A brief history of student protest: From 'no women at Cambridge' in 1897 to 'cops off campus' in 2013

Student activists today are standing on the shoulders of giants

With student protests making headlines regularly, and with no signs of student politics calming down in the future, it's time to cast your eyes back and learn from the rich history of protests of the past.

No women at Cambridge, 1897

In a move that would shock today’s student feminists, male students at Cambridge held a protest against a resolution that would allow women to receive full degrees from the university. They suspended an effigy of a woman riding a bicycle - the stereotypical female Cambridge student - from a window while waving banners with slogans such as "No Gowns for Girtonites", Girton being an all-women college. On hearing that the resolution had fallen, students then maimed and decapitated the effigy before pushing it through the gates of all-women college Newnham. Women were not granted full degrees until 1921.

"May Fourth" protests, 1919

The "May Fourth" protests in China were led by students displeased with their country’s response to the post-World War One Treaty of Versailles. Over 3,000 students marched from Peking University to protest against the granting of Shandong territory to the Japanese. Many were arrested and beaten, and eventually China refused to sign the Treaty. The "May Fourth" protests have often been seen as one of the birthplaces of Chinese Communism.

Vietnam protests, 1966-9

Arguably the most famous student protests of all time - those against the Vietnam war - took place in countless American and European cities. In London, the biggest protest was on the 3 July 1966. 4,000 people protested outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, including over 2,000 students from the Youth For Peace In Vietnam movement. In America, students publicly burnt their call-up papers following the introduction of a draft-lottery. President Nixon eventually cited the protests as part of the reason why American troops withdrew in 1973.

A police officer escorts a protestor to a squad car surrounded by dozens of anti-Vietnam War demonstrators outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention (Getty)

May protests in Paris, 1968

What began as just 150 students occupying a university building in Paris ended in a million people marching through the streets. Students had peacefully occupied an administration building at Nanterre, but when the university was closed and the students were threatened with expulsion, over 20,000 students and lecturers marched in protest to the Sorbonne, where they were broken up by use of tear gas. When students realised that promises to re-open the university would not be kept, they marched again, joined by workers' unions, on Monday 13 May. A million students and workers walked, and the university was reopened. However, the revolutionary fervour caught on, and in the next few weeks countless strikes, clashes and protests almost forced the resignation of President Charles de Gaulle.

Students and trade unionists gather in Paris in 1968 (Getty)

The "Garden House Riot", 1970

The local tourist board organised a ‘Greek Week’ at various Cambridge establishments, and students raised concerns given the ongoing dispute against the right-wing military regime in Greece. On the 13 February, they blocked diners from entering the Greek night at the Garden House Hotel, and the ensuing stand-off with the police ended with one officer being severely injured. Six students were imprisoned following the riots and two were recommended for deportation. The then president of the NUS, Jack Straw, condemned the punishments and a young reporter by the name of Jeremy Paxman reported the events in student newspaper Varsity.

"Nelson's Picket", 1986

Student group "Anti-Apartheid" ran a four-year picket in Trafalgar Square in support of the then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Tourist buses would point out "Nelson’s picket" alongside "Nelson’s Column". Their reward came in 1990, when 15,000 people stormed Trafalgar Square on hearing the news of Mandela’s release.

Student protests against Fee Rises and EMA cuts, 2010-

Nationwide protests occurred after the announcement by the government of plans to raise student fees up to £9,000. 52,000 students gathered in London on 10 November, and there was a national outcry following revelations that peacefully protesting students had been kettled by the police. In one incident Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s car was targeted by the protesters. Despite the protests, the bill went through and today around 75 per cent of English universities charge £9,000 a year.

Student protesters stand opposite the Department for Business in December, 2010 in London (Getty)

The "Chilean Winter", 2011-13

The ongoing conflict between students and government in Chile has become known as the "Chilean Winter". Led by the charismatic Camila Vallejo, what started as a students demanded more state support for higher education and a better standardised university admissions test became a mass uprising against an entrenched establishment. Government proposals to placate the students have largely failed so far, and though the protests have calmed, negotiations are ongoing. Around 1,800 students have been arrested throughout the protests.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS2 supply teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

KS1 Supply Teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

ICT Teacher for Maternity cover

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job * This is a new post...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album