Hundreds of Islington students join tuition fees protest

MORE than 100 college and university students from Islington descended on Westminster today (Thursday) in a last-ditch attempt to stop the trebling of tuition fees.

Pupils from City and Islington College, London Metropolitan University and City University - all of which have campuses in the borough - walked with banners held aloft in a bid to get Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs to change their minds.

There were cries of “David Thatcher, education snatcher” and “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” as they marched from Malet Street, Bloomsbury, to Parliament Square together with thousands of students from around the country.

The students were devastated when the coalition Government won today’s vote on increasing university tuition fees with a narrow majority of 21.

Under the plans, universities will be allowed to charge students up to �9,000 a year to make up for the fact that the Government is slashing university funding. Fees are currently capped at �3,290 a year.

City and Islington College sixth-former Arzu Bay-Altun, 17, of Essex Road, Islington, was among the campaigners – but left as the protest descended into violence and police started kettling students.

She said: “It was really peaceful at first but then it got really violent. Students started to break the barriers and the police went all over us. I left because it was getting out of hand – I didn’t want to get kettled.

Most Read

“I feel really disappointed by the vote. I just feel helpless now. I am going to uni next year – I am hoping to study law. The fees do put me off but I still want to study so I will have to get into a lot of debt.”

City and Islington students also planned an overnight sleep-in at a college building in Goswell Road, Finsbury – although it was stopped at the last minute by college management, London Met pupils occupied a university building in Holloway Road, Holloway, while students from City University mounted a 30-hour vigil.

The City University Student Union also dumped 8,300 carrots on the doorstep of the main entrance in Northampton Square, Finsbury. The carrots – chosen because the vegetable is the university’s mascot – were to represent the �8,300 a year that the university is planning to charge home and EU students.

Student Union president Amish Patel said: “It was a non-aggressive and informative approach. We wanted to ensure we could get the attention of everyone who walked past.” The carrots will now be donated to food supply charity FareShare.

Ken Muller, assistant secretary of Islington NUT (National Union of Teachers), spoke out in support of the students.

He said: “There is plenty of money to fund free education for all, decent public services and generous welfare benefits by taxing the rich (beginning with the �120billion in taxes that are evaded, avoided and unpaid each year), scrapping Trident and withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The students have shown us that we can fight back.”

Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, also added her voice to the campaign, telling Parliament: “The Conservatives say that there is no choice: they have to raise fees to make up the funding shortfall. There is a choice, however. They could choose not to cut the funding budget by 80 per cent and they could choose not to privatise university teaching.

“Perhaps this proposal is what one might expect from the Conservatives, but students and their parents trusted the Liberal Democrats when they voted for them, and they did not expect this.”