• December 21, 2014

British Students' Protest of Tuition Rise Turns Violent

British Students Protesting Tuition Rise Attack Conservative Party Building 1

Ben Stansall, AFP, Getty Images

Students protesting the British government's plan to increase tuition forced their way into the headquarters of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party on Wednesday, smashing windows and lighting a bonfire on the street outside the building, near the Houses of Parliament.

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close British Students Protesting Tuition Rise Attack Conservative Party Building 1

Ben Stansall, AFP, Getty Images

Students protesting the British government's plan to increase tuition forced their way into the headquarters of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party on Wednesday, smashing windows and lighting a bonfire on the street outside the building, near the Houses of Parliament.

Student protests in central London took a violent turn on Wednesday, as dozens of protesters broke into Conservative Party headquarters, prompting battles with the police.

Thousands of protesters have occupied the concourse in front of the building, lighting a giant bonfire, reports the London Evening Standard.

The protest included a march that was organized by Britain's main student and faculty unions to protest the government's plans to increase tuition and cut government financing for universities.

Both unions attempted to distance themselves from the violence. The student union posted a message on its Web site condemning the "violent idiots undermining" the message of what it said were 50,000 protesters.

"The people who organized the splinter protest are not known to us," said Ben Whittaker, vice president of the National Union of Students. "We don’t think they’re students. It could be anarchist groups, who’ve obviously been planning this for some time."

Dan Ashley, a spokesman for the University and College Union, which represents faculty members, echoed the sentiment. "It has nothing to do with us," he said.

Earlier in the day, the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, had a heated exchange in Parliament over the government's plans for universities, reports the BBC. Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with Conservative politicians after the general election in May.

The student union has promised to hold to account Liberal Democrats, who pledged before the election to oppose any plans to raise tuition, with its president saying the union would attempt to force interim elections to unseat members of Parliament who reneged on their promise.


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Comments

1. physicsprof - November 10, 2010 at 04:20 pm

Who said that the cure from addiction to the welfare state is going to be painless?

2. mmeisens - November 10, 2010 at 04:23 pm

Any student who is arrested should be drafted into Her Majesty's Service and shipped to Afganistan. That should bring some reality to the parasites of society.

3. theseus - November 10, 2010 at 04:36 pm

I don't support the violence, but "addiction to the welfare state" has nothing to do with the unprecedented cuts to higher education that a government for which no Briton actually voted is proposing.

4. 11186245 - November 10, 2010 at 04:38 pm

French majors, right?
John Lubans Jr.

5. sloanka - November 10, 2010 at 04:43 pm

so student's are the parasites of society?

6. droslovinia - November 10, 2010 at 04:49 pm

Yep, students are "parasites," so what does that make those of us who teach them? Living in a country where foreigners can pour money into our elections and the mega-wealthy can start ersatz "tea parties," pandering to fear, ignorance, and greed in order to protect their wealth from the poor, how do we possibly have the moral standing to pass judgment on other countries?

7. davi2665 - November 10, 2010 at 05:10 pm

The "entitlement" generation has come to expect virtually everything handed to them with no cost and no strings attached. After decades of greed, accumulation of debt, irresponsible spending, and entitlement/retirement program funding that is completely out of touch with reality, the bill is finally coming due. The nations foolish enough to have engaged in such behaviors will continue to go the way of Greece, if not a lot worse. There will be harsh and very painful changes in living standards and government "handouts" for everyone. And we will not be able to spend our way to prosperity, monetize the debt, or inflate our way out of it. This is just the beginning.

8. 11132507 - November 10, 2010 at 06:10 pm

The greed and selfishness that people exhibit through some of these posts, and others from articles about financial assistance to US students, is appalling. I know, physicsprof and mmeisens, you got yours, now it's every man for himself, it better not cost me a penny. Unless you've spent your life in a cave somewhere, you have benefited from taxpayer funded resources, whether they be public education, roads and bridges, Medicare, Social Security, police/fire/rescue services, the military protecting you, public libraries, hospitals, ambulance crews, mail delivery, etc. But heaven forbid some young ingrate exercises their right to protest against their government's actions (if you're not criticizing the Teabaggers for doing the same, then you're that much more hypocritical).

These "parasites" include tomorrow's leaders, be it in the UK or anyplace else, and what is being proposed there is going to severely limit the ability of many to continue their education...they'll have a bunch of A and O levels and wind up with some menial low paying job in an economically very divided British society. And then the upper class twits who could afford the university of their choice will be complaining about how uneducated and declasse the underclass is and how some former 3rd world country will be ahead of the UK's education system. In other words, exactly what the US is headed for unless access and affordability are made a real priority.

