An unequal protest on the High Street

Student protesters chanted “When they say cut back, we say fight back” on Lincoln's High Street. (Click to enlarge) Photo: JDS/The Linc

Dozens of students from the University of Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste University College demonstrated on the city’s High Street on Saturday, February 13th, against budget cuts in higher education and increased tuition fees.

The High Street protest was the final leg of the “Ven’debt’a” campaign, which saw an underwhelming flashmob against raised tuition fees in the Main Admin Building of the University of Lincoln and a scarcely attended General Election Debate in the LPAC theatre.

Had it not been for the collaboration with Bishop Grosseteste Students’ Union (BGSU), the University of Lincoln Students’ Union (ULSU) might have been left feeling rather embarrassed at Saturday’s protest on the High Street.

BGSU provided over three quarters of the protesters, as well as a live samba performance, despite the university college having only 2,000 students. ULSU managed to bring in a pitiful less-than 20 protesters from their over 10,000 student population.

Wearing painted black masks with red V’s and chanting “When they say cut back, we say fight back,” BGSU’s demonstrators arrived 45 minutes before ULSU’s, who were setting off from the Brayford campus at 1pm.

“The march from the SOAP centre wasn’t outstanding,” said Chris Charnley, the SU’s president, after so few had arrived to join in. Despite this, Charnley claimed: “there were Lincoln students already here with the BG[SU] lot.”

Jenny Newton, an English and Journalism student at the University of Lincoln said: “I feel bad that not many Lincoln students turned up, but some of us are still here in force.” Central Lens Media student Charlotte McIvor said: “It’s been fairly well publicised, but then I’m a student rep so I knew about it before others anyway.”

Demonstrators gathered to make a “wall of debt”, where they stretched along the High Street holding placards with their total of debt written on, after which some of them continued marching and chanting.

Student debt totals ranged from £5,900 to £35,700. (Click to enlarge) Photo: JDS/The Linc

Throughout the protest, performances from BGSU’s Samba team were enjoyed by demonstrators and the public alike. Samba leader Ruth Henderson told The Linc that they have been preparing the performances throughout the academic year, and that “it’s a great way to get noticed”.

Bishop Grosseteste's Samba team joined the protest. (Click to enlarge) Photo: Jo Sams

“I think today’s been fantastic,” said Gavin Smith, BGSU’s president. “It shows, especially from BG, the passion that’s running through the students’ veins for their education.” Gemma Mercer, an Early Childhood Studies student at BG, said: “we’ve handed out a lot of flyers and people have been asking questions. It’s been really good.”

However, some Lincoln residents weren’t particularly happy with the protest. Mem Gazi of BGSU told The Linc that they received negative comments from certain residents. “Get a proper job” and “you’re tax dodgers” are just a sample of what was said.

“I think it’s just people being ignorant and not having enough information. If they stopped and listened to what we have to say, maybe they’d change their minds,” Gazi said.

5 Responses to An unequal protest on the High Street

  1. Nick Jackson says:

    Get a proper job? Tax dodgers? That’s not a case of not having enough information, that’s just a case of being terminally stupid.

    How, exactly, do these members of the public suggest we have highly trained professionals in non-vocational fields and mould-breaking research without universities?

    As for tax dodging, the last time I checked I pay tax on my earnings like anybody else.

  2. Ruth Henderson says:

    Although the numbers yesterday were uneven, I still think that both universities should be immensly proud of the professional attitudes and levels of commitment from their students!

    We said what needs to be said, we chanted what needed to be chanted, we played for a cause close to our hearts and made a stir in Lincoln. That’s what’s important!

  3. Daniel Harper says:

    I’d imagine most students were busy doing more important stuff like getting a degree instead of interrupting shoppers and residents in the High Street.

  4. Aaron Smith says:

    Daniel please note it’s more than highly likely that those in the High Street are going to be majorly affected by the plans to increase the cost of tuition fees.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the tax payers said to be already funding the future of this country, the students who (particullarly in the case of BG) will end up teaching your children in the future? With the increase in tuition fees isn’t it more that likely your taxes will increase too? Do you want your children to go to university?

    And furthermore we went the best way about making the public aware of the issues surrounding higher education funding. All those who were ignorant in the street that told us to ‘f**k off, get a job taxdodger’ are more than less aware that most of us have a job because tuition fees are too high, and we do pay tax on our earnings too.

  5. Dave Stanley says:

    The low attendance probably was not helped by the fact it clashed with the RBS Six Nations.