Thousands of UK Students to March on Parliament for Free Education

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After holding rallies on campuses, United Kingdom students are set to march on Parliament in coming weeks in a push for free education.

The week-long protests, under the name “week of action,” will continue all week on university campuses across the country, coming to an end with a national demonstration.

The week was organized by the Student Assembly Against Austerity and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.  Students from Durham University, Goldsmiths University and London Metropolis University will be taking part.

A public rally will also be held at the University of East Anglia, featuring public speakers from the National Union of Students.  Banner demonstrations are also being organized at Falmouth University.

Fiona Edwards, one of the organisers of the Student Assembly Against Austerity, and of the week of action, says: “We’re asking for a free education and are getting the word out. We’re having lots of stalls, banner drops and public meetings.

“This is the beginning of a whole series of action between now and the general election to raise the demands of the student movement and put politicians under pressure to support us.”

The national demonstration is planned for November 19, when around 10,000 students are expected to march through central London in an effort to put pressure on politicians.  If as many students attend as are expected to, the march would be the largest student demonstration in 4 years.  The march will begin at Malet Street and continue to Parliament through the Strand, Whitehall, and Trafalgar Square.

Aaron Kiely, one of the organisers of the Student Assembly Against Austerity said:

“This Tory-led government has failed students. We are facing soaring student debt, rising rents and savage cuts to education and all the public services students rely upon.

“We are going to be active both on our campuses and outside MPs’ offices in order to build a movement that cannot be ignored again. Our message to all politicians and political parties is clear: we want an end to austerity, student debt and tuition fees.”

The National Union of Students is asking politicians to end tuition fees.  In its recently released its manifesto, referred to as “the new deal for the next generation,” the group discusses 30 demands in education, work and community, from politicians for 2015.  These demands include the creation of an apprentice minimum wage and lowering the voting age to 16.

Toni Pearce, president of the NUS, recently said that students are “more engaged than ever before” and that “this is the year when they’re going to make a difference”. She warned that “politicians would be stupid to ignore them”.

Despite this, Pearce recently announced the NUS, “with huge reluctance and regret,” is no longer in support of the student demonstration.  A vote last year found the union in support of free education, yet many within the group still stand in support of a graduate tax.

“NUS has a policy to support free education, and we will continue to lobby and campaign for this, but no action that we take should be put above the ability for all our members to be safe. We have gone to considerable lengths to help change that position, by working with the organisers, but that time has now run out.”