24th November 2010. Since the day of the Demolition, an appeal has been circulating on Facebook and certain websites for a ‘National walkout and day of protest against tuition fees’. Planned walkouts against the fees took place across the country at Universities and colleges, alongside a large-scale protest in London. The London march, from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, was initially meant as a ‘non-violent’ protest. This was mostly the case although various scuffles took place between police and a small group of aggressive protesters. Two police officers were injured and a police van was attacked by a group that took part in a riot, with the result that many peaceful protesters were kept in a police cordon for hours.
At the University of Nottingham, however, the reaction was rather more muted. About sixty protesters gathered outside of the Portland Building and marched on the Trent Building, where the organisers demanded to speak to the Vice-Chancellor. Upon being informed by security that he was not in the building, the group turned and walked up to Hallward Library, where the protest dispersed. They later reconvened in one of the classrooms in Portland, where a ‘teach-in’ was staged.
“We’re hoping to put pressure on the Vice Chancellor and the University to not cut funding to courses and societies, but also not to raise tuition fees” Dave Pike, one of the organisers of the Nottingham protest, told a local television crew, “Other countries are actually spending more on education at the moment and are seeing it as an investment. It’s like a rolling stone, hopefully the people at this protest will bring more friends along next time round”
The big difference between the protests today and the Students’ Union supported Demolition protest seemed to be a complete lack of publicity for the event. Despite the existence of a Facebook page where people could find out whether a protest had been organised for their University, there was no publicity for the event at Nottingham until the day. Even the organisers seemed to be unsure as to exactly what route the march would take.
The underwhelming turnout could also be attributed to a distinct level of apathy amongst Nottingham students. In a University of 32,000 people, a demonstration with approximately 60 protesters is an insignificant minority of students actually prepared to voice their opinions on this issue. The poor attendance also begs the question as to whether protest marches are actually the best way for students to express their discontent.
There is supposedly another day of protests planned for the 30th November. Will anything big happen then? It’s looking doubtful.
By Ben McCabe