UK art students were among thousands of their fellow peers from more than 40 universities across the country who took part in a national demonstration in London yesterday, calling for an end to student debt. The demonstration was organised by a coalition of organisations including the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and the Student Assembly Against Austerity, both are calling for free education and an end to tuition fees, education cuts and finally student debt.
Students from universities across the country took part in the day of action, with many groups including those mentioned, laying on transport to the capital. The throng of students assembled at Malet Street in London at around midday and marched around Russell Square, down Kingsway Street to the Strand.
The demonstration then progressed towards Trafalgar Square; where it finally arrived at Parliament around 4pm where a rally took place. Earlier this month Toni Pearce, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) published a statement withdrawing her support for the protest after stating safety concerns, yet organisers say that a safe and accessible route has been agreed with police.
Speaking ahead of the march, Aaron Kiely, NUS National Executive and an organiser of the Student Assembly Against Austerity told the Telegraph: “We are marching to demand an alternative to £9,000 tuition fees, colossal student debt and savage cuts to education. We want the British government to follow the example of Germany, where tuition fees were abolished last month. This national demonstration marks the start of a major wave of action between now and the General Election which seeks to turn up the heat on politicians and political parties to listen to the demands of the student movement.”
The president of University of the Arts London Students’ Union, Shelly Asquith also spoke to the paper in a statement: “We cannot rely on simply passing policy at NUS National Conference and meeting privately with Government ministers to win an education that functions how we want it to: free, inclusive and democratic. We must use our collective power, organise and fight. That is why students from the University of the Arts London – both FE and HE alike – will be walking out on Wednesday, joining thousands from across the country.”
Hattie Craig, from Defend Education Birmingham and the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts added to the discussion; stating to the paper: “The students attending this demonstration are a new generation: one that was not involved in 2010, one for whom £9,000 fees are the norm. Despite this, they’re daring to call for demands which envisage a radical reshaping of education. This demonstration, expected to be the biggest since 2010, is the start of big things for the student movement.”
Organisers say 10,000 students joined the march calling for an end to university tuition fees, making the demonstration the biggest mobilisation of students since 2010, although this resulted in ‘scuffles’ and four arrests.
Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies for 2014 estimate that 73% of graduates will never repay their debt in full, which will create a funding “black hole” that the government has no choice but to write off at the taxpayers’ expense. The HEC has described this as the “worst of both worlds” for everyone involved. With Uk Arts funding perpetually in question; perhaps it is about time for a governmental ‘leg up’ for the struggling art student soon to be struggling artist.
© Artlyst 2014 photos Paul Carter Robinson all rights reserved