UK students rally against fee hikes

Thousands take to streets in third protest this month against government plans to raise university costs.

    Tuesday's protest is the third in a month by students angry at government plans to raise tuition fees [Reuters]

    Thousands of students have taken to the streets of Britain for the third time in a month to protest planned hikes to university tuition fees.

    In London, the capital, protesters clashed with riot police on Tuesday while others played out a game of cat and mouse with authorities, breaking into groups and dispersing from the designated demonstration route.

    Protesters also rallied in other major British cities against the government's plan that would see some fees nearly triple to $14,500 a year.

    David Cameron, the prime minister, has said there is no alternative as Britain faces a massive budget deficit.

    Nick Clegg, the leader of the coalition government's junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, also reiterated his defence of the planned hike during exchanges in parliament on Tuesday.

    Many protesters are angry at the Liberal Democrats, which had originally promised to vote against the rises during election campaigning in May this year.

    Despite the scenes in London, Tuesday's protests were more peaceful than the previous two in London, the first of which saw the Conservative party headquarters smashed and broken into.

    Last week about 10,000 students and school children took to the streets  of the capital, attacking a police van and starting fires.

    The latest demostrations saw small clashes in London and Birmingham, with several people arrested for public order offences.

    Groups of demonstrators broke up when they came against a line of police officers in the capital, leading police to chase down London streets after them.

    "I want to voice my opposition to the government because I think it's appalling. It shows a complete lack of understanding for what is important," Joshua Mellors, a 22-year-old University College London student, told the AFP news agency.

    Students have also been occupying university buildings to campaign against the hike, part of austerity measures which will see billions of dollars in spending cuts over four years.

    Italian protests

    Other student protests have also been held in Italy, where the government is planning to cut university budgets.

    Activists clashed with riot police in the streets of Rome, the capital, who fought back with tear gas and police vans to seal off the city's streets.

    The action came as politicians voted on a contested reform bill many students and professors say will give the private sector too much involvement in the state university system.
    Protesters claim the funding cuts mean faculty positions will go unfilled.

    The protests turned briefly violent as hundreds of student poured onto the main thoroughfare of the historic centre, throwing eggs, tomatoes and smoke bombs at police.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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