Two students reveal protest experiences

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TWO students from Oakham who were at the tuition fees protest in London last week have described their experiences.

Pip Gray, of Clifton Court, Oakham is studying graphic communications and attended the protest on Thursday last week with about 20 other students from Glamorgan University.

The 20-year-old said they had planned to follow a designated route which had been widely advertised on student union websites.

After arriving at Millbank Tower at 10am the group intended to lobby peacefully inside the Houses of Parliament as some students were waiting there after making appointments with their MPs.

Pip said: “About half our group came out at midday and we planned to join the march but realised the police had closed most of the roads.

“This surprised us because we were expecting the march to come past but the police had surrounded the Houses of Parliament.

“A policewoman told us to leave the area and we ended up travelling to the other side of the river Thames.

“I saw fireworks and flares being thrown. We got sent through a road lined with police dogs, riot police and police vans.

“I felt intimidated because we were behind the police. Objects were being thrown at them and coming at us.”

Pip said overall the march was organised with the only trouble being at Millbank involving about 20 students from what she could see.

The student said the trouble makers hampered efforts to put their views across.

She said: “I feel gutted about the increase and the amount of money it will cost people to get a degree.”

Hattie Hodgson, also 20, of Brooke Road, Oakham, knows Pip from Catmose College, and is studying a theatrical course at Leeds University.

Both travelled to the protest with their own universities.

Hattie said there was a lot of anger and tension because of the police tactics to keep students contained in certain areas.

Hattie said: “The atmosphere was really spooky at 5.15pm when the votes were being cast and everyone was on their phones waiting to see what would happen.

“I feel the Government are gambling with the education system and this has not been properly researched.

“Why is it acceptable to send graduates into their working life with £27,000 worth of debt?”

Tuition fees are capped at £3,290 currently, but this will rise to £6,000 from September 2012. In exceptional cases some universities may charge £9,000.

The House of Lords backed the tuition fees rise on Tuesday.

Over the four demonstrations by students, a total of 175 people were arrested, including 34 who were detained on Thursday.

The students also tried unsuccessfully to see Mr Duncan. Hattie had e-mailed his office the day before the protest and Pip asked on the day.

Mr Duncan, who voted in favour of the tuition fee rise, said: “I’m sorry I could not meet with them but if people want to meet me it is a much better idea to give me notice.

“This way people have much more chance of meeting with me.

“In such a meeting I hope I would have persuaded them of the merits of such a policy.”