The National Campaign against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC)

 

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The 21st century has witnessed many youth protests in different countries. These include NCAFC in London and (we are all Khaled Said) in Egypt. Although most of them tend to seek to improve some aspect of society, every protest has a different aim (7). Jobs (2009) states that the purpose of protest varies from group to group. For instance, some protestors resist oppressive regimes, while others wish to reform some aspect of a country. Hence, the prevalence of protest seems to be a global phenomenon and the reasons mentioned by (7) .Jobs (2009) suggest that the increasing incidence of protest could be due to the fact that the priorities of vast majority of regimes have changed from serving the affairs of the citizens to combatting terrorism. However, the focus on terrorism has led to neglect of other aspects of citizens’ lives such as unemployment and cost of living. Hence, the citizens’ reaction is to protest and dissent through marches and demonstrations to raise their voice to the authority and obtain their rights

 

Furthermore, it is difficult to find a commonly accepted definition of protest among contemporary scholars (9). Skolnick (1969, p.15) defines protest as “the political tool of only a few dissident factions such as students and Negroes”. Yet definitions by modern authors seem to be more precise in portraying the current protests (7). Jobs (2009) states that protest can include responses to undesirable situations in order to stimulate positive change in society. For example, the NCAFC, or National Camping against Fees and Cuts, in the UK has pursued its objective with four years of marches (2).

In fact, this type of protest has long been popular in the UK (3). Awl (2013) states that there were a number of protests preceding NCAFC that had a comparable claim about education policy in the UK, including NOLS/SSIN in the 1980s and CFE in the 1990s and ENS. Unfortunately, most of these movements have failed to reach their objectives due to a shortage in mobilisation and opposition from other organisations. For example, the NUS is a conservative group and was opposed to the protestors’ vision. This has impeded the process of responding to protesters’ claims, which made students pessimistic about the protest. Consequently, university fees increased approximately from £1,000 to £3,000 in 2004 after obtaining approval from five of the parliament members. Then, in 2010, the government raised fees again to £9,000 (3)(Awl 2013).

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Increasing fees in the education system led to the establishment of the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts in 2010 by university students around the UK. They wanted to reduce university fees. However, this protest persisted for 4 years from 2010 to 2014 and failed to reach its aims in 2010 and 2011 respectively (3) (Awl 2013). The factors behind the failure where outlined by (5) Chessum (2014) who was one of the previous organisers for the NCAFC. The weak connection and poor sharing of experiences between the old and new members prevented any improvement in the protest strategy.

On the other hand, (3) Awl (2013) said that the NCAFC marches witnessed great mobilisation. In November 2014, students from universities and a huge number of students from schools and colleges turned out. He said the marches in London revealed “a level of student militancy and mobilisation not seen for decades”. The majority of protestors carried banners with expressions such as “Free education: no fees, no cuts, no debt” (6).

In terms of the protests’ tactics, the concept of TAZ seems to have been adopted in this protest (4). Bay (2003,p.3) said “the TAZ tactics can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom”. The NCAFC used this strategy for two reasons. It wanted to remain peaceful and avoid any rioting (3) (Awl 2013).Moreover, they intentionality chose random days in mobilising the protesters to avoid  was resistance from the police. Despite all these precautions, the sheer size of the protest, which numbered 10,000 was considered a threat to public safety. The police used “kittling” and repression to disperse the protesters (3) (Awl 2013).

NCAFC was affiliated to the Green party as they have the common goal of free education in the UK. Hence, they collaborated in organising huge marches in 2014 as the Green Party has a around 17,700 members (8) (Pinkney-Baird 2015). As result, this collaboration between NCAFC and the Green Party made progress not just in reducing university fees, but also with certain political issues. It provided international students with the chance to raise their concerns about certain issues such as obtaining a visa and staying in the UK (1) (Admin 2012).

To conclude, it is my point of view that the insistence in reaching the goal with repetition and taking into consideration learning from past experience will lead to improvement and goal achievement, as seen with the NCAFC.

References:

(1)Admin, 2012. NCAFC Conference Report — National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. [online] Anticuts.com. Available from: http://anticuts.com/2012/12/11/ncafc-conference-report-3/#1.Structural Outcomes of the conference [Accessed 28 May 2016].

(2)Afifi-Sabet, K., 2015. How Students Changed The World In 2014. [online] The Huffington Post UK. Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/12/08/how-students-changed-the-world-in-2014_n_6286614.html [Accessed 1 May 2016].

(3)AWL, 2013. A history of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, 2009-2013. [online] Workers’ Liberty. Available from: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2013/09/09/history-national-campaign-against-fees-and-cuts-2009-2013 [Accessed 3 May 2016].

(4)Bey, H., 2003. T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. 1st ed.

(5)Chessum, M., 2014. 7 lessons from a departing student activist. [online] openDemocracy. Available from: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/michael-chessum/7-lessons-from-departing-student-activist [Accessed 27 Apr. 2016].

(6)Green Party, 2015. Young Greens become largest youth party in the UK. [online] Green party. Available from: http://Young Greens become largest youth party in the UK [Accessed 4 May 2016].

(7)JOBS, R., 2009. Youth movements. Youth Movements: Travel, Protest, and Europe in 1968.., [online] 114 (2, p376-404, 29p.). Available from: http://sj9sr8sb5k.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=Youth+Movements%3A+Travel%2C+Protest%2C+and+Europe+in+1968&rft.jtitle=The+American+Historical+Review&rft.au=Richard+Ivan+Jobs&rft.date=2009-04-01&rft.pub=Oxford+University+Press%2C+UK&rft.issn=0002-8762&rft.eissn=1937-5239&rft.volume=114&rft.issue=2&rft.spage=376&rft.externalDocID=1699050651&paramdict=en-US [Accessed 1 May 2016].

(8)Pinkney-Baird, W., 2015. National free education demo called for 4th November. [online] Bright Green. Available from: http://bright-green.org/2015/06/15/national-free-education-demo-called-for-4th-november/ [Accessed 1 May 2016].

(9)Skolnick, J., 1969. The politics of protest. New York: Simon and Schuster.

 

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