Last Friday evening between 150 and 200 students and lecturers protested against David Willetts, the Minister of State for Science and Education, and his role in the recent education reforms, particularly university cuts and the increase in higher education fees.
The protest began at 4.30pm and took place outside St Peter’s College, where Willetts had been invited to take part in a symposium along with Andrew Marr, Polly Toynbee and Gus O’Donnell on the subject of how language shapes political debate.
The protest lasted for approximately two and a half hours and David Willetts’ talk had to be stopped after ten minutes due to noise. Protesters from Oxford University, Oxford Brookes, Ruskin College and local schools held banners and chanted slogans that included, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” and, “Education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes.”
Protester Robin Handford from Ruskin College told Cherwell, “I’m here because I have a fundamental belief that education is a human right and the government is attacking that right.’
The protest also questioned why Willetts had been invited to speak at Oxford, despite the University’s vote of no confidence against the reforms last June. Arianna Tassinari, from St Anthony’s said, “I’m here to reinstate the view of no confidence because the reforms are elitist, incoherent and unsustainable.”
Former student Shaun Williams said, “It’s scandalous they’ve got away with what they have done. The issue has got to be kept in the public eye.”
One second year, who wished to remain anonymous, was more sceptical and commented, “I don’t think that it is terribly constructive to stand shouting ‘Scum’ to a prominent politician. If they want to make a point, they should do so more maturely.”
The University Press Office declined to comment. David Willett’s office told Cherwell, “We always respect students’ right to protest.”