Once more, with feeling: Student protests continue

By Peter Wozniak

Students will show their displeasure at cuts and tuition fees in a symbolic act of protest later today, as demonstrators head to Conservative offices in North London.

Immediately after schools close, the demonstrators will congregate at Tally Ho Corner in Finchley, where they will literally rip the shirts from their backs and cast them at the office of local Tory MP Mike Freer.

The protest, which will be on a smaller scale than the 50,000-strong march last week, is being marshalled by school students from the Borough of Barnet, which is Conservative-controlled.

Organiser Alex Clayman said: “The days of student apathy are over. And if you think they’re not, you are making a very big mistake. People are confused as to what they’ve done to deserve such high fees.

“To symbolise our feelings about our treatment – we will rip the shirts off our backs and lob them at the Conservative office.”

The demonstrators will also present a petition to Mr Freer calling on him to “resist cuts to the annual budgets given to schools and colleges in Barnet, and to reject the abolition of the education maintenance allowance, which will be detrimental to the future of thousands of your young constituents.”

It will also carry a threat that the Conservative would be voted against en masse by young people in Finchley, continuing: “We will not forget the positions you take on these key issues, and whether you are prepared to stand up for your young constituents against these arbitrary and unfair measures.”

The protest follows waves of discontent among students and young people over government plans on further and higher education, which will see a trebling of the cap on tuition fees and the scrapping of EMAs.

The violence that marred last week’s protest, although disowned by its union organisers, is nonetheless symptomatic of the strength of feeling gathering pace against the coalition.

The fallout from last week’s violence continues, as the student who dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of CCHQ appeared in court yesterday.

According to his solicitor, Edward Woolard has admitted to the action after voluntarily attending a police station, where he was arrested. The college student was charged with violent disorder on Tuesday night.

The case has been adjourned at the solicitor’s request until November 24th.

The government has insisted that its response to the Browne review on higher education funding is the most progressive solution available, arguing that the poorest students will in fact pay less towards university education than they do now.

But confusion reigns over the full implications of the government’s plans. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported last night that “the value of the £21,000 and £41,000 earnings thresholds [for repayment of fees] were in 2012 prices; we have since learned that these thresholds are in 2016 prices.”

Commenting on the assumption that the government would increase those thresholds annually in line with earnings, the IFS added: “In fact, these thresholds will only be increased every five years (and be fixed in cash terms in between).”

Labour’s John Denham accused the coalition of employing ‘”sleight of hand” with the proposals.
He said: “We had all assumed the costings were in today’s money and that the £21,000 repayment threshold would rise by average earnings.”