National day of demonstration planned as parliament votes on tuition fee reform

Photo: Nali Sivathasan

Lecturers, teachers, staff and students from universities, colleges and schools in south and east London will join today’s massive march on Westminster as MPs take the crucial decision on the controversial rise in tuition fees.

The vote on the rise, which could potentially treble the maximum rate per year to £9000, is due in the early evening. The proposals have inspired rolling protests and demonstrations since they were announced in late October and this the third major rally in the centre of London. Both earlier protests sparked confrontations with police and arrests.

Today’s demonstration has been planned by the University of London’s Union, the London region UCU, and the NUS. Protesters will gather at the ULU students’ union on Malet St for a 1pm march to  Parliament. A 3pm rally will be held at Victoria Embankment, followed by a candlelit vigil at 4.30pm.  Staff and students will stage walkouts at 10am, in a move supported by most staff unions.

Goldsmiths’ UCU are publicly supporting the participation of its members, as well as the actions of the Student Union, who were this week threatened by college management with a £15,000 fine if they continue to engage in direct action on-campus following the occupation of the college library. Protesters will be gathering outside the Richard Hoggart building on Lewisham Way in New Cross at 11am, heading to London’s South Bank to march from there.

A contingent from Queen Mary’s University will be making their way to Malet St via Bethnal Green, where they have arranged to pick up students from Morpeth comprehensive school in  Bethnal Green, one of schools where pupils will be supporting the protest.  Teachers at Morpeth have agreed that the students may leave school to attend, as long as they are chaperoned by university students.

Not all students are receiving support from their institutions however. Tower Hamlets College have warned their pupils against participation, suggesting that it may jeopardise their Educational Maintenance Allowance. Richard McEwan, a lecturer at THC and joint branch secretary of Poplar’s UCU was threatened with disciplinary action by its management when he started a petition in support of the students protest.

Police have worked with organisers to plan a march route. From Malet Street along Kingsway, protesters will march through Aldwych, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, Horse Guards Road, Parliament Square via Great George Street, through Whitehall and ending in Victoria Embankment.

Police have not published such a clearly demarcated route for any of the previous tuition fees protests. Releasing the map, they indicated that the move was “in order to balance the needs and requirements of those protesting against tuition fees, and those of other Londoners to go about their everyday business.”

ELL will be live blogging the demonstration throughout the day, check back for regular updates. For a comprehensive overview of how the debate on tuition fees has progressed over the last few months, see here. For ELL coverage of previous demonstrations, see here.

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