One of the first protesters to storm the Conservative Party headquarters claims the action was justified because tuition fee hikes risk making architecture even more ‘the preserve of the rich’
‘Direct action was necessary to show the level of intent and the seriousness of the protest,’ said a UCL Bartlett School of Architecture student who preferred to remain unnamed.
A breakaway group from a peaceful protest against government plans to increase tuition fees to £9,000 a year yesterday lay siege to the political party’s base at Millbank Tower in Westminster, London.
As many as a thousand students took part in the action which saw windows smashed and a fire extinguisher hurled from the rooftop.
‘It’s going to cripple people financially, it’s going to give them debts of ridiculous amounts,’ said the protester.
‘Architecture is one of the most elite professions and it’s really bad how you’re expected to self-fund research for five years and that prices out a lot of people.
‘[If you add up] fees and material costs and living costs you’re talking £60,000 or £70,000 of debt and with not many jobs out there and frankly a low rate of pay for architects it’s going to make it difficult to justify that length of course, it’s going to make architecture education very indulgent.
‘It will be the preserve of the rich.’
David Cameron this morning condemned the violence as ‘unacceptable’ but said the reform of universities funding would go ahead.
He described the policy as ‘a more progressive system than the one that it will replace’
Organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), the main peaceful event also protested against plans to reduce university funding by 40 per cent and end all teaching grants but those for science and maths.
The NUS blamed the violence on ‘rogue protesters’ and said it undermined the students’ cause. The union’s president, Aaron Porter, said the storming of Millbank Tower was ‘despicable’.
Heads of architecture schools last month criticised proposals to increase tuition fees claiming it could turn architecture education into a ‘two-tier system’.
Postscript, RIBA comment
The RIBA shares the students’ fears regarding tuition fees and fully understands their reasons for demonstrating.
We have already stated our concerns about the likelihood of massively increased tuition fees in response to the Lord Browne review, and the serious potential consequences this will have for the future of the architects’ profession. With a seven-year course to qualification, architecture students stand to enter employment with an inordinate financial burden, which many simply cannot afford.
Architecture is already an exception, because unlike other professions part II graduates enter the work market with more debt than their first year’s salary; by saddling students with an even higher debt, the Government would set a massive financial barrier in front of the many talented students, who may be discouraged from considering studying architecture.
We will continue to urge the Government to consider the full impact of the rise in tuition fees before the architecture profession suffers irrecoverable damage.