Thousands of students and university staff are taking to the streets to protest against plans to increase tuition fees and cut university funding.
Under the Government’s proposals the fee cap will be raised to £6,000, with universities able to charge up to £9,000 in “exceptional circumstances”. To put that into context tuition fees currently stand at £3,290 a year.
But unions have warned the controversial move will mean the end of affordable university education.
Today’s national demonstration, organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) will see protesters march through central London, before holding a rally in Westminster.
NUS president Aaron Porter said: “We are taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers to tell politicians that enough is enough. We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up the bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them.
“This Government is abdicating its responsibility to fund the education and skills provision we desperately need just as every other country is investing in its future. We cannot and will not accept that miserable vision for our future.
“We will fight back against attempts to dismantle the funded education system we desperately need for economic recovery, social mobility and cultural enrichment.
“The Government’s short-sighted and self-defeating cuts to colleges and universities must be resisted and that resistance begins now.
Cardiff University students’ president Olly Birrell said: “The aim is just to raise awareness in public and to send a message to the government as well that these cuts in higher education are just too deep, too vast, too quick – and that students won’t take it,” he said.
The proposed changes to university funding are politically explosive as many Liberal Democrat MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, publicly pledged during the General Election campaign not to allow fees to go up.
The plans, announced by universities minister David Willetts, immediately led to fresh concerns about the introduction of a two-tier system, with poorer students being priced out of elite institutions.
Money gained through the proposals will go towards plugging the gap left by swingeing cuts to the higher education teaching budget, announced in last month’s spending review.