Students to protest over funding cuts and employment prospects
Mass student protest is returning to London this week for the first time since a succession of occasionally chaotic marches two years ago, with organisers saying they hope to send MPs of all parties a message about the need to act – not just on education funding, but on rampant unemployment among the young.
Organisers expect at least 10,000 demonstrators to mass near the Embankment, on the north side of the Thames on Wednesday morning, before a march past Parliament Square towards Kennington Park, just south of the river, for a rally.
The four successive marches during November and December 2010, which saw sporadic disorder met by vigorous police tactics including the "kettling" of crowds for hours in freezing conditions, were geared heavily around the enactment of the law greatly increasing tuition fees. This week's event has a broader focus.
Titled Demo 2012 – also the designated Twitter hashtag – the march, organised by the National Union of Students, has the official slogan Educate, Employ, Empower. It is intended to highlight not just tuition fees and the loss of the educational maintenance allowance (EMA), but the dire employment prospects faced by many young people once they leave education, said Liam Burns, the NUS president.
"We usually have protests that are about stopping a particular act of parliament," he said. "This is about setting the agenda for politicians. I don't think anyone would disagree that we're bearing the brunt of all sorts of attacks that we certainly didn't create. This is a different type of protest. It's about sending a clear message to politicians that it simply isn't good enough. The demonstration is like a starter gun to the general election, so parliament knows it has to do something to make things different for our generation. But it's also to say that we've not forgotten how they betrayed us in the last general election."
MPs should note that many of those marching past the Commons were from "a generation who have had so many opportunities taken away from them" and would vote for the first time in the next election, Burns said. "It's so frustrating when we see so many other countries investing in education, yet ours insists on this narrative that we must just cut further and further. This protest is a place marker: this has to stop and we need a fundamentally different direction for the next general election."