Vice-Chancellor of the University Don Nutbeam commented earlier this month that students ‘have a rare window of time to make [their]voices heard’ on the government’s new proposals for higher education funding. That window closes this Thursday when MPs will vote in parliament on plans to raise the cap on tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 – and SUSU plans to be in Westminster to make Southampton Students’ voices are heard.
SUSU will be taking one coach of Southampton students to London on the day of the vote, to lobby MPs outside of Parliament. Students will arrive in London at midday this Thursday and will spend the day outside parliament until approximately 6pm.
The march will coincide with a demonstration jointly organised with Southampton Solent University in Southampton city centre on the eve of the vote this Wednesday.
Southampton students will be meeting outside the Guildhall at 1pm on Wednesday to march to Bargate and back. Students will also be meeting at the University interchange at midday, to catch a bus into town where they will be meeting Solent students and students from local colleges. (Details can be found on the Facebook event online here: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=17062563296954)
President of SUSU Billy Fitzjohn said: ‘Many of you will be aware that this Thursday, 9th December, the Government will be voting in Parliament on the issue of tuition fees. The Government is proposing the complete withdrawal of public funding from Universities and we could see fees rise to as high as 9k per year.
‘SUSU is currently mandated to oppose any rise in tuition fees, and it is important that we act now to do everything we can to lobby our local MPs and the Government against such proposals.
‘We can win this Thursday, and students from all over the country will be coming together this week to voice their opinion on the issue. It is crucial that Southampton students come together and join these students, and you can make sure that your voice is heard.’
The Union President and Vice President (Academic Affairs) Rob Stanning have also encouraged student to continue writing to their local MPs in a final attempt to lobby them against voting in favour of the new proposals on Thursday. (Find out more online here: blogs.susu.org/sabbs/2010/11/15/write-to-your-mp-to-oppose-fee-increases)
Under the proposals to be voted on Thursday in parliament, Universities could charge up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees, with Universities charging more than £6,000 paying a levy toward the government.
Students will not have to pay back money borrowed from the government until they are earning more than £21,000. This is £6,000 more than the current threshold that students have to start re-paying their loans.
Across the country students have occupied university buildings and campaigned outside MPs’ offices to express their anger at the government’s plans to cut all funding for University courses except Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine.
Particular anger has been directed at Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg who publicly declared that his party would oppose any rise in tuition fees before the general election earlier this year. He now intends to vote in favour of the new proposals and is encouraging his party members to do the same.
Previous protests organised by students have been criticised for small amounts of violence. 54 protesters were arrested at the Millbank Conservative headquarters last month, and last fortnight over 3,000 students were detained for 6 hours in a police ‘kettle’, in attempts to prevent protesters reaching Parliament Square.
Fitzjohn, however, has made it clear that SUSU does not intend to be involved in anything other than peaceful protests this week, adding, ‘it is important that we lead by example at these events and that we demonstrate in a peaceful manner. Don’t forget to bring your placards.
‘I hope to see as many of you joining the movement in what will be an extremely defining week for the future of Higher Education.’
To book a place on the coach on Thursday visit the box-office online at www.susu.org/boxoffice.
The Wessex Scene will be running a live blog throughout the day commenting on events inside Parliament, reporting live from outside, and tweeting using the #susumarch hashtag.