Thousands of students marched on parliament to demand free education today, Wednesday, on a noisy demonstration against fees and cuts.
Organisers say up to 10,000 took part. The protest was built by organisations including Student Assembly Against Austerity, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Young Greens and the Socialist Worker Student Society.
Coventry University student Katherine Anderson told Socialist Worker she will leave education with a debt of up to £50,000 from student loans, tuition fees and living expenses.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pay it back, it’s a big amount of money,” she said.
Katherine was especially angry to still be fighting fees four years on from the protests she joined in 2010 against the tripling of tuition fees.
She said, “It’s been incredibly difficult trying to survive as a student since then. I get a very small grant from student finance and my family are in no position to support me.
“I’m fed up because all the people in charge are all Eton boys. They’ve got no idea what it’s like to be a real person struggling to make ends meet.
“The system that we’re in at the moment isn’t working and that’s why we need a revolution.”
Chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” rang out, and passers-by stopped to applaud the protest.
Students cheered as construction workers punched the air in support of the march going past their building site.
The march was peppered with homemade anti-austerity placards. One said, “Seize the banks—take our back our wealth,” while another asked, “Where’s our bailout?”
National Union Students (NUS) executive member Aaron Kiely, part of the Student Assembly Against Austerity, hailed the “fantastic, vibrant demonstration” as a success.
He told Socialist Worker, “The government seems to find all the money it wants to fund nuclear weapons, fund wars and it doesn’t ever want to go after tax avoiders because they’re the Tories' mates.”
Students travelled to the march from all over England and Wales and some made an overnight journey from Scotland.
There was an international element too, with a large group of Mexican students joining the march to highlight the recent disappearance of 43 students in Mexico.
After being part of the movement in Mexico, Jonas left for London just weeks ago because he feared for his safety. He explained, “We are here in solidarity with our family and friends back home. The 43 students are a symbol of the systematic disappearance and murder that is too common in Mexico.”
Local student unions and sections of NUS backed the march—but many students were angry that the national union itself didn’t.
"It's disgusting that our union would pull out from a demonstration to demand free education,” said Kulsoom Mall from London’s Kingston University.
“Education should be a right and not a privilege, but the body that should be voicing our opinion doesn't seem to share that idea with us. That’s a stark contrast to everyone here today.”
Second year medical student Holly Clarke made common cause with those put off going to university because of high fees—and those fighting Tory austerity on other fronts.
She told Socialist Worker, “Education shouldn’t be about your ability to pay.
“Nurses and paramedics get paid peanuts for what they do and the hours they work are ridiculous. I think everyone should support the NHS strike on Monday—they are doing it for all of us.”
Thanks to Hamza Sharif