Student protesters: 'We will continue to fight'


Thousands of students demonstrated as MPs in the House of Commons voted to raise university tuition fees in England.

In angry scenes, protesters battled with police in Parliament Square. Hundreds were contained on Westminster Bridge for a time by officers.

Protesters involved in the demonstrations contacted the BBC to share their stories.

Mike, London

Image caption,
"I was struck repeatedly in the face with a shield"

I was one of hundreds of protesters who were kettled on Whitehall. I was forced up against a van by police - and struck repeatedly in the face with a shield. What happened to me was completely ridiculous.

I graduated in July from Durham University and now I work in sales. I joined the protest on the main march from the University of London Union to Parliament Square in London. I didn't know that was our destination, but it's where police seemed to guide us.

There were barriers cutting off all the side streets, so we just kept walking straight on - and that took us to Westminster.

After being in the square for while, I went away and came back. When I did, there was a line of police blocking us from entering the square.

Baton charge

I turned and headed back up Whitehall because that's what we were told to do.

But as we tried to walk away from the square, we met a line of police advancing - both on horses and with batons.

We were penned back against the other line of police who were blocking us from the square. They crushed us into a tiny space, hundreds of us, tighter and tighter. It was painful.

I was forced up against a van, and yet the police were still screaming "get back".

It was impossible to move any further back. We were shouting "where are we supposed to go?" and an officer was shoving a shield in my face. It felt like pure violence against us.

It was in that chaos that I heard the result of the vote. A guy with a bike-powered soundsystem got on the mic and announced it, and obviously we were angry. There was booing and shouting. But I don't think it changed the atmosphere of the protest. I think everyone was expecting the bill to go through.

I was eventually dragged out of the crush by a riot officer. I'm bruised and I'm aching a lot - but I'm alright.

I plan to carry on campaigning. This isn't a single issue. We all know this is bigger than just student fees - this is ideological. The government is attacking the working classes.

And it affects me personally. I was hoping to return to university to do a masters degree. I probably won't now.

Nikki Crowley, 44, Newcastle

Image caption,
"The students do not stand alone"

I protested in Newcastle in support of the students - my son is at university and I have two daughters who will start next year.

About 3,000 students and workers marched for several hours around the city to a standing ovation from workers at the civic centre. Shoppers were clapping and applauding the students as we went past.

Police were trying to corner demonstrators, unsuccessfully, and we rallied at the monument. The city centre roads were blocked.

I was marching as a public sector worker under threat of redundancy. The two issues go hand-in-hand. The students do not stand alone.

Image caption,
A man protests for his grandchildren's education

This affects everyone in society. I saw an 80-year-old grandfather with a sign saying that his grandchildren deserved an education.

I don't think students should be penalised for wanting to study. I pay my taxes for that. I want working class people to have the chance of an education.

I just don't think it's fair to leave with debts of £24,000 hanging over your head.

This increase in fees will divide the country. Only those who can afford it will go to university. It's corrupt and it's unjust.

If my daughters have to pay £6,000 a year, it will be very difficult for them to go.

I am encouraged by the result of the vote - and the rebellion of the Lib Dem MPs. It shows this coalition has no mandate. They are crumbling apart at the edges. They have a massive struggle on their hands now.

Paul Hogan, 26, Birmingham

Image caption,
"The atmosphere was like Reading Festival"

I study photography in Coventry, I'm in my third year. I came down to London from Birmingham in the morning to join the protest - and I was still there in Parliament Square when the result was announced.

I joined the main demonstration - which started at the University of London Union. We listened to the speakers and followed the march - splitting off sometimes, to stop us being kettled.

When we reached Parliament Square, everyone was singing and dancing. The atmosphere was like Reading Festival. People were having a good time.

And even when the result came through, the singing continued. I don't think anybody was disheartened by the result.

I left the square shortly after the announcement, I think a lot of the peaceful protesters left at that point. And I question whether those who stayed on were students. The group felt very infiltrated.

I'm quite happy about the vote's narrow majority. Our protest split the Lib Dem vote in two, and that can only be a good thing.

Another good thing is that students have become politicised by this. I met so many on the march who said "this is not good enough". And that will continue next year - remember these protests are not just about student fees.

The changes might not affect me, but I have a 14-year-old sister and she may not be able to afford university.

Andrew Shuttleworth, 25, Liverpool

Image caption,
Andrew Shuttleworth says he feels despondent

I'm a PhD Student at Liverpool University. I attended all three marches and protests in Liverpool, and on Thursday I travelled down to London to join the protests.

I was in Parliament Square when the results came through. We were all watching Big Ben - and checking Twitter for news. And then suddenly, there was silence - that's when everyone realised. The conga line stopped. The band stopped. And the singing stopped.

I was expecting us to lose but in the end, it was so close... and that made me feel despondent. If the Lib Dem MPs had stuck by their election pledge, we would have won.

I'm protesting because if the increase in undergraduate fees also hits postgraduate study then it could lead to a real talent drain from the UK's universities. Combined with other cuts, this could be a disaster.

I don't think we need to swallow a pill this bitter. There have to be other ways to manage the cuts. I'd like to see some support for advanced level study which in subjects like science can bring real benefits to the economy.

I've heard the NUS will now launch a "right to recall" campaign against MPs who went back on their pledges. I will support that. And not only for student fees.

We are working together with trade unions to fight welfare cuts, Education Maintenance Allowance cuts and school sports cuts. We will continue to fight.

Denny de la Haye, 37, London

Image caption,
"I got stuck in various kettles"

I'm not a student - I run my own business. But I was protesting because I believe that the opportunity to get a degree should be for everyone who has the ability. Young people should be encouraged to study.

I was at the back of the Parliament Square protest. I got stuck in various kettles. Eventually I sneaked out up a side street.

I'm surprised the vote was so close. I was expecting it to sweep through comfortably.

I think the number of student protests in quick succession has displayed the strength of feeling against the proposals. That made a difference to the result.

I'm amazed that some Tories didn't vote for it. There were far more conscientious rebels than I expected.


The issue of tuition fees is one I care about. I was one of the first in my family to get a degree, and the opportunity completely changed my life.

I failed my A-levels and fell into dead-end jobs for a few years. I later decided to take the opportunity and go to university. I came away with a first-class honours degree in computing.

But I don't think I would want to go to university now. With this new level of debt, I would not have done it.

I also think it's a shame that a lot of young students won't get the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) anymore. I live in Hackney and I think it is really important that people, particularly from areas like mine, get the EMA. I think people are aware of how tuition fees, EMA, and other cuts are tied-in together.

This result is not the end - hopefully it's the beginning of a broader campaign against the cuts. One that I will definitely be taking part in.

More on this story