New protests planned over fees hike
The Government will face a series of protests this week in the run-up to a crucial vote on controversial plans for a huge hike in university tuition fees.
Students and lecturers pledged to keep up pressure on MPs to vote against the plans following a wave of demonstrations and occupations in recent weeks, some of which have flared into violence.
The Metropolitan Police will be monitoring social network sites in the coming days to gauge the level of support for the protests and are expected to have a large number of officers on duty on Thursday, the day of the Commons vote on whether to raise fees to £9,000 a year.
Some trade unions are urging their members to join the protests, maintaining that students are in the front line of opposition to the Government's massive cuts in public spending.
The University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) on Monday announced their plans for the week's protests in their joint campaign against education funding cuts and plans to raise university fees, revealing there will be demonstrations at universities across the country on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's event. On the day of the vote there will be a mass lobby of MPs, a rally in Westminster and a candlelit vigil.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "These proposals, if they go through, will change the entire landscape of education in this country and we must continue to oppose them. We need to expose the damage they will do to our universities, colleges and communities. MPs must be left in no doubt of the strength of opposition to these plans and the consequences of voting for them. We have been overwhelmed by support from people across the country against these plans and we hope they will all join us in making their voice heard this week."
NUS President Aaron Porter said: "The joint NUS and UCU march that brought together 50,0000 people on 10 November has provided the spur to a new wave of activism and lobbying, placing the Government's policy on fees and student support policy under huge pressure. This week we must keep that pressure up as the vote approaches. MPs can be left in no doubt as to the widespread public opposition to these plans or of the consequences of steamrollering them through Parliament."
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, has written to branches calling for "full support" for the protests. "This campaign is very much in the front line of the fight back against the ConDem cuts and has united pensioners, students and trade unionists in an imaginative and co-ordinated coalition of resistance. It has exposed the lies and hypocrisy of the LibDems and has opened up serious cracks in the coalition that we can all drive a wedge into.
"RMT was delighted to have students supporting our picket lines during the last Tube strike and we will make sure that there is a high-profile presence from RMT supporting the students in their action this week."
Meanwhile colleges and sixth-forms around the country will be holding lunchtime protests a week on Monday against Government plans to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance.