Queen Mary and Goldsmiths protest against tuition fee rises

Stop The Cuts picket at Queen Mary by Merel Offringa

Students and  staff of universities along the East London Line are making plans to revolt against the government’s decision to triple tuition fees.

Goldsmiths students started the ball rolling yesterday by occupying Deptford Town Hall for 24 hours.

Today, Queen Mary held their own demonstration. The president of Queen Mary student’s union, Vratislav Domalip was greeted by applause as he stepped out onto a platform surrounded by students, wearing a mask and cape.

He chanted: “We will stand together, we will march, we will hunt you down. We’re not consumers, we are scholars.”

The National Union of Students (NUS)  vice president for higher education, Usman Ali, was also there and he encouraged everyone to attend the march that is being organised by the university staff union (UCU) and the NUS next Wednesday 10th November.

Queen Mary accepts hundreds of medicine students every year so the Coalition’s announcement today, that Universities will be able to charge as much as £9,000 a year in tuition fees without provision for students who take longer degrees, could mean fewer students opt to study subjects such as medicine at the University.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and Shadow Minister for Public Health, says the Coalition’s decision to raise tuition fees will price many students out of taking medical degrees altogether.

She said: “I think we will see the numbers of students deciding to study medicine declining drastically as a result of this and it will make it far harder for students from poorer backgrounds, who do not have financial support from their parents, to make the decision to study medicine.

A lack of trained doctors will have a terrible effect on the quality of the NHS and we will see a reliance more and more on doctors from abroad.”

An estimate by the British Medical Association (BMA) calculates that many trainee doctors will now leave University in £70,000 of debt.

Goldsmiths, on the other hand, teaches arts subjects and will be badly affected by the  removal of  the teaching grant for the arts. Even higher student fees will not cover the total withdrawal of government funds and class sizes and staff teaching loads will have to rise just as student fees triple.

Arfah Farooq, one of the occupying students at Goldsmiths said yesterday: “This is just the start. We are the first to occupy but we expect others to follow.”

Goldsmiths Communications and Campaigns Officer, James Haywood, said: ‘We’re here to make a statement to the government, that we’re not going to lie down and accept their attack on higher education. We’re also making a statement to Goldsmiths Senior Management. They’re not taking the threat to higher education seriously and they’re not backing our anti-cuts campaign. “

Simon Hardy, a student from Westminster University, said: “this is a declaration of war”.

Hugh Jones, registrar and secretary at Goldsmiths, when asked whether he agreed with the tuition fee rise said: “Of course not, of course not.” When asked why he wouldn’t back the SU’s campaigns he said: “At the moment we’re trying to deal with these changes the best we can.”

Student Unions for  universities along the East London LIne support the NUS march and plan to take action within their respective universities. Greenwich University’s SU  are also committed to getting as many of their students as possible  to the NUS march next week.

UCU and NUS National Student and Staff March: Wednesday 10th November, Horse Guards Avenue, 11.15am.

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