“Next Hype”: Taking and Making Space in the 2010 U.K. Student Protest Movement


This last decade, United Kingdom universities have experienced severe neoliberal offensives. In 2010, the student movement had managed to gain momentum and occupy symbolic buildings or sites. This is the story of how student activists gloriously succeeded in taking over the Millbank building in London.

Millbank was where they lost control. The Coalition lost control of the political agenda; the National Union of Students lost control of the movement; the police lost control of the streets. — Paul Mason, Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere (2012).

Grace Clemoes Funambulist3
Student activists on the roof of the Millbank building during its occupation. Photo by Charlie Owen (November 10, 2010)

Britain’s 2010 student protest movement sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom political scene, the reverberations of which are still felt today. Taking place several months after the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Coalition government, it responded to their proposal to overhaul higher education funding in England by tripling the cost of home-students university fees as well as cancelling the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16-19 year olds from lower-income households. Following a mass protest on November 10, 2010 culminating in a storming of the Conservative Party headquarters, students occupied 27 university campuses and several colleges and state schools. Albeit momentary, the few months in which this student revolt lasted completely expanded the realm of political possibility.