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'RIBA should help us', says manhandled architecture student protestor

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An architecture student who claims police ‘manhandled’ him and forcibly photographed his face has called on the RIBA to help students who now face crippling amounts of debt

The unnamed student from the Bartlett School of Architecture has requested the RIBA reduce its student membership fees and asked whether it would support a ‘picket line on registration day’ when fees of up to £9,000 come into effect.

Accompanied by as many as half a dozen fellow students from the school, the protester said he was manhandled by ‘antagonistic’ police who ‘kettled’ him and 1,000 other protesters last night (10 December) on Westminster Bridge close to the Palace of Westminster in central London.

Students were demonstrating yesterday against a vote in the House of Commons on whether to approve controversial measures which could triple higher education tuition fees and leave architecture students with at £50,000 worth of debt.

Thousands took part as riot police on horseback charged the crowds and a breakaway group attacked the Prince of Wales and his wife in their car.

‘Everybody was tarred with the same brush. They made you walk through a tunnel with riot police shouting at you and forcing you to take your hood off and face a photographer.

‘They were physically forcing you to look at the camera,’ said the student.

Alex Scott-Whitby, RIBA Council student representative, left a council meeting at 66 Portland Place yesterday also to attend the protest.

At the instigation of president-elect Angela Brady, council members signalled with an informal show of hands their unanimous support for Scott-Whitby and the students’ cause.

He described Whitehall yesterday as like a ‘medieval battle scene’, with a prevailing jovial atmosphere escalated into violence following ‘inflammatory’ containment by police.

‘The real thing we’ve got to do is get the Lords to amend [the proposals],’ said Scott-Whitby, indicating he would lobby for the support of Richard (Lord) Rogers and other construction industry peers.

He added: ‘Architecture will continue to be a laughing stock in the construction industry if we turn back the clock 50 years to being “those guys in bow ties” which is a real risk brought about by these tuition fee changes.’

Charles Holland, director at FAT and tutor at Canterbury School of Architecture, led a group of fellow educationalists to take part in a peaceful demonstration.

He said he was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ that the government won the vote, fearing that the quality of architectural education would be affected.

Holland said the issue went beyond architecture schools and should appeal to the entire profession. He added: ‘There needs to be more people in senior positions at academic institutions [such as vice chancellors] and places like the RIBA who should be leading from the front because it’s a fundamental attack on a hugely important part of our culture.’

The RIBA supports students’ concerns that the new policy on university fees will exacerbate student debt and compromise access to good value higher education in the UK. 

RIBA president Ruth Reed responds:

‘The RIBA supports students’ concerns that the new policy on university fees will exacerbate student debt and compromise access to good value higher education in the UK. 

‘The Institute is firmly committed to helping students facing severe financial difficulties, and has reinforced its commitment to helping students facing severe financial difficulties through continued free student membership of the RIBA, and together with the RIBA Walter Parker Fund, has recently invested £100,000 into the RIBA student hardship fund for 2010 / 2011, four times the usual amount. This essential funding will help many to continue and complete their professional education, and is in addition to the £106,000 already committed by the RIBA to the scholarship and bursary programme.

‘In addition, the RIBA together with SCHOSA will continue to press Government for the retention of block grant funding for part 2 courses in architecture. This joint lobbying is based on the Government’s proposals for continuing to provide core block grant funding to STEM subjects (Science Technology, Engineering and Medicine), and although architecture is not recognised as a STEM subject, the technical content - particularly of the part 2 - provides skills needed to drive the green agenda, and create economic recovery in the construction industry.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Demonstrations of the kind we saw last week are not the way to resolve this issue. I am disgusted by the behaviour of protestors and the fact that we all have to pay for the damage caused. Grow up and learn how to negotiate and behave properly!

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