Since finding myself in the middle of the first violent outburst of students protesters against increased tuition fees, similar outcomes have resulted from further demonstrations and I fear it’s dampening their pledge.
I’m all for student rights, but the extent to which these protesters have gone to, to influence the government, seems a little damaging.
From one extreme to another
You may remember my oersonal account from the first demonstration “A birthday to remember…”. What started out as a peaceful protest, in which Aaron Porter, NUS President, told Passing Comment journalists that he was confident that violence would not take place, resulted in chaos as a number of students broke into Tory HQ at Millbank Tower.
Daisy Bambridge 2010
I got the impression that some protesters I spoke to didn’t understand the proposals, while those breaking into Milbank Tower were 6th form students who didn’t even know what the NUS was.
A common misconstrued argument against fees is that they disadvantage poorer pupils. In fact, those from poorer backgrounds are better off paying less than they currently do, while it’s those from wealthier backgrounds who have to pay more, according to the BBC.
On BBC Q and A of University funding, Education Minister David Willetts says that institutions can only charge £9,000 under exceptional circumstances (e.g. high teaching costs). If universities charge more than £6,000 they must offer scholarships, bursaries, summer schools and outreach programs to encourage poorer people.
- Maintenance grants increase for households earning less than £25,000 a year.
- Partial grants for incomes of £42,000 as opposed to the current £50,000 cut off
- Pay back when earning £21,000 as opposed to £15,000
Previously, I too was against fee increase but three weeks of protests: a number of arrests; and injuries from violence; I can’t help admit I have lost sympathy.
When discussing tube strikes, MP Caroline Pigeon told Passing Comment’s Lucy Laycock, that one or two strikes are ok: more and we lose interest. I think that this becoming the case among student protests.
I realise that by writing this I’m probably making a few of you scream with dismay but in all honestly, this “revolution” isn’t helping the cause, but damaging the fight.
I should mention that the media has magnified the problem. When covering fee proposals they focus on extremes. Few have pointed that it is unlikely many universities will charge £9,000. During protests, the BBC in particular, chose shots that imply more people than there really are; focusing on the few causing damage, in comparison to the many peaceful students attending the 10.11.10 demonstration.
Nevertheless, damage is still being caused: it could be those few people who ruin the appeal for the entire student population against fee increase. Mr. Clegg, Cameron, and Milliband, have shown apathy in the routes students are taken to be heard.
I cannot predict what the outcome of the vote on tuition fees, but I can be sure that students are doing themselves no good by crying out in such destructive ways.