Tuesday Update | As noted below, the current assault on British higher education is being led by a coalition government of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Party’s national headquarters were stormed and trashed in a huge student march two weeks ago, but according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper it’s the Lib Dems who are worried this time around.
The last march was a London-only event, but tomorrow’s protests are taking place in cities and towns around Britain, and demonstrators are expected to target the district offices of Liberal Democratic members of parliament. As (again) noted below, the Lib Dems promised during the campaign to roll back tuition fees, only to reverse course when they gained power.
For a thorough but utterly readable introduction to the current crisis in British higher education, by the way, you could do a lot worse than reading this.
Original Post | More than fifty thousand students marched in London two weeks ago in protest against the British government’s unprecedented plans for massive higher aid cuts and a possible tripling of tuition fees. These protests, which saw thousands storm the national headquarters of the country’s governing Conservative Party, marked the first major public demonstration in opposition to cutbacks which are likely to touch every corner of British life.
Britain’s higher education system, home of some of the world’s most prestigious universities, was entirely tuition-free until the late 1990s, but government support has been falling, and tuition rising, since. Under the government’s new plan, annual tuition could rise as high as $15,000 a year.
Adding insult to injury, the new government’s junior partner is the Liberal Democrats, whose leader, Nick Clegg — Britain’s new deputy Prime Minister — campaigned on a platform of eliminating tuition fees entirely. The Lib Dems took 23% of the vote in this year’s parliamentary elections, and they are a crucial component of the governing coalition.
Coordinated protests are planned at more than twenty cities across the UK on Wednesday — you can find details, and links to protest organizers’ websites, here.
Not every campus is waiting for Wednesday, however — students have already staged occupations at two universities. The Brunei Gallery at the School of African and Oriental Studies at the University of London has been under occupation since this morning, with a website/blog here. Some sixty students are also occupying a lecture hall at Manchester Metropolitan University.