My photos from the protest are now up. They haven’t been sorted, so the order is a little random and there’s no titles or descriptions, but then there are 37 of them and I don’t have an infinite amount of free time…
We set off about half past six in the morning, but unfortunately got stuck in traffic around Manchester and on the Thelwall Viaduct on the M6, and then missed the turn-off on the M4 so it was around half past twelve before we actually arrived, by which time the march had been going for an hour already. Still, we managed to catch the march through the centre of the city and past Cardiff castle before we got to the rally outside Cardiff University. Oddly the march started at the Welsh Assembly and ended at the university; in London we start at King’s College (I think?) and then pass the Houses of Parliament before ending with a rally in Trafalgar Square.
The march was considerably smaller than last year’s London march – only around 2000 people showed up this time, whereas we had 10 times that a year ago. But it was still enough to make a statement where it mattered (ie in Wales) and certainly there was a BBC van there covering the protest.
The speakers at the rally were good, especially those from the NASUWT and NATFHE teaching unions, though we didn’t have anyone big like last year when we had Frank Dobson, a former government minister.
Although it was a long way to go for a short march and a (IMO) short rally, I did enjoy it and I’d like to think it was worth it. There’s another protest planned for London closer to the general election which should be in May 2005, which should have more of an effect nationally.
By the way, let me throw some facts at you. There are around 1.3million students in full-time further education. On average, students will graduate with debts of £12 000 (at the moment I’m on track for £9000), so, collectively, we all owe £15.6 billion to banks, credit card firms and the Student Loans Company. That’s a hell of a lot of money.
It’s only going to get worse once topup fees are introduced. At the moment, a standard 3-year bachelors degree costs around £3500. As of September 2006, the more prestigious universities will raise their courses to up to £9000 for the 3 years, so we can easily expect student debt to increase by £5500 to £17 500 per student. Nationally, that amounts to a total debt of £22.75 billion.
So far the British government has spent something like £5 billion on the war in Iraq. Don’t you think that money would be better spent on ensuring the next generation of would-be- doctors, nurses, opticians, pharmacists, civil engineers, archaeologists, accountants, IT technicians, architects, researchers and teachers can afford to study than killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians in an illegal war?