LONDON (AP) — Tens of thousands of students marched noisily through London on Wednesday to oppose plans to triple university tuition fees, in the largest street protest yet against the government's sweeping austerity measures.
Organizers said 50,000 students, lecturers and supporters were demonstrating against plans to raise the cost of studying at a university to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) a year — three times the current rate.
"I am here because it is important that students stand up and shout about what is going on," said Anna Tennant-Siren, a student at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. "Politicians don't seem to care. They should be taking money from people who earn seven-figure salaries, not from students who don't have any money."
Frances O'Grady, of the Trades Union Congress, said the hike would make colleges "no-go zones for young people from ordinary backgrounds."
Britain's Liberal Democrats, who are part of the coalition government, pledged during the country's election campaign to abolish fees.
Protest leaders said they would attempt to use recall powers to oust lawmakers who break campaign promises on the issue.
The National Union of Students said it would try to recall legislators from the party who vote in favor on the hike.
"We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up the bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them," said union president Aaron Porter.
Opponents of the tuition hike have pointed out that Prime Minister David Cameron and other members of the government attended elite universities like Oxford and Cambridge at a time when university education was free.
The previous Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced the first fees for students soon after it was elected in 1997. Scotland abolished tuition fees in 2000, and in the rest of Britain the cost is capped at about 3,000 pounds ($4,800) a year.