Students stage protest over 'betrayal' with university fees
STUDENTS marched through a town centre in protest at plans to treble university tuition fees, which they claim will be a "betrayal of young people".
Dozens of school, college and university students staged the event in Stafford yesterday, on the eve of today's crucial vote in the House of Commons.
Chanting and waving banners with slogans such as "Fill our minds, not your pockets" and "9k? No way", they made their way from Market Square and down the main shopping streets, as police watched.
The march came as figures were released showing how much universities will have to charge simply to keep their current range of courses.
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They are facing teaching grant cuts of up to 80 per cent, with the prospect of many subjects no longer receiving any public funding in future.
The University and College Union (UCU) estimated Staffordshire University would need to charge £6,829 a year just to stand still. It is thought £30.7 million of its teaching funds are at risk.
Keele University, which could lose £17.3 million, would have to raise fees to £6,465 to make up the shortfall.
And Manchester Metropolitan University, which has a campus in Crewe, might have to charge a minimum of £6,533 a year in fees to cope with £51.9 million of possible teaching grant cuts.
UCU says slashing university funding will also cost the Staffordshire and South Cheshire economy many more millions of pounds as the knock-on effects are felt.
Rowan Draper, from Littleworth, in Stafford, joined yesterday's march, which was jointly organised by student representatives from Staffordshire University, Stafford College, and local schools.
The 25-year-old graduate said: "I can understand there are cuts to be made, but it's too fast and too deep.
"I've already completed my degree and I've got £20,000 worth of debts. To have even higher fees would be ludicrous. It's an absolute betrayal of young people."
Staffordshire University student Matthew Wright, of Beaconside, Stafford, said the plans would hit students from less well-off backgrounds the hardest.
The 20-year-old, who is in the second year of a degree in web development, said: "The changes won't affect me, but I'm worried about my younger sister who will have to pay more."
Katy Lovell, aged 17, from Highfields, is studying at Stafford College. She is set to be in the first wave of university students affected by the changes, if they come into force from September 2012.
Katy said: "I want to go to university to do either midwifery or social work. If I don't study at university, I won't get the job I want. But if fees are increased, I won't be able to afford to go."
The proposals would see the current fees cap of £3,290 a year raised to a basic £6,000. Universities could charge up to £9,000 a year if they meet rules aimed at helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Payments won't kick in until students graduate and start earning at least £21,000.