STUDENTS from the University of Portsmouth were among thousands who marched through central London in a protest against higher tuition fees and ‘privatisation’ in universities.
A coach-load of 30 young men and women made the journey to the city at 9am yesterday morning to add their voice to the angry opposition to government plans for higher education.
The demonstration, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, was saying ‘no’ to the coalition’s trebling of tuition fees and ‘no’ to asking universities to compete for students who will from 2012 directly fund teaching.
And despite police warning they might use rubber bullets – which is believed to have deterred many protesters – Portsmouth had a strong presence.
Grant Clarke, 22, reading media studies and entertainment technology, said: ‘I was pleased with the turnout and I’m glad we got our message across.
‘It was a peaceful protest. The only aggressive element was the police who were acting very heavy-handedly.
‘At one point during the march I heard some screaming and saw a group of riot officers dragging a girl out the crowd.
‘And towards the end the police kettled us, which was quite intimidating. But in general everyone had a good time.’
He added: ‘I don’t want to see universities being there to make money out of people, and I don’t want to see our universities being sold off to corporations.
‘People should go to university to be educated – not to be fleeced.’
Sam Shafer, 21, an American Studies undergraduate, said: ‘The higher fees create an environment where everything is viewed in monetary terms and the arts and the humanities are being cut as a result.
‘There was a palpable tension in the crowds because of the high police presence but I’m glad we went out there.
‘I’d like to think we can still make a difference.’
Sam Bogg, 20, who is studying journalism and international relations, said: ‘My biggest worry is that the higher fees will put off a lot of young people going to university. It will penalise students from poorer backgrounds – who wants to start out their working lives with massive amounts of debt?’
Scotland Yard said 24 people were arrested and they estimated less than a third of the expected 10,000 protesters attended.