25,000 say No to Tuition Fees

THEY CAME from all over Britain to London on Wednesday 15 November. In a colourful and angry protest, over 25,000 students voiced their disgust at tuition fees.

Students from Luton wore T-shirts saying “Stop the Blair Rich Project”. Other students wore T-shirts with chained feet on them, depicting the debt they’ll be chained to after leaving university.

A student in a Superman outfit had the logo ‘Fee Fighter’ emblazoned on his chest. One banner showed students’ feelings about the National Union of Students leadership’s closeness to the New Labour government saying: “NUS – Tony’s crony’s training camp.”

The NUS leadership had to be dragged kicking and screaming into organising demos last year and this against New Labour’s tuition fees and the axing of the grant.

Yet, this year, the NUS’s waves of red placards called for “grants not fees”. This showed the pressure the NUS leaders are under. Revealingly the protest was sponsored by public-sector union UNISON, the largest union affiliated to the Labour Party.

50 student nurses, all UNISON members, led the demo. They’d come straight from an all-night vigil, sleeping outside the Department of Health, protesting at their low pay – £2.60 an hour for a 37.5 hour week – and the fact that their health trust is closing down their nurses’ home.

Overseas students and mature students were noticeable on this demo. Students chanted: “We won’t pay our loans back” and building workers and office workers took students’ placards into their work.

The size and anger of this demonstration showed that the fight to scrap tuition fees and to get a living grant is still very much alive in students’ minds and actions.