UK students campaign against tuition raises, 2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
10 November
2010
to
9 December
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
United Kingdom
Location City/State/Province: 
Across the UK
Goals: 
Prevent tuition increases
 

In May of 2010, the United Kingdom held its general elections. The Conservative Party formed the new government by making an alliance with a smaller party, the Liberal Democrats.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, had run on a promise to vote against any proposals to raise tuition fees for students. However, by October of the same year, Clegg changed his stance on the issue. The government proposed a change in the cap on tuition fees from £3,290 to £9,000. At the same time, the government announced substantial budget cuts, particularly for public services.

The news of these issues resulted in an outcry of protest from the student population across the United Kingdom.

On 10 November the National Union of Students (NUS) organized a protest against both the proposed tuition increases and budget cuts. Approximately 52,000 people attended the protest outside of the Millbank Tower - the Conservative Party's headquarters.

The protest was for the most part nonviolent. However, the protest included property destruction and the threat of violence against police when, as NUS president Aaron Porter described it, a small minority of the protesters "hijacked" the event. Although the National Union of Students (NUS) intended the protest to be peaceful, some protesters broke glass windows, set off fire extinguishers, and performed other acts of property destruction. In addition, they threatened injury to police by throwing objects such as rocks, wooden banners, and shards of glass at police officers who attempted to control the scene.

The campaign against tuition raises spread rapidly across the United Kingdom.The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which also helped to organize the protest at Millbank Tower, called for a national day of action on November 24th. Students from at least 25 universities began organizing sit-ins and occupations at their respective institutions.

As the campaign continued to spread the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts found itself unable to organize action on this scale while preventing all instances of violence. Episodes of property destruction continued, including destroying a London police riot van.

Both the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the National Union of Students attempted to maintain nonviolent discipline, and declared a second national day of action. The police force arrested 139 people for breach of the peace and other episodes of property destruction were reported.

The government announced a vote on tuition fees to be held on 9 December. Thousands of protesters made their way to Parliament, some fighting their way through 2,800 members of the police and/or breaking off into smaller groups to avoid being contained. 42 protesters were injured. The day's events included smashing windows of the Treasury building and an attack on Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in their car as the pair drove to an unrelated event in London.

Overall, tens of thousands of students and others joined the protests, while a small fraction of those engaged in property destruction and/or violence. The mass media coverage of the campaign focused almost exclusively on the property destruction and violence when those were present in the larger actions.

Parliament voted in favor of the tuition rise.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"About NUS." National Union of Students. Web. <http://www.nus.org.uk/en/About-NUS/>.

Blake, Heidi. "Student Tuition Fee Protest Turns Violent as Tory Headquarters Evacuated - Telegraph." Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph Online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph - Telegraph. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/8123194/Student-tuition-fee-protest-turns-violent-as-Tory-headquarters-evacuated.html>.

Coughlan, Sean. "Student Tuition Fee Protest Ends with 153 Arrests." BBC. 1 Dec. 2010. Web. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11877034>.

"Students from across Wales Protest over Fees and Cuts." BBC News. 24 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11832493>.

"Students from Wales Join Fees Rise Protest in London." BBC. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11724278>.

"The UK Student Movement." CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective. 26 Jan. 2011. Web. <http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2011/01/26/the-uk-student-movement/>.

Waldram, Hannah. "Cardiff Students Protest as Assembly Pledges to Pay for Welsh Students | Cardiff | Guardian.co.uk." Guardian.co.uk. 30 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/cardiff/2010/nov/30/cardiff-students-protests-university-fees-welsh-assembly-government-announcement>.

"What Is the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts?" National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Web. <http://anticuts.com/what-is-the-national-campaign-against-fees-and-cuts/>.

Additional Notes: 
Video footage of Millbank Tower protest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMur4ohQA9s

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ashley Banks, 29/04/2011