London Student Protests: 4,000 Police Officers Deployed in Anticipation

Thousands of angry students are taking to the streets of London today to protest what they call the “privatization” of higher education.

The students are outraged that they could be subjected to higher tuition fees, as much as triple the current rate, when the new fees go into effect next year at England’s universities.

Security is understandably tight after last year’s protest ended in riots and violence. Police officials have deployed 4,000 officers – equipped with riot gear and rubber bullets – should the protesters become disorderly.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts organized the protest. Their platform is against the government's plans for a market-driven higher education system.

Campaign leader Michael Chessum said, "We are being told by a cabinet of millionaires that we will have to pay triple tuition fees."

The march’s planned route begins at Malet St. in the City of London’s University district and will continue through the financial district, passing by the Occupy London protesters, who are outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral, before ending at Met University.

Police are concerned that when both groups of protesters come together, chaos might ensue. As a precaution a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police had said that one of the tactics available was "the authority to deploy baton rounds [plastic bullets] in extreme circumstances."

Education Correspondent Sean Coughlan from the BBC was at the march.

He said, "Chanting student protesters are going through London's Theatreland, lots of noise, lots of cameras and lots of police. It feels less predictable than last year's protests, but so far no trouble."

But unpredictability is one of the problems that students are angry about.

The Independent Task-force on Student Finance Information says its polling suggests widespread confusion among the public about student finance. Adding that public confusion over the tuition fess is a “national scandal.”

Universities Minister David Willetts said, "We are putting students at the heart of the system, with a diverse range of providers offering high-quality teaching. Going to university depends on ability not the ability to pay.”

University access regulator, Offa, revealed that one in five universities now wanted to change their fees even though many students have already applied.