested in London so far on suspicion of violent disorder and theft.
They are still saying only one police officer has been injured, a PC who suffered a broken arm.
3.20pm: Martin Wainwright has filed this report from Yorkshire:
Big demos passed off peacefully in Leeds and Sheffield, both joined by plenty of school students in spite of threats of truancy punishments, including fines.
Some 80 students are sitting in at Sheffield University's Hicks Building, which houses – among other things – the department of probability and statistics.
Statistically, Sheffield saw 2,500 protestors and Leeds 1,000, both hugely up on small protests two weeks ago, when most activists went to London. The probability is that numbers will grow on future demos, student union officers in both cities say.
3.36pm: Tom Chambers has sent this photo, taken by Simon Richardson, of the police van that was stranded in the middle of the kettle of protesters in central London.
The van was seemingly abandoned by police – no officers were inside as protesters started to vandalise it, and police looked on helplessly from around 50 metres away as activists climbed onto the roof, smashed windows, spraypainted its sides and, at one point, threw a smoke bomb inside.
3.47pm: Eight people have been injured in the protests in London, the London Ambulance Service has confirmed.
Separately, the Metropolitan police said two officers in the capital had been injured, one of whom "appeared to be unconscious" but had now regained consciousness.
The London Ambulance Service said three of the eight people injured had been taken to hospital. A spokeswoman said:
We have deployed five ambulances, two motorcycle paramedics, attending student protests in Whitehall.
We treated eight patients and took three to hospital, all minor with minor injuries.
The spokeswoman could not confirm whether the ambulance service included the two injured police officers in the eight patients she said had been treated.
A Metropolitan police statement said:
We can confirm that three people have now been arrested for violent disorder and theft during the march.
Two officers have been injured so far. One police officer (male) has a broken arm. He has been taken to a central London hospital and is receiving treatment for his injuries.
A second police officer (male) was removed from the front line of the containment and appeared to be unconscious. This officer was treated by London Ambulance Service at the scene and has leg injuries. He is now conscious, and will be going to go to hospital for further treatment.
4.09pm: Hannah Waldram, the Guardian's beatblogger in Cardiff, reports:
Nearly 200 students rallied outside Cardiff University to protest against a rise in education fees.
After some chanting, and talks from union reps, the students made an impromtu bid to occupy the vice-chancellor's building. As it was locked, they continued their chants outside his office before occupying a lecture theatre.
Soon afterwards, a smaller group of students staged an unplanned march through the city centre, and police turnout was increased.
When I spoke to Inspector Tony Bishop, who was in command of policing today's protests, he said things had passed fairly peacefully.
The students are now back in the occupied lecture theatre.
4.41pm: Protester Helen Tookey emails from Liverpool:
Hi – just wanted to point out that a pretty big demo has taken place in Liverpool, which isn't mentioned in your round-up ... I've just got back from it.
Several hundred people, mostly students, but also university staff and others, including schoolchildren and sixth formers, marched from Liverpool University to the town hall. No violence that I saw, but a lot of flak for Nick Clegg ...
4.54pm: Paul Lewis, inside the kettle, tweets:
Police have placed two portaloos inside the #demo2010 kettle and are handing out bottles of water!
We've been unable to verify the exact brand of portable toilet being used inside the kettle. It may not definitely be a Portaloo.
5.09pm: I've been sent this video by colleague Patrick Kingsley, showing a number of Cambridge students clashing with police as they try to gain access to a university building. It shows a police hat being stolen, and a subsequently angry policeman.
5.20pm: Elie Howes has emailed this picture, taken by Jack Tyrrell Killian, which shows a stricken protester apparently reeling as blood flows from a head wound.
"Can the media please show both sides of the story ... it's not just the police that have been injured but that seems to be the focus although three times as many protesters were injured as police officers," Elie asks.
5.33pm: I've just spoken to Guardian reporter Paul Lewis, who is inside the police kettle near Whitehall where hundreds of protesters, including some in school uniform, are being held.
He says the mood of the police is different to that during similar kettling procedures in the past, citing the example of officers giving out water and providing portable toilets.
Paul also talks of some of the violence we've documented today being "mindless" – listen in.
5.50pm: The Met has said 15 people have now been arrested, eight on suspicion of violent disorder, theft and criminal damage.
Four were arrested on suspicion of public order offences, one for burglary and two on suspicion of violent disorder.
6.00pm: Luke – surname withheld – emails to accuse me of neglecting my northern roots.
Thanks for the interesting read. However, there's been very little mention of what happened in Manchester today – shame on you.
At least 4,000 people marched from the universities on Oxford Road into town at 12 today. The route planned with the police seemed to take us back out of town, so most people backtracked and surrounded the town hall.
