Tuition fees spark flashmob frenzy

Phil Brook – News Reporter 29 October 2009

Cambridge students are readying themselves for major demonstrations next month following marches in Liverpool and Bristol against increased tuition fees.

Tuesday saw the launch of the NUS Town Takeover campaign, opening two months of protests against proposed increases in tuition fees. Both cities saw hundreds of students take to the streets in the biggest concerted campaign so far against the proposed tuition fee rises.

Around three hundred braved the rain in Liverpool to march on the town hall. The students, from five nearby universities, turned up bearing placards and wearing green to
signify the colour of money. Students spoke to the public and leafleted commuters before attending a large public debate over the future of tuition fees.

Members of all the main parties were represented, although Andy Watson of Liverpool University told The Cambridge Student (TCS), “Nothing got answered.” Nathan Selby, of John Moores University, added that the debate was characterised by “boos and gritted teeth”

This looks set to continue when the town takeover reaches Cambridge in November. The event will consist of a march followed by a debate featuring speakers from the major parties alongside an as-yet unannounced “special guest”. The NUS promise a chance to “grill candidates from every political party to get the best deal for students.”

A ‘flashmob’ protest is also being planned to coincide with Halloween. CUSU access officer Joe Farish described it as a “teaser event” with students of Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin gathering to raise the profile of the main event in November.

Students from both universities will congregate in zombie outfits on Parker’s Piece and outside Trinity College before marching through the centre of Cambridge. The groups plan to talk to the public and hand out flyers, before possibly giving a brief performance of Thriller.

University authorities have yet to plan their response to the Cambridge takeover, whilst the smaller scale of the Halloween flash mobs has reassured local police who do not intend to take any action. Police today confirmed that the events in Bristol and Liverpool passed off without trouble, although there was a police presence at both.

The Union started the campaign following a government report proposing to more than double the limit on fees to seven thousand pounds per annum. Jean McLean, the NUS’ campaign organiser said: “at all costs the fee level should not be allowed to rise.”

The report suggested that the tuition fee cap should be increased to possibly £7000 in order to create “market conditions” and to encourage competition amongst universities.

However, the NUS condemn this plan for the likely impact on poorer students, undermining the progress to provide better bursaries of recent years. CUSU have denounced this move: “Financial incentives should not determine a student’s educational choices”

The NUS hopes that the ‘Funding Our Future’ campaign will highlight the levels of debt now associated with university in the lead up to the impending general election.

Phil Brook – News Reporter