Live: Student Tuition Fees

Thousands of students are held back by police on Whitehall
Thousands of students are held back by police on Whitehall

I’ll be live blogging the events over the next day or two, leading up to the vote and protests against a rise in student tuition fees. This page will update automatically, no need to refresh.

I’m heading out now to cover the protests in London, you can follow my updates on Twitter @Jono_Warren which will also appear in the widget above. It looks like the main hashtags to follow will be #demo2010 and #DayX3.

Newsnight’s political Editor Michael Crick has blogged about some very anxious Tory whips, despite it looking like the Government will have a comfortable majority on tomorrow’s vote.

I went to see David Willetts about one or two minor reservations I have, and the whips were all round me like flies. I couldn’t believe it, and I support the policy.

Following on from William Cullerne Bown’s earlier rebuttal of the Facts On Fees microsite journalism instructor at UWE Andy Channelle has made a spoof version that gives some slightly different answers to the ten myths.

Channel 4 News’ FactCheck blog has been checking out Ed Miliband’s claim at Prime Minister’s Questions that the proposed limit of £9,000 a year tuition fees would make them the highest fees of publicly funded universities in the world.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Euston teach in. Nice one. on Twitpic Pic from student teach out at Euston on TwitpicUCL students have joined the SOAS teach out at Euston station

Downing Street have released the text of David Cameron’s speech to the CentreForum thinktank earlier today on the future of education:

Today I want to talk about the future of universities in this country. We’ve seen the protests. We’ve seen the marches. We’ve seen how passionate many of our students are about this issue. Well let me tell you this. I am just as passionate.

Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives Andrew George has announced he will be voting against the rise in tuition fees. Cathy Newman over at Channel 4 News has managed to canvas 49 of 57 Lib Dem MPs and at the moment it doesn’t look like there’s a substancial enough rebellion to stop the rise going through.

The occupation at the University of East London has stepped up it’s action with students now also occupying the Vice-chancellor’s hallway.

There’s also a group of 40 protesters occupying a branch of HSBC on Tottenham Court Road, apparently holding a lecture.

I’ve added the 40th occupation on Twitter @glasgowoccupied to my list of all the occupations, which will also automatically update in the widget above.

Acland Burghley has become the second school to go into occupation today. In a statement on the school’s website, headmaster Jo Armitage said:

An occupation of the school is planned in protest against university tuition fees. As this has been widely publicised it is likely to attract large numbers of students and the general public and I cannot ensure students’ safety in school.

Adding that year 10, 11 and sixth form students would be allowed to leave at lunchtime, whilst years 7, 8 and 9 would only be allowed to leave early with their parents permission.

Sky News is reporting that all Government ministers currently abroad are returning to the UK for tomorrow’s tuition fee vote.

A brief lunchtime summary of events so far today:

Founder of Research Fortnight William Cullerne Bown has very quickly gone through the Conservative party’s just launched Facts on Fees website and rebutted some of the facts.

English PhD student Matt Hayler says on Twitter that Exeter students have occupied a lecture theatre.

Exeter has occupied the peter chalk centre, newman A lecture theatre. Come join us! #solidarity #UKUncutless than a minute ago via txt

The Conservatives have just launched a microsite inviting people to “Ignore the myths. Find out the real truth about tuition fees” – FactsOnFees.com

After that very hostile interview on 5 Live, Lib Dem Education minister Sarah Tether isn’t getting it any easier. Sky News doorstepped her this morning to ask why she would be voting for the fees increase, despite calling it an issue ‘dear to her heart’ in her maiden speech to the commons in 2003.


Tuition Fees: Lib Dem Refuses To Speak – Sky News

Victoria Derbyshire reading out some emails and tweets from listeners to Nick now:

“I will never vote for any Liberal Democrat ever again. How do you know if a Lib Dem is lying? When his lips move.”

“How can we trust Nick Clegg ever again?”

“When was the point you became a Tory?”

A very cutting question from a listener “How can I trust any future pledge the Lib Dems make?” Clegg responding with his ‘We didn’t win the election out right, to govern is to choose’ line.

Responding to a 17 year old student who says she’s thinking about going to university to study languages and possibly go on to teach Nick Clegg says that they estimate 60% of graduates will never pay back the full cost of their degree.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is on Radio 5 Live at the moment defending the rise to tuition fees. If you live in the UK you can listen to it live online.

18 university vice-chancellors have written a letter in today’s Telegraph urging MPs to vote in favor of the rise in tuition fees, they warn that otherwise there will be a reduction in student numbers “that would be enormously damaging to social mobility”

SIR – On Thursday, Parliament will vote on the future of higher education funding in England. We, as board members of Universities UK, have consistently opposed the disproportionate cuts to higher education funding in the spending review. However, given those cuts, we believe that the Government’s proposals for university funding are reasonable and retain fundamentally important progressive elements.

In particular, no student will have to pay any tuition fees while still a student; it will be graduates who repay and only when they earn over £21,000. There will be significantly improved financial support for part-time students, funding will follow the student – enhancing student choice – and there will be improved support for poorer students.

If the vote on Thursday fails, the alternative is likely to be a reduction in student numbers that would be enormously damaging to social mobility and would seriously hamper Britain’s ability to adapt to the economic needs of the future. We urge MPs and peers to support the Government’s proposals.

