Thousands of students from all over Britain demonstrated in London on Wednesday 19 November against the fees charged for university courses, assembling around University College London and marching to Westminster. Placards called for the return of free university education, with many suggesting that getting bankers to actually pay taxes would be one way of financing higher education.
The demonstration had originally been supported by the National Union of Students, but the NUS pulled its backing two weeks before the event. In a bizarre series of reasons for its decision not to take part, it claimed that the march would not be accessible to disabled students, that its risk assessment concluded the march was too risky, and that there was no public liability insurance. But the march was largely peaceful.
Fees for undergraduate courses in Britain are a mess for which this government and its predecessor are wholly responsible. In England and Wales fees are up to £9,000 a year – and the maximum is the norm. Scottish students do not pay tuition fees, but English students studying in Scotland do. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly subsidises the fees of Welsh students. Students can expect to leave university with debts of around £43,500.