The coalition government today unveiled controversial plans to begin charging fees to students who wish to leave school and pursue a course in opposing government policy. In the future, students wishing to take to the streets and demonstrate will have to pay admission fees of up to £500 per rally, or £1500 for the year, while forking out extra on living expenses for essentials like placards, megaphones and sandwiches.
‘In the current economic climate we simply cannot afford to continue providing free universal access to student protests,’ said Business Secretary Vince Cable. ‘Standards have fallen, and too many students are turning up late and doing no work between riots. If we are to improve the quality of protest experience that we are providing, then we must be able to charge a fair price so that no one leaves a rally without a thorough grounding in chanting, banner design and kettling.’
Student groups have reacted angrily to the proposals, claiming that activists are going to be saddled with enormous levels of debt, and that those from poorer backgrounds will be priced out of the protest market altogether. ‘It’s all very well the government saying that demonstrators won’t need to begin repaying their loans until they are earning jobseeker’s allowance,’ said a spokesman for the National Union of Students, ‘but the very poorest students must be given a leg up, otherwise how else are they going to get on top of a police van?’
Activists also fear that the introduction of fees will mean future protests are populated almost exclusively by well-off students whose parents can afford to send their children on rallies, something the police have welcomed. ‘We imagine it will be a lot easier to control a bunch of Old Etonians,’ said Sir Paul Stephenson, Metropolitan Police Commissioner. ‘Some of them might come ‘tooled up’ with hampers and knitwear, but if it looks like kicking off we’ll quickly disperse them towards a spot of boating on the Thames or a show in the West End.’
Student protesters are now carefully planning their next move against the government. ‘Ideally we’d like to protest against the proposals, but we can’t afford it,’ said one. ‘We’ve got some fundraising plans, though, and we’ll start by selling back to the police all the traffic cones we nicked on previous demonstrations.’