Biggest cheers came when several troupes of schoolkids joined us right at the start, with some pretty pithy homemade banners. Sixth formers seemed incredibly vocal and enthusiastic, and I spoke to several non-students and ex-students marching alongside.
Some of us got our books out and tried to study outside the council offices in front of police lines.
Lots of other people are getting in touch about the Manchester demonstrations, too – thankyou.
Another person in Manchester, who asked not to be named because he works for a university, described the protests as "almost completely peaceful, with a fantastic atmosphere".
Paul Lewis reports that police on horseback have been charging towards activists.
North of the kettle, police are now charging at protesters with horses.
The first charge sparked panic in the crowd, which had been repeatedly surging to try and break through lines of riot police. Everyone (me included) was forced to sprint away. There was one report – unconfirmed, and which I did not see – of a protester [being] trampled.
The mood this end of the protest, which is outside the kettle, has soured considerably, and there have been some quite nasty clashes.
6.31pm: Student Kate Mooney emails from Falmouth University:
We hardly ever get put on the map, but we had smaller protests today of around 75 people at Tremough campus and Woodlane campus. We are mainly an arts university, so the cuts could hit us hard.
Here's a http://www.falmouthpacket.co.uklocal news report featuring video footage.
Meanwhile, at Hull University, Dominique Richards has this:
A small but passionate group of students (around 40 at the start, but it dwindled to about 25) took part in a protest followed by a banner drop out of the Larkin building.
We then proceeded to the building where the vice-chancellor of the university resides, but the building had been blocked off by security in fear of occupation. They wouldn't allow their own staff in, and so pretty much occupied themselves ...
6.34pm: Right, I'm handing over to David Batty, who will carry on the coverage for the next few hours.
Thanks very much for reading, and for all the tweets, comments and emails – sorry I wasn't able to use everything I was sent.
6.43pm: We've just had a call from Paul Lewis, who's near Trafalgar Square.
He says police have "completely lost control" of protesters who have now been let out of the kettle.
Another group of students who had been gathered outside of the kettle, calling for people to be let out, ended up running through the west end with officers in pursuit.
"After they were twice charged by mounted police, they saw another line of riot police blocking off the road. Their response was to run through a sidestreet and onward through the rest of central London, chanting "our streets". At the start it was seriously chaotic, with chairs being hurled at windows as shocked tourists looked on. This lasted around 45 minutes, as police were caught in a game of cat and mouse, along Charing Cross, Covent Garden and Picadilly Circus. The mice (or at least those we were with) were eventually trapped along a side street.
Some windows were smashed - I saw two bus windows and a taxi window broken - and shops and cafes attacked. It was mostly just unplanned sprinting around the city, with
bins knocked over and traffic cones hurled at traffic. These breakaway protests are what the anarchist movement call "feeder marches", honed during the anti-war movement in San Francisco - and they are, as the police found, pretty hard to contain. (Hence, the Met will argue, the need for the whole kettling tactic in the first place.)"
6.45pm: Sky TV is showing footage of protesters smashing a window at the Treasury.
Meanwhile, PA has got the Met police's side on the kettling of the protesters in London.
Chief Inspector Jane Connors said kettling had been put in place "as a last resort". She told the news agency:
It's a valid tactic. Police officers came under attack and we needed to make sure the violence didn't spread out across the London streets. In these circumstances containment was necessary to ensure that the protest was peacefully managed.
Connors said the crowd would be dispersed "under managed conditions".
She added: "We are not going to be complacent about the dispersal, but we want to make sure that Londoners can go about their business this evening."
There's also a video about today's protests in Sheffield – deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's constituency – and Leeds.
6.58pm: On Comment is Free, Laurie Pennie has a report from the midst of the protests in London. She writes:
There are no leaders here: the thousands of schoolchildren and young people who streamed into Whitehall three hours ago in protest at the government's attacks on further and higher education were working completely off script.
A wordless cry went up somewhere in the crowd and they were off, moving as one, with no instructions, towards parliament.
But just because there are no leaders here doesn't mean there is no purpose. These kids – and most of them are just kids, with no experience of direct action, who walked simultaneously out of lessons across the country just before morning break – want to be heard. "Our votes don't count," says one nice young man in a school tie.
7.01pm: Alex Wilson, a Manchester student, has emailed to update us on the protests in the city.
The police charging near the kettle in London sounds like what happened in Manchester earlier. There was a large, spontaneous march from the town hall back to the uni, with the intention of occupying a university building.
When we returned, we found out that every building was locked and guarded. Instead, we staged a sit-in on Oxford Road (the main road going through the uni and, so the uni repeatedly tell us, the busiest bus route in Europe).
At this point, the police – who had been very facilitative until this point – changed and turned on protesters. People were forcibly removed, and were charged by police on horseback. Clashes were frequent. I saw several girls have their hair pulled by police, and an ITV journalist was pushed around by police after taking pictures.
