Over 10,000 students marched through central London last week against government attacks on education.
Activists filled coaches from across Britain. The majority came from universities, but they were joined by students from further education and sixth form colleges, as well as lecturers from the UCU union.
The National Union of Students (NUS) had been forced to support the demonstration—after saying it would not call a national protest this term.
But in the final week the NUS retreated. It discouraged students from going by saying the protest had not passed a “risk assessment”. This reduced numbers—but thousands still flocked to London.
Students are preparing to shut down education on 30 November along with their lecturers.
Emily Clarke from Newcastle Free Education Network told Socialist Worker, “If our lecturers are striking, we don’t just want students to get a message from management saying there are no classes. They need to get the workers’ point of view too and join the picket lines.
“We organised a teach-in last year where our teachers gave alternative lectures on the cuts and the economic crisis. We’d like to do that again.”
In Leeds students are organising a teach-in in the build up to the strike. It will bring students and lecturers together to discuss the dispute and wider issues such as what education should be for.
At King’s College London students are holding a “student ballot” where people can pledge to strike with their lecturers. At Goldsmiths College in south London, students, lecturers and other campaigners have organised a forum to build support.
A member of Brighton UCU told Socialist Worker, “We’re inspired by the students—the energy, the way they faced the police. But we can’t just admire them.
“On the 30 November strike day we need a good mixture of effective picketing and other kinds of direct action.”
The occupation of Millbank last year lit a spark. Today many students are looking towards organised workers for unity and solidarity.
Early on Wednesday students joined electricians who were protesting against attacks on their pay and conditions (see page 14).
But the police were hell-bent on stopping electricians and students coming together later in the day. They kettled both groups.
In the days before the demo leading officers said they had clearance to use “baton rounds” on the students. These so called “non-lethal” rubber bullets have been responsible for deaths and disabilities in the past.
The police sent out some 450 letters warning protesters who had been arrested on previous demos to stay away from any disorder.
They warned that if people failed to do so, “We will at the earliest opportunity arrest and place you before the courts.”
Some who received letters are awaiting trial or have served sentences. Others have been found not guilty or had charges against them collapse. Many attended anyway.
Socialist Worker Student Society is hosting Students for Revolution – an weekend of discussion and debate in central London. It takes place on 3 – 4 December. Go to www.swssnet.org for more details.