One fact that the mainstream media seems to have missed about the student protests yesterday is that very few of those smashing up 30 Millbank will be personally affected by the tuition fee increases; these were not future students, but current students, many no doubt in their final year, and will have enjoyed tuition fees pegged at a maximum of £3,290 pa. The new fees are not due to come in until 2012. Even stranger was the contingent from Glasgow Uni featured in the press pics; Scotland currently charges no tuition fees at all. So if they were not protesting on their own behalf, what were they protesting for?
I have long been disappointed at the serious work-focused attitude of modern students. Instead of getting sozzled and experimenting with sex and Sartre the modern student seemed a dull dog, preferring to twiddle with their entry-level laptop in Starbucks than plot stoned revolution. If all that is changing, if a new zeitgeist is blowing through the grume encrusted halls of residence that brings altruism, political engagement and a clamour for change, I am truly encouraged.
wrote in 2009 about the potential for intergenerational conflict that the recession brought, that economic measures geared at preserving the privileges of the older generations would be deeply resented by the new Generation Y. David Willetts' seminal The Pinch, published this year, made much the same point. Could yesterday's little skirmish presage the building of a larger battle?