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Hundreds of Norwich students head to London for mass demo

UEA students protesting about university fees at the offices of Liberal Democrat MP Simon Wright in Martineau Lane, Norwich where they posted protest cards through the letter box.

UEA students protesting about university fees at the offices of Liberal Democrat MP Simon Wright in Martineau Lane, Norwich where they posted protest cards through the letter box.

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Coaches packed with more than 500 students and lecturers from Norfolk will be heading to London tomorrow to join a huge protest against university funding cuts and proposed tuition fees increases.

The local protesters will join up to 30,000 people from across England at the march and rally, which follows the government’s proposal last week to introduce annual tuition fees of up to £9,000.

Six coach-loads of students and staff from the University of East Anglia (UEA) will be joined by three full coaches of people from City College Norwich and a coach-load from Norwich University College of the Arts (Nuca).

Tom Dolton, UEA student union’s communications officer, said: “Education is not a privilege, it is a right. The government shouldn’t take that right away from people, and that is what the cuts will do.

“The people who are going down probably won’t be directly affected by the increases, but they understand the impact of the cuts on the HE system.”

Tom Grant, president of City College’s student union, said students from the college were concerned that fees increases would “price them out” of university, while there were also concerns about cuts to the education maintenance allowance, which is paid to young people from lower-income families to help them to go to college.

The government announced it was cutting more than £4bn of funding from higher education at last month’s comprehensive spending review.

And last week, universities minister David Willetts announced the government’s response to Lord Browne’s higher education funding proposals.

He said the government would introduce legislation by the end of the year to increase maximum annual fees from 2012. He said the fees cap would be lifted from the current £3,290 to £6,000 – or up to £9,000 if higher education institutions met conditions on widening access to students from poorer backgrounds.

He said no student would have to begin repaying the fees until they were earning at least £21,000 a year – up from the current £15,000 trigger point.

He also said that “a quarter of graduates – those on the lowest incomes” would pay less overall than they did at present. And, for the first time, he said part-time students would be able to claim grants.

Protesters will assemble from 11.30am at Horse Guards Avenue before a 12.30pm march through Westminster and a 1.15pm rally at Millbank, outside Tate Britain.

The “We Will March” event is organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU).

Education correspondent Steve Downes will be travelling on one of the coaches to cover the protest. Don’t miss www.eveningnews.co.uk for regular updates and photographs throughout tomorrow, and pick up Thursday’s paper for post-event analysis. To keep up with regular live updates from the scene, follow stevedownes1973 on Twitter - www.twitter.com.

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