Students march for ‘free education’

Students have been marching in London calling for ‘free education’, in an attempt to push fees back on to the news and political agenda

November 19, 2014

Organisers said that about 8,000 people had joined the march, which got under way shortly before 1pm outside University College London Union.

Today’s protest was organised by the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts, the Student Assembly Against Austerity and the Young Greens.

The National Union of Students had endorsed a motion to support the march, but later pulled its support citing safety concerns.

The march started with coloured smoke bombs in the air and a noisy soundtrack provided by megaphone chants, drumming and a police helicopter overheard.

The usual eclectic mix of placards included a tribute to Russell Brand and his book Revolution, as well as criticism for the University of Sheffield vice-chancellor, Keith Burnett, over his salary and the institution’s stance on the living wage for staff.

Without the support of the NUS, the march was predicted to be smaller and less well publicised than it otherwise might have been.

Nevertheless, the protest meant that Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was forced to discuss fees again after being challenged by a caller on his regular LBC phone-in.

The caller told him it was unfair that her daughter was charged to attend university in Edinburgh when Scottish students, or continental European students, do not have to pay.

Mr Clegg said: “There are differences in how universities are funded, north and south of the border. That is devolution for you.”

Asked about the Liberal Democrats’ current position on fees, he said: “We’ve learned our lesson, which is that you must only make commitments you are sure you can deliver on.”

Fees have largely dropped off the Westminster agenda, partly as the Labour party has pulled back from its plan to launch a £6,000 fees policy.

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