Students voice their fears about tuition fees and job prospects

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Hundreds of students from Yorkshire marched through London yesterday to protest at education cuts, tuition fees and unemployment.

Undergraduates from the region’s universities braved the rain to march alongside thousands of students from across the country for the demonstration organised by the National Union of Students.

It is the first national student protest since a wave of unrest over tuition fees two years ago.

Those protests were saw angry clashes with the police and culminated in students taking over the Conservative Party’s headquarters in Millbank Tower.

Students from Leeds University, Leeds Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity University College were among hundreds of Yorkshire representatives who marched across the capital.

Antony Haddley, union affairs officer at Leeds University Union, said: “Students feel betrayed by politicians.

“We’ve been given too many false promises and weak apologies.

“This demonstration is about students coming together to show a united front against the policies that are having such a negative impact on students and graduates.

“This is just the start of our mission to ensure that students are on the agenda of every political party’s manifesto come the next election.

“And if they aren’t – students will make their feelings known at the ballot box.”

He added: “We went on the streets to show these reforms aren’t just figures on a piece of paper and they have a real impact on standards of life.

“I’m really proud of the students from Leeds and I hope the Government sees that students are really suffering day to day as a result of these changes.

“This is the catalyst and the springboard because we need to lobby the council locally as well as the Government.

“We want to see real changes.”

New figures have revealed that university applications submitted in Yorkshire and Humberside fell by 8.4 per cent in one year following the tripling of the cap on student tuition fees.

Leeds West constituency, which covers Bramley and Armley, saw the largest drop in applications in the city with a 15 per cent fall.

Liam Burns, NUS President, said: “The sheer speed and scale of the fall in applications in some areas is something shocking.

“Tens of thousands of people from the length and breadth of the country have turned their back on university as a result of this Government’s policies.

“The waste of potential is tragic.”

The NUS estimated that about 10,000 students marched through the streets of the capital yesterday.

But a rally in Kennington Park had to be abandoned at about 3pm when a union leader was heckled and forced from the stage after a small number of activists disrupted the proceedings.

As the rally began, chants of “NUS, shame on you” could be heard.

And NUS president Liam Burns appeared on stage in an attempt to quieten parts of the fractious crowd.

Mr Burns later returned to address the rally, but was pelted with eggs and a satsuma.

About 20 protesters then broke through the barriers and stormed the stage, forcing Mr Burns to leave.

A survey has revealed that most parents with children under the age of 18 would not vote for an MP who broke a pledge against increasing university tuition fees.

The poll, covering almost 500 parents, showed that more than three out of five would not vote for an MP who broke a pre-election pledge to vote against increasing tuition.

And almost half also believed MPs who broke their pledge should resign.

Mr Burns said Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg won the trust, and votes, of young people and their parents by signing the pledge, but had now lost them “once and for all” by breaking it.

He said: “Most parents would like to see him and every other MP who broke the pledge go before they can do any more harm to the next generation.

“As students gather in London to demand investment in education and employment, the countdown to the next General Election has already begun.

“Many MPs of all party colours kept their promise, but those MPs who broke their pledge cannot wriggle their way out.

“They are living out their electoral lives on borrowed time.”

The NUS said young people were being left with a “sense of desperation” for their futures amid major changes to education and a tough job market.

Mr Burns said there were strong feelings on campuses around the country about education reforms.

They included the move to treble tuition fees and financial support for students as well as youth unemployment.

Today’s students know they are going to be “tens of thousands of pounds in debt before they even graduate and they know there’s little prospect of graduate employment,” he said.

“There’s a sense of desperation that people have.”