Over 500 Glasgow University students turned out to join a protest against cuts to the higher education budget and increased tuition fees in England and Wales, which took place on Wednesday November 25.
The Glasgow University branch of the protest was join organised by the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) and the Students’ Representative Council (SRC).
Members of staff also turned out to show solidarity with students, several citing the shared impact form higher education cuts.
Students walked out of lectures at 11:45am, before marching down Sauchiehall Street to meet up with students from the Glasgow School of Art, who had staged an occupation in one of their buildings.
Glasgow University Principal, Anton Muscatelli, accepted a petition from students but refused to meet them in person.
In a follow-up email circulated to students, he said: “In reiterating my belief that higher education is a public as well as a private good, I pledge to students that I will continue to argue vigorously, in both public and private, for a fair deal for Universities and students. I welcome your commitment, as evidenced by your demonstration and the petition, and I hope you will work with me, and my colleagues on senior management group, to ensure a bright future for this University.”
The protest also received the backing of Rector Charles Kennedy, who emailed all students at the university to show his support.
He said: “I was one of a lucky generation who benefitted from a full maintenance grant, with little need to worry about either massive debts or employment opportunities after graduation. Today, as a society, we seem to be going backwards.
This argument has got to be won and my voice will continue to be raised in your support. Enjoy a successful and significant Day of Protest – and rest assured you’re not without friends!”
The protest then continued down Renfrew Street and onto Buchanan Street in a high visibility move, aiming to stop traffic and raise awareness of the demonstrations. The march stopped outside the Royal College Building of Strathclyde University, which was under occupation by Strathclyde students, who chanted “We are all Bryan Simpson,” in reference to the student who faced disciplinary action over his participation in the London riot at Milbank, where he stole a policeman’s hat.
Architect student Liam Casey, from the Glasgow School of Art, explained that by protesting, students were united with other vulnerable groups affected by the budget cuts,
He said: “I think it’s important that we are all out here protesting today to show solidarity with the other students across the UK who are out protesting against the cuts to education and the privatisation and marketisation of education as well. I think we need to show solidarity with the workers, unemployed people too are facing these savage ideological cuts and we need to build alternatives.”
The peaceful protest was marred by a high police presence, with dozens of police and several riot vans as well as police helicopters in attendance, which lead attempts at kettling in some areas.
Commenting on the police presence at the protest, President of the SRC, Tommy Gore, said he could understand the reasoning behind the large numbers of police present.
He said: “I think the large police presence was understandable given recent events in London; but Glasgow students showed that the police presence was only required to ensure the safety of students on the road. It also shows how it is the minority who resort to violence, and how Glasgow students are better than that.”
The protest was also joined by pupils from Hyndland Secondary School, Whitehill Secondary school and Lenzie Academy all participated, to show the impact they felt the cuts may have on future generations.
Third year Glasgow University student Jo Shaw commented on why it was important for current students to protect education for upcoming students.
She explained: “I don’t want to see a lost generation of children who haven’t had the EMA [education maintenance allowance], who haven’t had the money that they deserve and that they need to come to university and then on top of that won’t be able to afford fees.”
The events in Glasgow were overshadowed by protests elsewhere in the country, with protestors in London rioting, leading to 15 arrests, and long-term occupations occurring in universities elsewhere such as Edinburgh and Nottingham.
Students at Sheffield university were evicted from their sit-in after the university won a High Court injunction to remove students, as the room occupied was needed for exams. Overall it is estimated that 10, 000 students participated in demonstrations across the country.
A common theme throughout the day’s protests was anger at the Liberal Democrats, coalition partners who had won over many student voters on the firm pledge that they would oppose any rise in tuition fees.
Oliver Milne, President of GUACAN outlined the reason for anger at the party. He said: “I think it’s important that students come out in protest because students en masse vote traditionally for the Liberal Democrats. And what we have seen is the Liberal Democrats complete betrayal of the student movement.”
Wednesday’s protest is one of many days of action scheduled ahead of December 9’s vote.