Organised under the banner “Our education, not their business”, the demonstration, which is due to begin at mid-day, is expected to draw up to 10,000 protestors, with students bussed in from campuses around the country.
Its stated aim is to voice opposition to the higher education reforms outlined in this summer’s White Paper, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, and the introduction of higher fees and sharp cuts to state support for university teaching.
A row has blown up in advance of the march over the decision by the Metropolitan Police to allow officers to use baton rounds if they are faced with serious disorder.
The force said that trained officers would be free to use the rounds in “extreme” circumstances, with around 4,000 officers expected to be on duty to police the event.
The tuition fee protests last November and December were marred both by disorder and by the widely-criticised “kettling” of large numbers of mainly peaceful protestors.
Writing in today’s Guardian, Michael Chessum, a member of the National Union of Students national executive, said that the aim of tomorrow’s demonstration was “to block the cuts and privatisation agenda before it becomes a reality”.
Denouncing the decision to make baton rounds available to officers, he said this had “reinforced the disenfranchisement of those planning to march: not only is our future being dismantled, but we will be violently repressed when we attempt to defend it.”
The newspaper also prints a letter signed by 78 academics, who express their “unreserved support” for the protest.
The letter says that the aim of the government’s higher education reforms is to “put commercial values at the heart of the system, not students”.