Posts Tagged ‘EMA’

Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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Sparks and Students – 10 Years Ago

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Police surround a grass roots rally before the main Union rally by electricians at the Shard


Ten years ago today on 9th November 2011 my work began at The Shard next to London Bridge, where ‘sparks’ (electricians) were protesting over plans by 7 major employers to tear up national agreements and impose worse conditions and pay cuts of at least 26 %.

Electricians listen to Unite union speakers

Before the official rally by the Unite union where speakers included several of the union’s leading officials as well as General Secretary of Unite Len McCluskey there was a separate rally with grass roots speakers. Numbers grew as the official rally began and there were over a thousand when it set off to march to another rally at Blackfriars.

I left the march on Borough High St and headed north over the river to join a large march by student protesters against fees increases and cuts in services. Police had shut down most of central London before this started and there were no buses running and I had to walk around two miles to meet the marchers.

Students were angry about the cuts, particularly about the loss of the Educational Maintenace Allowances but the policing seemed completely excessive. I wrote: “There were perhaps 5000 students, but as the march approached me coming down Shaftesbury Avenue they were largely hidden by the police, with a row of mounted officers leading, followed by several further rows of police in front of the marchers. More police walked along each side of the march, and others stood on the pavement, with lines blocking side roads and others in the doorways of offices, banks and some shops.”

The mood of the marchers seemed to me to be rather cheerful and relaxed, and this was reflected in the humour in many of the posters. Although there were a number of provocative actions by police – including a snatch squad rushing in to grab several marchers – which injured me and some other marchers, as well as various occasions on which they slowed or halted the march, eventually bringing it to a complete stop and ‘kettling’ it in Holborn, which caused it to get a little heated.

Marchers chant “Free the Sparks”

The protesters had been angered to hear that six hundred electricians who had tried to cross the river after their rally in Blackfriars to join the student protest had been stopped at Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge.

The police seemed to get completely disorganised at this point and I was able to walk past a police line along with several hundred of the protesters while the officers grappled with a few holding them back before more police arrived. After waiting for some time in the hope that others would join them, they continued the march to its intended destination at the Moorgate building of London Metropolitan University where they danced to the sound of a bicycle-hauled sound system while I walked a little further to Finsbury Square where Occupy London had been camping since 21st October.

People in Finsbury Square were worried that the the 4000 police officers in London from the march would turn their attention to trying to evict them. I told them it was unlikely they would make an attempt with so many students on the street. Later I saw videos of students being kettled at Moorgate and individuals being attacked by snatch squads of plain clothes police who had posed as protesters but there was no action against Occupy London.

The huge policing of the two marches was clearly a reaction to the criticism of their failures at Millbank and Tottenham, but it came at a considerable cost, bringing movement in much of central London more or less to a halt for most of the day. Much of the City was still closed as I walked along Old Street with traffic outside the area moving at rather less than walking speed. Policing by consent has to involve letting peaceful protest continue and here was clearly an attempt to prevent it.

Students March Against Cuts & Fees
Sparks At The Shard

Republic Day: 26 January 2011

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Republic Day has been celebrated in India on the 26th January since 1950, and marks the day in 1950 when the Constitution of India came into effect. India had gained independence on 15 August 1947, but that left the country as a British dominion, still under British Law and with King George VI as head of state. It took until November 1949 for the new constitution to be agreed, and the January 26 was chosen for its introduction as the Indian National Congress had declared it as Independence Day in 1929.

Along with Independence Day it is a day when there are often protests outside India House in London and on 26th January 2011, ten years ago today, there were at least two taking place. One called for the release of leading paediatrician and public health specialist Binayak Sen, a member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties who has gained international recognition for his work in Chhattisgarh, India, where he “helped establish a hospital serving poor mine workers in the region, founded a health and human rights organization that supports community health workers in 20 villages.”

Dr Sen also criticised the Chhattisgarh state government’s atrocities against indigenous people fighting the handover of their lands for mining and their establishment of an armed militia, the Salwa Judum, to fight against the Naxalite (Maoist) rebels in the area, and was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh court for sedition and helping the Naxalites. His case and appeal attracted support from around the world including from 22 Nobel laureates who sent a letter to the Indian President and Prime Minister and Chhattisgarh state authorities asking for him to be allowed to travel to the US to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Later in 2011 he was granted bail by the Indian Supreme Court.

Also protesting outside India House were Kashmiris and Sikhs calling for the freedom for their nations which has been denied by Indian military repression. Kashmir is one of the oldest countries in the world, dating back to the Iron Age and became a Muslim monarchy in 1349, was later a part of the Sikh empire but was established later as a kingdom under British guidance. At partition the ruler ceded the country to India against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants for military protection after Pakistan invaded the country, which is now in three parts, under military rule by India, Pakistan and a small part China.

The Indian administered area, known as Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh had limited autonomy which was revoked on 5 August 2019 and has a huge occupying force accused by human rights organisations of imposing strict military law in a systematically brutal fashion, with deaths during interrogation of suspects, detention without trail, censorship, arson, beatings, rape, mass murder, and tortures of all kinds.

It was a busy Wednesday, with other protests taking place, including a student day of action against fees and cuts, including the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowance which has allowed many 16-18 year olds to remain in education. Axed in England it is still available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Unfortunately although there had been publicity about students walking out of schools and college there was very little information available about the protests they might attend, and only perhaps qa hundred made their way to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

After some speeches there was a discussion about what to do next, and most of those present decided to join the NUJ demonstration outside Bush House against the savage cuts announced by the BBC for the World Service broadcasting, with up to 650 job losses, switching off of radio services and the complete loss of services in 5 languages. This was particularly convenient for me as I was also going to join this protest as a member of the NUJ – and it was just a few yards from India House were I was going to photograph other events.

More at:
Release Binayak Sen Now
Free Kashmir & Khalistan
Save the BBC World Service
Student Day of Action


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