On the 3rd of February 2016, a protest held and organised by students of Newcastle University, supported by Northumbria University students, as well as cross-party endorsement throughout the NUS, gathered outside the Newcastle Civic Centre. A crowd of discontented students spoke of their fears and concerns relating to the cutting of grants for university students.
Supported by Labour Councillors, students Anya Durrant and Matt Wilson-Boddy spoke of the impact cuts could have to students and the effects that the cuts will have on young people who hope to enter university.
Councillors Stephen Powers, representative for Osbourne Ward, and Melissa Davis, representative for Denton Ward, joined the protesting students. Stephen Powers stated that the cuts would “entrench inequalities within the university system.” He was later joined by his colleague Melissa Davis, who commended him in expressing his concerns. Together they conveyed their dismay at the cuts enforced by the government, and Stephen Powers suggested that the government themselves, were not convinced by the cuts, as they had employed the services of the “little-known” Delegate Legislation Committee in order to avoid a debate in parliament.
Amongst the protestors were members of the Socialist Party, Green Party, Labour Party, and students, who though they offered no particular political favour, were concerned with the effect cuts would have on the youth of Newcastle. Later that evening local Council members sat in session for three hours debating the future of Newcastle. The topics of debate ranged from transport, freedom of information, business and investment, to the status of students at the universities of Newcastle.
Together they conveyed their dismay at the cuts enforced by the government.
Stephen Powers stated that the cuts will effect five hundred thousand students nationally and in particular, the heavily student populated area of Osbourne Ward will suffer as a result of the cuts. Anya Durrant who organised the protest, remarked that it had been difficult to organise the student bodies of Newcastle. She mentioned that as students already have jobs, lectures and coursework, political protests can often prove to be too much of a strain on their time.
Though Stephen Powers expressed an interest in debating the effect cuts to grants will have on the students of Newcastle, he was not able to deliver such a debate while in session. And so, the student led protest outside the Civic Centre, audible though it was, did not reach the ears of the councillors in session.
Stephen Powers had proposed to write a letter to oppose the scrapping of university maintenance grants and write to the Secretary of State for Education to that effect. Additionally, he wished to “lobby government for investment in education support based on fairness and equality to ensure young people are able to reach their full potential.”