Guest Author - Debora Dyess
Students in London, England responded in angry protest when the British government suggested Tuesday that funding may be cut to both public and private universities. The move, one of many being considered to balance an out-of-control British economy, would more than triple tuition for students.
Students in England now pay about $5,000 per year for their college education. The government picks up the rest of the bill. Having already cut university expenses by 40%, officials suggested they may pass the cost on to students. That sparked irate rioting throughout London streets Wednesday, sending waves of students through the political district. Marching past the 27-story Millbank Tower that houses the Conservative Party and Prime Minister David Cameron’s office, protesters found the doors open. Many entered, destroying furniture, papers and placards while about 2,000 of the estimated 52,000 watched.
Students in the United States must be wondering about the anger of their counterparts in Britain. The average student here already pays $9,000 yearly. Those attending private colleges can look at a whopping $35,000 per year. Taking advantage of a junior college (2-year college) is the most frugal route, averaging $2,7000 per year. For people who need a four year degree, utilizing a junior college for the first half of their education will cut their costs by $12,000 over the two year period.
England’s Prime Minister David Cameron was in Seoul, South Korea and missed the action. He watched the events unfold on television, as much of the world did. “I could see a line, a thin blue line, of extremely brave police officers trying to hold back a bunch of people who were intent on violence and destruction,” he said in a BBC interview. “As the police themselves have said, there weren’t enough of them.” Cameron is attending the Group of 20 summit.
When the protest was planned by the National Union of Students, approximately 5,000 people were believed to be interested in the march, which would take them past the Parlimnet. London’s police force assigned 225 officers to monitor what they assumed would be a peaceful portest. When the numbers surged into the 50,000’s, they immediately realized their presence would not be enough to deter violence. Forty-one officers were injured, and 50 students arrested for suspicion of tresspass and criminal damage.
While the Conservative Party took most of the hit students anger boiled over at the Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader vowed not to support any increase in tuition during his campaign. Now he’s in complete support, angering many who voted him into office. “…at the time I really thought we could do it,” Clegg told interviewers at “Daybreak”, a show aired by ITV, a public service network. “I understand the anger…”
Tuesday’s was the first major riot since massive spending cuts were announced on October 20. Cameron’s coalition government hopes to cut approximately $131 billion from British government spending over the next four years to narrow a record deficit in that country. Organizers of the march, which was planned as a peaceful assembly against tuition cuts and in support of universities, say the violence has distracted attention from their goals.
Police Minister Nick Herbert agreed. “There’s no place for such behavior in Britain’s democracy,” he commented.