Students’ Union backs national student protest

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Warwick Students’ Union (SU) will be joining thousands of students across the UK to protest in London against the treatment of young people and students.

Warwick students are invited to join the team of Sabbatical officers on Wednesday 21 November at the National Union of Students’ (NUS) demonstration in London.

The campaign aims to increase student activism and put some of the major issues affecting young people today back on the political agenda.

The NUS-organised protest will criticise the Government for “consistently taking students’ futures away from them”, citing policies such as scrapping Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and increasing tuition fees.

Unemployment figures will also be a big theme.

Speaking to Radio Warwick (RaW), societies officer Silkie Cragg said: “[Demo 2012] is about education insofar as students will be demonstrating, but it’s also intrisincly linked to opportunities and employment.”

Ms Cragg described efforts to improve opportunities for less well-off students as “not enough by any stretch of the imagination” and called for students to join the demonstration in London.

Postgraduate officer Anna Chowcat said that unlike in previous years this year’s demonstration is “especially important” because it is not aimed at one specific government policy.

Coaches are being organised from Leamington and campus and the SU hope to take anywhere between 52 and 156 students to the capital.

However, some question the effectiveness of a demonstration, including Amy Fell, a third-year Life Sciences student. “Given the current economic climate it is unlikely that the protests will achieve much in practical terms,” she said.

Commenting on Ms Cragg’s blog, Maths student Stuart Wheatcroft said, “What you haven’t argued is why walking through the streets of London chanting slogans will do anything more than annoy a few Londoners.”

In response, Ms Cragg told RaW, “Without the march against tuition fees we wouldn’t have had the increased pay-back threshold.

“Does walking around London doesn’t change anything? No, but what if you didn’t do it? What if the Government just thought students and higher education insitutions didn’t really care?

“It’s a basic right that we have and I’d like to exercise that.”

Ben Frew, a third-year councillor and PPE student, is one student supporting Demo 2012 this year believing that student protests are an important way to “send a strong message of our discontent and dissatisfaction”.

He also added, “We cannot afford to sit idle while the current government relentlessly attacks access and opportunity within our education system.”

However, some students are in support of the Government’s policies. Second-year Politics and International Studies student Aidan Press said: “As a student who was raised in an area of high unemployment and little opportunity, I have come to learn that everyone has the potential to progress in life and, in many cases, achieve their dreams.

“Whilst I feel that there should be safety nets in place, I do not feel that the previous system of EMA was appropriate: there was no real way to ensure the money was spent properly.”

Mr Press added that although he agrees with much of the Government’s policy, he accepts that the Union has a responsibility to act on behalf of its members.

Tickets to the Demo can be bought on the SU website.

Listen to Silkie’s interview on RaW here.

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