SIXTH-FORMERS and university students braved freezing temperatures and falling snow to protest against increased tuition fees and the proposed abolition of the education maintenance allowance (EMA).

More than 100 protesters gathered in Parliament Street yesterday, under the gaze of about 20 police officers, to support a national day of action by students across the UK.

As the night drew in, the crowd swelled as chanting sixth-form and university students from various educational establishments in the city, including the University of York, York College and York St John’s University, descended on the city centre to voice their anger.

Placards were thrust in the air and shouts of “no ifs, not buts, no education cuts” and “education is a right” echoed around the city streets.

Protester Lee Wilkes, branch secretary of the York Socialist Party, said: “A lot of the students in York saw what is happening around the country and across Europe and wanted to stage a protest of their own in the city.

“In my lifetime, I have never seen radical protests as we are having now. I think there is unrest and unhappiness among the students and they want to demonstrate that.”

Lewis Flanagan, 16, was part of a group of students from Archbishop Holgate’s sixth-form who attended the protest. He said: “I want to go to university, but one of the things that made me doubt going was the cost, and this has only been heightened by the rise in tuition fees.”

Fellow student Tim Atkinson, 17, said: “I am against the scrapping of the EMA which will affect travel, costs, trips and buying equipment.”

James Peircy, 17, of York College, said: “Tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year are ridiculous.

“There is no sense in it. I really wanted to go to university, but I am seriously considering not going now.”

Coun James Alexander joined the protest alongside fellow Labour councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing and Heslington ward Liberal Democrat councillor Ceredig Jamieson-Ball.

Coun Alexander said: “Labour supports this protest against rising tuition fees and the scrapping of the EMA.”

Coun Simpson-Laing said she was concerned about the effect the abolition of the EMA would have on students hoping to get the results they need to get to university.

She said: “Evidence shows that people who have to work through their sixth-form obtain lower grades.”

In London, several roads were closed and the protest took a new turn as marchers scattered through Westminster and the West End, forcing officers to abandon their prepared lines and follow them.

Lib Dem Keal opposes rise

LEADING Liberal Democrat Howard Keal is backing a petition opposing the planned rise in tuition fees.

The Ryedale councillor, who stood for the party in Thirsk and Malton at the General Election, is among more than 100 Parliamentary candidates behind the petition.

It calls on the party’s MPs to vote against the rise when the proposed change is debated in Parliament before Christmas, and has been sent to all the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

“Our wider party membership and policy opposes the planned increase and I have not moved a millimetre from that position – we should be abolishing fees not increasing them,” said Coun Keal.