Grants Not Debt Protest, London 2016

Students will be “coming back and fighting hard” after leading a protest against the axeing of student grants outside parliament, said the vice president of the National Union of Students yesterday.

About 60 protestors occupied Westminster Bridge during an opposition day the Labour party called in response to the decision to scrap student maintenance grants and replace them with loans. However, MPs voted down the motion to retract the government’s plans.

Sorana Vieru, the vice president of higher education for the NUS, said: “This is class war. Students from poorer backgrounds are being punished simply because they are poor. They are being told they need to take on a bigger debt in order to go to university, while others from better backgrounds don’t. So this is saying you need to pay your way out of poverty.”

Vieru went on to say that the government has “tried to shy away from democracy and real public scrutiny” by passing the legislation in a “hidden back-door committee”.

Tories received backlash after a legislative committee of 18 MPs passed the bill without a debate or vote in the House of Commons. The move, which has been scrutinized as “shady” and “sneaky”, lead the Labour party to call the opposition day.

At the debate, Huw Merriman, a Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle who was on the legislative committee, said that while loans are “incredibly daunting” they will be an incentive for students to earn enough money to repay them.

He said: “Most students understand that we are now moving towards a loan system and those students are comfortable with that concept because they don’t want bleeding hearts.

“What they want is a job at the end of their university degree, and by balancing the books, we’re making it more likely they’ll have security, success, be able to pay their loans back, and enjoy the fruits of their own labor.”

However, Piers Telemacque, the vice president of society and citizenship for the NUS felt the loans would only discourage poor students from going to university and disagrees that students are okay with the change.

Telemacque said: “There will be a follow-up protest. We are not going to take this shit lying down. Whenever the government tries to shit on students we will be coming back and fighting hard.”

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