After this, we had a spontaneous march down Oxford Road. The police then blocked off the road near Rusholme, charged the protesters and threatened to arrest anyone who went on the roads.
A lot of people seemed to be arrested over the course of this evening protest, and traffic on Oxford Road must have been stopped for hours.
7.08pm: Earlier, in the Commons, the Green party leader, Caroline Lucas, criticised the kettling of protesters.
Raising a point of order, she said:
There are many hundreds of students and schoolchildren who have been kettled for over four hours and are going to be out there for another several hours, according to the police, in the freezing cold.
She added that "whatever one thinks of the student protest", holding people against their will was "neither proportionate nor, indeed, effective".
The Met police says toilets and water facilities had been provided for the demonstrators, as a result of lessons learnt from the G20 protests last year.
However, a protester near the Cenotaph in Whitehall denied the police claims.
Jack Whitehead, 17, from Brixton, told PA: "They've been kettling us for hours and we don't know when they're going to let us go. The only people being allowed to leave are people with panic attacks and medical issues.
"Police are not providing anything, there's one portable toilet but no one is being allowed to use it, it's just for the police.
"There's no water, and most of my friends have been held here for five hours now. People are freezing, they came here at 12 o'clock, and are not dressed for a winter's night.
"Some people being held are not even protesters, and they tend to be older and have been in floods of tears."
On Facebook, Clare Solomon president of University of London Union, said: "We're still illegally kettled in the freezing cold on Whitehall. No food, water or toilets despite what the (...) police are telling the media. Thousands of young people needing to go home. Plz spread the word and make complaints to whoever u can. Not ...sure what else to
7.16pm: This just in from Guardian reporter Matthew Taylor:
About 1,000 protesters who were charged by mounted police on Whitehall escaped up a side street and have spent the last 30 minutes running through the centre of London chanting: "You say cut back, we say fight back".
Some protesters tried to smash shop windows as the police lost control, with demonstrators running past bemused tourists and commuters. About 200 people are now being kettled just off Trafalgar Square.
7.25pm: The Really Open University emails to say:
Leeds University has been in occupation since 1pm.
Hundreds of university and college students occupied the Michael Sadler lecture theatre, along with the roof, and are planning on spending the night.
Leeds Met is also in occupation.
7.31pm: PA has a roundup of some of the banners seen during the protests across England.
In Sheffield, students took issue with the impending cuts in the teaching budgets for the arts and humanities, with one banner stating: "We have nothing to lose but our humanities."
And this was from a group of computer scientists in Aberystwyth: "404 Error - Funding Not Found."
One banner that proved popular on Twitter read: "I wuld be able spel if I culd go Uni", while "My back hurts where Nick Clegg stabbed me" was another popular slogan. A sign in Sheffield, Clegg's constituency, said: "Pick on someone your own age," while an unnamed protester in Cambridge summed up the mood of the day with his placard: "Mandate, my arse."
7.52pm: The latest from the Met police is that they have made 29 arrests so far today for offences including: violent disorder, theft and criminal damage, burglary and public order offences.
The force has said they will provide more details on its website.
7.56pm: This just in from Matthew Taylor:
Apparently, students in Whitehall told they could be kettled until midnight. Many of them schoolkids on first protest.
7.57pm: PA has interviewed some students caught in the police kettle in London.
Hannah Sharif, a 20-year-old law student at Hertfordshire University, said: "I've been panicking because I don't where my friends are and I don't know how to get home.
"I think it's stupid. They can't do that to people ... it's against their human rights to do that to people.
"We've done nothing wrong. Everyone's hungry and cold, they wouldn't even let people go to the toilet. When people started urinating in the street, the police just shrugged their shoulders. It's been horrible. I didn't think they would do that, it's ridiculous."
Lydia Wright, 22, studying Arabic and history of art at SOAS, suggested schoolchildren, rather than university students, were responsible for the outbreaks of trouble.
She said: "It's all gone terribly wrong. It started off as two small groups from my university and UCL.
"As soon as we got down to Whitehall we were joined by some other people, but I think it was mostly the schoolkids who were creating the trouble.
"They weren't really supporting the cause as much. Quite a few of them were just wanting to cause a disturbance.
"Unfortunately, once everyone realised they were trapped – after a few minutes – they just wanted to go home. It caused everyone to get quite worried in there and kids started throwing stones at police and all kinds of things.
"It was a small number of people and it does not represent what most of us were going out there for."
8.00pm: arkadyrose, a seamstress from Walthamstow, north London, has been tweeting her concerns for her daughter Kathy who is demonstrating in central London.
"My 15-yr-old daughter is in the kettle right now. Phone goes straight to answerphone. V. worrying time for a parent. (...) She made the decision to go herself. I had no hand in it but would have done the same at her age & am proud she's done it. (...) if she's not home in next half hour I shall be making phone calls, believe me."
