The Students are Revolting

Students jump and shout as they march down Millbank in London on a national demonstation called jointly by the NUS and UCU against a rise in tuition fees and cuts to higher education. Image © Jonathan Warren 2010.
Students jump and shout as they march down Millbank in London on a national demonstation called jointly by the NUS and UCU against a rise in tuition fees and cuts to higher education. Image © Jonathan Warren 2010.

It’s a month today since the first students from Goldsmiths occupied Deptford Town Hall to protest against the coalition governments proposed cuts to higher education. Whilst they only managed to occupy the building for 24 hours it has led to a wave of other occupations across the country.

A week later, a day after the massive protest in London organised by the NUS and UCU, students at Manchester University occupied the administrative block on the campus.

Aaron Porter, President of the NUS, was quick to condemn the vandalism of the Conservative Party HQ at Millbank Tower on the 10th of November. But others seized the moment, perhaps realising the depth and intensity of students anger that the Lib Dems were going to renege on their pre-election pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees.

There have been large protests the past two weeks in cities across the country, with thousands of school and college students walking out of lessons to join the protests as the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) scheme is under threat as well.

The movement is showing no signs of slowing and on the 24th of November, the first day of action called after the Millbank protests, 15 separate Universities went into occupation, 6 of which are still going.

There are currently 16 Universities across the country occupied by students and at 9 o’clock last night London Metropolitan University became the 31st occupation since Goldsmiths started. That means students have been occupying their universities at a rate of one every day.

Next week will potentially see the biggest protests yet as MPs are set to vote on the rise in tuition fees in Parliament. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable, who has tabled the legislation, has said he may even abstain on the vote. Liberal Democrats were going to hold a conference this weekend in Haverstock School to decide how they are going to vote, but it has been cancelled after protests were called outside the school.

Although this student uprising lacks a single core political ideology, students have been quick to identify with other struggles on the left. Occupations in London sent delegations to the RMT and TSSA picket lines during their strike earlier this week and other trade unionists have visited the occupations to give their support.

One of the most interesting characteristics of the movement is it’s clear anti-government agenda. Protesters aren’t simply opposed to a rise in tuition fees and cuts to EMA, but to the government’s entire proposed austerity agenda and the rhetoric protesters are using on the street is to bring down the government.


I’ve tried to get the most accurate information on the time and number of occupations in the chart. There were a few that I could only find a single, unreliable source for so are marked unconfirmed. Please let me me know in the comments or via email if I’ve missed any or got something wrong.