The NUS website has a long list of all the actions they’re planning nationwide over the next two days in the run up to the commons vote:

The vote rests on a knife-edge and in the next few days students will be taking part in a variety of peaceful protests and demonstrations to demonstrate to their MPs the levels of opposition to the plans.

The current planned actions include:

Wednesday 8 December 2010

NUS has called a national day of action around the country helping students’ unions to organise peaceful actions in towns and cities nationwide.

Birmingham

City centre protest

Bournemouth

Mass Christmas card and letter writing session. Students will march to the sorting office from 12pm – 2.30pm to deliver their letters

Bristol

Candlelit procession through the city centre, Bristol University SU, Queens Road to College Green – 3pm to 5pm

Coventry

Walk out at 11am, congregating at University Square, followed by a demonstration in city centre

Exeter

March from Peter Chalk Centre to a rally in Bedford Square – 11am to 2pm

Gloucestershire

March from Albert Road, Pittville Campus to Montpelier Gardens 11.30am – 12.30pm

London

Kings College London SU – Animal fancy dress tube petition gathering – 9.30am – 8.30pm

NUS Women’s Campaign suffragette and suffragist protest outside Lynne Featherstone Equalities Minister’s Office – 11am – 1pm

Royal College of the Arts march from RCA to Downing Street with letter to Nick Clegg – 1.30pm

Plymouth

Candlelit vigil Jigsaw Garden – 12.30pm

Sheffield

‘Unfair Fun Fair’ at Western Bank followed by march to Sheffield Town Hall – 12pm – 1pm

Staffordshire

Demonstration on Stafford campus Ember Lounge – 1pm

Wolverhampton

Sit up- all night political debates and discussion – 7pm to 7am

Worcester

Mass demonstration outside City Hall – 12pm

Warwick

Protest meeting outside SU marching to University House – 12pm

More actions will be added to this list as details become available. .

Thursday 9 December 2010

Lobby of Parliament – 1pm-3pm

Students from around the country are arranging to meet their MPs at Parliament to voice their opposition to the government’s plans. For details of MPs who have agreed to meetings and to arrange interview with lobbyists contact NUS press office.

NUS/UCU Rally on Victoria Embankment – 1pm-3pm

An estimated 10,000 protesters will be gathering on Victoria Embankment to hear speeches from student representatives and representatives of all major trade unions. The rally will include a ‘candlelit’ vigil around the time of the parliamentary vote.

The rally is due to be joined by a protest march that will have gone through central London.

The Guardian is reporting that Vince Cable has just added some sweeteners to the proposed rise in tuition fees. Firstly the amount that graduates have to earn before they start paying back will rise every year in line with inflation, instead of every five years as was originally proposed. Secondly part-time students will be able to get a loan if they are studying for 25% of the time that a full-time course would take, this is reduced from 33% that was proposed previously.

Whilst Camden School for girls is having a teach-in, SOAS are having holding a teach-out sessions around London.

9-11am: St.Pancras International Station, in front of Pain Quotidien – Trevor Marchant is holding his lecture on The importance of Vocational Education and Craft Training in Africa and the Middle East.

10-11am: Meet on SOAS steps for a lecture by Laleh Khalili in the British Museum.Followed at 11am by a lecture by Whitney Cox about “Why should anyone study Sanskrit?” highlighting the importance of one of our courses that might be cut next year… again, in the British Museum!

11-12pm: Meet at SOAS steps for a lecture by Stephen Chan in the Brunswick Centre

12.30pm: Meet outside Birkbeck for mass school-sweep around Bloomsbury area. Organised by UCL & UCU. Come and make some noise!

1.30-2.30pm: Meet on SOAS steps for a lecture by Phil Clark “African Transitions: Why Democracy Means More than Internationally Sanctioned Elections” in Russel Square Tube Station.

2.30pm: meet on SOAS steps for a lecture by Polly Pallister-Wilkins and Giovanni Cozzi in a bank branch near Russel Square (tba)!

3pm: Meet on SOAS steps to take over tube carriages for mini-lectures and shout-outs about the state of Higher Education!

4.30pm: Meet on SOAS steps to go to Euston Station for the MASSIVE SYMBOLIC LECTURE by all and for all, for free and universal education. We will be joined by UCL, LSE, and Kings Students for this one.

5pm: Massive Symbolic Lecture At Euston Station!

We’ve had plenty of universities occupied, but the first school has just gone into occupation. Camden School for Girls are having a 24hr teach-in, you can follow updates from them on Twitter or my list of all the occupations on Twitter.

The Royal College of Art has just gone into occupation, as part of their ‘long night’ of debates, talks, and screenings. You can find more information on their blog, or follow them on Twitter. I’ve also added them to my Twitter list of all the University occupations.

It’s interesting how far the Lib Dems have come in 6 months, from their manifesto pledge to “scrap unfair university tuition fees” during the election to today with leader Nick Clegg saying he and 23 others will vote for an increase in fees.

To start things off, a brief roundup of what’s already happened so far today.

  • The Liberal Democrats have announced that all 20 of their ministers will vote for the fees increase on Thursday.
  • Aaron Porter, President of the NUS, has said that all Labour, SNP, Plaid, DUP, SDLP and Green MPs will vote against the increase.
  • David Davies has said he will vote against the proposed rise, along with two other Conservative MPs Lee Scott and Andrew Percy.

That means that to defeat the proposal, 34 of the remaining 37 Lib Dem MPs would all have to vote against, not just abstain, which looks unlikely at the moment.