9. sullivab - November 10, 2010 at 06:29 pm

I would say that the "entitlement generation" is every generation. How many of us 50+ year-olds are willing to give up what we believe is rightfully ours? "Keep your filthy government hands off my Medicare", anyone? Our parents complained that we were spoiled, just as their parents did, etc. Griping about how ungrateful, profligate, lazy, immoral, etc., others are seems to be an occupational hazzard of growing old. Some of us are prodigies in this, and become scolds at an early age. (For a completely different look at what we might look like to those younger than us, see Monty Python's "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch.)

Nations rise and nations fall; it is the natural progression of things,and it is a good thing that it happens. (Does anyone really want to live under the rule of Attila the Hun?)Our lives are but a flyspeck on the timeline of history. Rather than nag others, do your bit to make the world around you a better place, forgive all, have a cocktail of your choice, and enjoy the wonder of life.

10. gndiks - November 10, 2010 at 06:34 pm

I thought the comments I would read on a site like this one dedicated to higher education would contain some well-thought out and balanced posts, but it seems to me that the same guys who post on free-for-all sites like Yahoo.com may be the same ones posting here.
It beats my imagination how someone reading something happening in Britain's higher ed. doesn't give themself a moment to reflect on the cultural and philosophic differences inherent in US and British systems but dives into a diatribe. Peddling half truths and outright idiocies seems to have gained root in today's American civil discourse to a point where we seem to think we can only be heard if we shoot others down. I honestly thought silly season ended last week with mid-term elections and that we would once more settle for civility and social justice. Maybe I was wrong but I will take any "socialist" culture where I can study until I drop dead for free any time.
Think what you like but please verify and always imagine some time when the shoe can be on the other foot. The feeling of unbridled superiority complex always belies some darker inner doubts and cravings.

11. fergbutt - November 10, 2010 at 08:42 pm

It amazes me how many clear photos show exactly who participated. I guess wearing a mask is so uncool. Enjoy your stay in jail, all ye readily-identifiable faces.

12. physicsprof - November 10, 2010 at 10:58 pm

#10: "Maybe I was wrong but I will take any "socialist" culture where I can study until I drop dead for free any time."

Totally agree. As long as it is not "for free for everybody". Teaching those who are intellectually potent for free is for the public benefit. Teaching everybody who has a pulse on public's dime is for the public demise.

13. marhist - November 11, 2010 at 07:53 am

Just a quick comment from one who was a tenured associate prof in the States for 15 years, and who is now a UK lecturer-- that demonstration was not only against the rise in tuition fees, but ALSO against the government's proposed withdrawal of all teaching funding from arts, humanities and social sciences. These disciplines would be forced to survive on tuition fees only. In other words, people were demonstrating against the gutting of UK higher education, and forced closures of entire departments and forced redundancies. We are fighting a philosophical battle, for the idea that higher education is a public good, not just a means for individual students to make make mony by getting a better job, which is this government's narrow vision. I, like many other history lecturers, are waiting to find out if we will still have a job.

For a good review of the issue, please read Stefan Collini's excellent article in the London Review of Books at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n21/stefan-collini/brownes-gamble

14. worddancer - November 11, 2010 at 09:22 am

I find it both incredible and lamentable that there is so much spite and back-biting about this issue, and so much ignorance. It's not the parochial or political dispute that a number of commentators on here have taken it to be. And it's disconcerting (to say the least) that so many commentators shot from the hip before taking the time and trouble to learn about the cuts, or think about their wider implications for the role of education in Britain, and quite possibly the world.

Marhist's post should help make it clear what is at stake here, which is not selfishness or an inappropriate sense of entitlement, but the very suvival of the vision of higher education that most readers of the CHE probably endorse: education as something other than narrowly technical career training for scientists.

Certainly having the rising generation in Britain know even less about history (and other subjects in the humanities and social sciences) cannot be a good thing under any sensible construal of the Good. And certainly conservatives in the US will be watching to see whether they, too, can win popular support for gutting higher education here.

If cuts are a necessary response to the economic crisis, shouldn't there be a serious society-wide conversation about where they fall? And shouldn't there be a return to the expectation that the very wealthy pay substantially more taxes than they do in the post-Reagan, post-Thatcher era? And shouldn't there be a serious and effective re-regulation of the financial sector, as well as investigations of the profiteers and gamblers who gained by gaming the system, to prevent a recurrence of a situation in which it appears that gutting a country's cultural and educational institutions is the 'only sensible thing' to do to rectify the evils that emerged from tolerance of wildly reckless and greedy behavior on the part of the financial sector?

Thanks, Marhist, for the reference to the LRB article. And for the sane and urgent plea for an intelligent response to the news of these terrible cuts.

15. physicsprof - November 11, 2010 at 10:38 am

#13: "We are fighting a philosophical battle, for the idea that higher education is a public good, not just a means for individual students to make make mony by getting a better job, which is this government's narrow vision."

