Students retreat from national demonstrations

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The Independent Online

Student protesters plan to switch the focus of their campaign against fee rises to local sit-ins and occupations of university buildings. They are calling for a wave of occupations around the country on 24 November – a move which has split the student movement,

It could usher in scenes reminiscent of the 1960s, when student activists – most notably at the London School of Economics – occupied university administration buildings.

"We would like to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to take peaceful and creative forms of political protest and direct action," said the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, a coalition of student groups. "University occupations, demonstrations, banner droppings and walkouts are all welcomed as ways to show students' discontent."

Both students' and lecturers' leaders believe it will be difficult to mount another national demonstration along the lines of last Wednesday's – which ended with 57 people arrested after the Conservative Party headquarters at Millbank was occupied and its reception area trashed.

However, leaders of the National Union of Students are looking at a national lobby of Parliament to coincide with the day that MPs vote on government proposals to raise the cap on fees to £9,000 a year.

Aaron Porter, the president of the NUS, has distanced the leadership from planned walkouts and occupations. In an email to members, he said: "I am of the belief that the actions of the NCAFC could now be a risk to our wider objectives at this stage in the campaign following the fringe activities that happened on Wednesday."