PROTEST: NUS members and supporters at the protest
THOUSANDS OF students gathered earlier today (Nov 21) at London Embankment to protest their anger at the financial burden created by the increase in university tuition fees.
The rally, which was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and supported by other unions and groups, is the first since the government’s plans to increase tuition fees from £3,290 to £9,000.
The law was passed in 2010 by the cost cutting coalition Government, after universities said they needed more funds. It is far more than the £1,000 per year that students paid in 1998.
Carrying placards with slogans such as Educate, Employ, Empower , they called for the government to invest in supporting education and creating opportunities.
Earlier this year, Kanja Sesay, the former NUS Black Student's Officer told The Voice that plans by universities to raise tuition fees to £9,000 per year could cripple the life chances of many black students.
Sesay who was at today’s march said then that “students would be saddled with mounting debt that could take them longer to pay off – and hence lead to them paying back more on their loans – than white students”.
The protest comes just two days after the NUS published research showing that overall students were struggling as they face a funding shortfall of more than £8000.
The group, which released the data on Nov 19, said the gap between the gap between potential government support students can receive and the actual cost of being a university student has grown to £8,566 per year for those studying outside London. For students in London, the gap is £8,112, the NUS said.
MESSAGE: Demonstrators carry slogans in London calling for change. Pic: PA
The union said it arrived at the figures after analyzing available statistics for the cost of living for students for an academic year of 39 weeks. It also compared it to typical payments for government maintenance loans and grants for the same period.
"A student aged 18 to 20 earning a minimum wage of £4.98 per hour would have to work 34 hours a week 52 weeks a year in order to earn the £8,875 before tax necessary to cover this gap," the NUS claimed.
Pete Mercer, NUS Vice-President Welfare, said on Monday: “Student financial support is a mess and it is not reaching the right people when they need it. Fee waivers are a joke to anyone who has a pile of bills to pay and months until their next loan payment - what they need is cash bursaries that help them meet the costs of studying.
“If you had a minimum wage job and received no further support from your university or family you’d have to work full time every week of the year to come close to bridging this gap.
“Anyone who claims that university is affordable because you can get a loan for your tuition fees is woefully out of touch with the needs of students. It is not just students but parents with children of all ages who are concerned that opportunity is being taken away from them.”