Over 100 students from Royal Holloway’s Students’ Union made their way into Central London on November 9th to attend the national demonstration organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC). Backed by the NUS, the demonstration intended to give a voice to the thousands of students who turned up to protest against the rise in tuition fees, privatisation of the Higher Education systemand the cuts suggested by the coalition government.
Calls for the march were sparked by David Willetts’ highly controversial White Paper, entitled “Students At The Heart Of The System.” The NUS, who organised last year’s November 10th march decided against organising this year’s march after calls for a demo were voted against at the last NUS Conference, held in April. However, the NCAFC took matters into their own hands, calling for Students’ Unions across the country to attend their demonstration from the 25th July. After increasing pressure, the NUS decided to support the demo in mid- September. Royal Holloway’s Students’ Union (SURHUL) declared their intention to support the action at the first General Meeting of the term.
The number of protestors who were present at the start of the march at ULU headquarters on Malet Street is still contested, with police placing the number at around 2,500 – a claim disputed by the NCAFC, who have stated that the number was closer to 10,000.
The march, which lasted over four hours, was supposed to set off from ULU at 12pm before embarking on a route that would take protestors down Fleet Street, the Strand and through Trafalgar Square before ending in Moorgate, however, it was delayed for over 45 minutes for reasons which still remain unclear.
SURHUL, who organised coaches both into London and back to the College, took more than 100 protestors to the demonstration, providing all students with a map of the route, a T-shirt and, in the wake of the unrest that marred the 2010 protests, a fact sheet on what to do if arrested. Photographs of Royal Holloway students went across the world as coverage from the Guardian, The Mirror and BBC News featured the SURHUL delegation.
November 9th saw only 24 arrests as the demonstration progressed peacefully through the City, prompting wide-spread criticism of the Metropolitan Police, whose strategy of “total policing” saw 4,000 police officers dispatched to police the route. Authorisation for the police to use plastic bullets at the march was roundly condemned by Students’ Unions across the country and the presence of hundreds of police officers and police dogs at the end of the march was derided as “over policing” by NUS Vice President Ed Marsh.
The Students’ Union, who launched their education campaign at the beginning of this year, has already announced their intention to support further actions.