#14: "...vision of higher education that most readers of the CHE probably endorse: education as something other than narrowly technical career training for scientists."

Most readers of the CHE would indeed probably endorse this vision, for a simple reason that its readership is coming largely from humanities. None of my science colleagues ever read it, but if you poll them, there is a lot of resentment towards demagogy coming from the overgrown field of humanities, from the constant grandstanding on the importance of their bloated disciplines ("public good", "educated citizentry", "critical thinking",...), which are almost impossible to back up with some concrete evidence. At the same time they derogate science education with miopic referrals as to "technical career training", "job training", etc.
Science education first and foremost provides you with robust knowledge about the world you live in, which does not change much from professor to professor, from left to right, from fashion to fashion. Learning math or physics or chemistry is way too more intellectually challenging that learning political science or history (want to argue then please show me a humanitarian or economist turned physicist and I will show you dozens of physicists turned into those) and much more useful. That's what politicians as well as people on the streets know and understand. Leaner times are coming, and it is about we start shedding some fat from our educational bodies.

16. gitanafeminista - November 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Listen 15. physicsprof, what you are proposing is that we get ridd of the the coffee to keep the cream and the sprinkles. Do not undermine what the humanities may offer: a different kind of knowledge- it does not make the science diciplines better, may I remind you that authors(produced by the humanities) wrote about traveling to the moon in children's books before scientists put together and figured out how to get there? You need the humanities just as much as the humanities needs you. You need humanities because they can dream and imagine and science because they can create.... they believe it or not are in more than one way are interconnected. Creativity, imagination aside from many other things is what the humanities bring. I cannot tell you how many physics professors actually do endorse the humanities- because they know better. Because they understand that you cannot have a nice hot coffee without the humanities, you're stuck eating the cream and sprinkles cause you decided to get ridd of other substance. It is unrightful to discredit other fields of production of knowledge. Oh and by the way I need not to say that science is not a viable way to produce knowledge, I understand that it is just as important as the humanities.

17. physicsprof - November 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm

#16, I did not say cut 100% of humanities, only that they are presently overblown. We could well debate on the degree of the cuts (just not violently). Coffee in small doses is good, but right now we drink so much coffee that it is unhealthy for the patient's health.

18. rambo - November 11, 2010 at 03:44 pm

the upper class are really upset. Oxford and Cambridge limited kids from the state schools (public schools) while admitting more from the public schools (private schools from Elon to whatever). The British people needs to loose up and wake up.

19. billyraywinthorpe - November 11, 2010 at 06:37 pm

Physicsprof, what's with all the resentment you mention on the part of scientists? If we on the humanities side of the house are "derogating" you and "grandstanding" for ourselves, it's because, as you say, what you do is "what politicians as well as people on the streets know and understand." In other words, you lot are a hell of a lot more likely to keep your funding. We're the folks who've got something to prove. All that aside, though, I can't imagine that science is really as value-free an endeavor as you claim - that it "does not change much from professor to professor, from left to right, from fashion to fashion." The climate-change battle is a case in point: you can introduce all the scientific evidence you want, but before it gets written into public policy it's going to get vetted by the voters and by the officials they elect based on their values, their ideas of distributive justice, and even their prejudices. (Heck, it might even get vetted by scientists based on THEIR values, ideas, and prejudices - witness the team at East Anglia). What we in the humanities do when we're at our best is to help our students and our readers to challenge their thinking on this and a whole range of other issues based on the kind of information that you can't analyze with scientific precision and sophisticated instruments. After all, those are the kinds of decisions each of us face every day just because we're human beings trying to get along with each other in this world. No one ever decided who to marry based on a seismograph reading (at least, I hope not), but a reading of Pride and Prejudice might very well inform that sort of decision. Dealing with that kind of power - with the potential of the humanities to challenge our notions of who we are, what we hope for in life, and how society ought to function - including things like how much students should be expected to pay for their educations - is indeed a great intellectual challenge. In fact, I'd go so far as to propose an alternative interpretation of your observation that more physicists later become humanists than the other way around. Maybe it just shows that the humanities offer a greater number of people the kind of intellectual challenge that can sustain itself over a lifetime. If you yourself are not so inclined, though, more power to you. We need our scientists. But we need our humanists just as much, even if some of the "theory" we produce might seem like so much "fat on our educational bodies."

20. mmeisens - November 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Yes, education is a public good; being a parasite is not. The trouble with higher education in the west is that the latter has been traded for the former. It may surprise some of you, but some of us were not parasites going through "humanities" education. These studends are. Most Western students today are. None of us doubt it, we see the demand for entitlement everywhere; but especially in students (and the professors who lie to them.) There is no good place this will end up in for the Western societies. This is why most of the rest of the world is laughing at us.

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