8.42pm: PA reports that protesters inside the central London kettle had set fire to a ticket machine in a bus stop, then threw placards and newspapers onto the blaze.
Approximately 20 police officers with riot gear and batons entered the kettle shortly before 8pm, with police officers saying it could be another five or six hours before the rioters were dispersed.
A fire engine also arrived at the kettle on Parliament Street and made its way towards the fire lit by the protesters. It was greeted with shouts of anger from the crowd, who chanted "We need a fire to keep warm."
A protester who had just left the police cordon but did not want to be named said that he had seen fighting between police and protesters, with some suffering minor injuries.
There were also reports among onlookers of police using a fire extinguisher against the students.
A Met Police spokesman todl the news agency that officers were "endeavouring to disperse people from the containment area as quickly as possible", but said they had "been hampered by other protesters who were blocking the exit route towards Trafalgar Square".
"We would emphasise many of the youngest and most vulnerable were released from the containment area a long time ago," he added.
Meanwhile in Brighton, Sussex Police said a controlled dispersal of around 50 protesters was taking place on the seafront and the Palace Pier has been closed for safety reasons.
There's more footage on YouTube of today's protests in Leeds.
Meanwhile from the University of Sheffield have set up a blog detailing their occupation of a building in protest against the higher education cuts.
9.01pm: Matthew Taylor has just sent through details of interviews with parents waiting outside the kettle in central London. They expressed concern about the welfare of some of the young people who were kettled by police for more than eight hours in freezing temperatures.
Two mothers with children stuck behind police lines said their children had contacted them earlier in the day to say they had been blocked in.
Sara Tomlinson, 45, received a text message from her 16 year old daughter Katie at about 3pm.
"I got here at 5pm. She sent me a text message at 3pm and said 'mum we have been kettled, and we have got to be here til 9pm'."
Tomlinson said that while she was waiting for her daughter she was caught up when officers on horse back charged the protesters.
"I said can I talk to someone about the welfare of my child. They have been there eight hours without food or water and what is the temperature?... But
they kept forming a line of horses and then charging. We were running and trying not to fall over."
Tomlinson's daughter attended the same school - Lambeth Academy - as Sam the son of Margot Turner, 55, a medical lecturer.
"I think it's appalling. I was really scared," said Turner in reference to the charge by mounted police. "I think it is their democratic right [to protest]. It is them that are going to university in 2012 and they won't be able to afford it."
9.12pm: arkadyrose has just posted an update about her daughter Kathy who was earlier caught up in the London kettle. She writes:
"Kathy is home safe and sound and full of so many stories from today. So proud of her and her friends. :-D
"Apparently there were 11-12 year olds still being held in the kettle when they finally let Kathy (15) out. Disgusting."
Meanwhile, Josa Young, a writer from London, says her son was assaulted by a police officer during today's protest in London. We cannot confirm this, but in a Twitter post, she writes:
"Teen son has just been kneed in the crotch by one policeman and dragged along by his hair by a mounted policeman, during a peaceful protest."
9.22pm: PA has more from protesters who are slowly being allowed to exit the kettle.
Jasmine Simmons, 18, a student at Crossways College in Brockley, south London, said: "It's madness in there. Everyone is angry because they just want to go home.
"The police are letting people out 15 at a time now but there are still hundreds of students in there, it's going to take hours."
Naz Ramadan, 18, from Lewisham, east London, said: "It's so dangerous in there. I felt dizzy, some people were injured, and they still wouldn't let us out.
"I'm about to go to uni and I came for a peaceful protest today. We hated it when some students lit that fire - they were burning plastic and the fumes were toxic."
Sam Ahmed, 19, a student at the London College of Communications, said he had been stuck inside the kettle for five hours.
"I came to the protest to demonstrate for my little brother and nieces and nephews, who aren't going to be able to afford university if the fees increase.
"I heard five explosions during the protest this evening and I was frightened - I just wanted to get out of there.
"We didn't have any food or water or any idea when we'd be let out.
"The police were pushing protesters and I know they were just doing their job but they made the situation a whole lot worse by trapping us in there."
10.27pm: Scotland Yard has said 32 people have now been arrested in London in connection with the protests. Most of them have been held for public order offences and criminal damage.
10.30pm: Paul Lewis has filed from Whitehall where the 'kettle' has come to an end.
It's 10.20pm, and Whitehall has been entirely cleared of protesters. Debris and broken glass litter the road and police tape has penned-off areas which are now being subjected to forensic examination. A few tired police officers and drunks are walking around. But that's it - until next time.
And that's also it for the live blog tonight. Thanks for all your emails and comments from across the country. This is story of the day, the second time in two weeks thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to student fees reforms. Goodnight.