Thousands of students and staff took to the streets of London to protest at the state of the higher education. In the biggest education demonstration since 2010.
Up to 15,000 people marched to the chants of “students and workers unite and fight” during the “United for Education” demo. The demonstration was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU), a union comprised of lectures and staff.
The protest was organised around the governments controversial Education Bill that looks to introduce reforms such as the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The President of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, called the changes to higher education a “deeply risky ideologically led market experiment in further and higher education.”
One student, who gave her name as Liz, said they were protesting because, ‘It’s terrible that fees are going up because of things like TEF. This shouldn’t be used as a way to increase fees using student’s opinion. We have to fight the government on student fees, education should be free for everyone”.
Students from around the country made it to the demonstration. With one group coming as far as Orkney in Scotland, travelling down to London to show solidarity with their English peers. Scottish and EU students studying in Scotland are currently able to do so fee free.
Around 70-80 students from Sussex made the protest. However, the Student Union was expecting more to attend. Officials had booked three buses, but only managed to fill two, sending the third away in the morning.
The provisions in the Higher Education Bill aim to introduce further layers of marketisation to higher education. The TEF will allow universities to charge higher fees depending on the ranking they achieve. One of the metrics to determine this is the National Student Survey – which has led the NUS to call for students to boycott it. Sussex Student Union is running a ‘tef-off’ campaign to raise awareness of its implications among the student body.
The protesters were backed by an array of people on the left, with the journalist Owen Jones and Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack taking to the stage to voice their support. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave a pre-recorded statement to the crowd.
The government says it is introducing the TEF to “recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching.”
Unlike previous student demonstrations, there was no violence and the protest ended peacefully.