Protesters holding banners and placards spelling out ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ lined up outside the Sheldonian Theatre on Tuesday afternoon to greet exiting academics with whoops and cheers upon news of the vote.
Some had been there since 2pm, when the dons first entered Congregation, and despite the occassional rain shower were in just as positive a mood three hours later as they were when they turned up.
Chants ran along the lines of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” and “Education for the masses, not for the ruling classes!”
Students from Wadham, St Catz and Teddy Hall, who knew each other from Oxford University Campaign meetings, expressed confidence that the motion would pass, calling themselves “quite confident in no confidence”. Instead, the question on their minds was how big a majority it would be.
Hearing of the 283-5 result the protesters were “ecstatic”, seeing it as a confirmation of the strength of feeling against the government’s higher education policies.
Owen Hubbard, a student at St John’s, said, “This sends out a really powerful message that academics, as well as students, are overwhelmingly fed up with Willetts’ incompetent and out-of-touch approach.”
Another protester added, referring to the dons, “these are the people that taught the government in the first place”.
Upbeat music accompanied cheers, claps and whistles as tutors left Congregation, some of whom gave a thumbs up in response.
As one student summarised it, “Today we’re here to try and express support for our tutors. This is a happy and peaceful protest which aims to give the resolution wider media attention, and raise the issue into national debate.”
Not all the protesters were students however. Some were present simply to express “solidarity”. A passer-by, a Balliol alumnus who came up in 1961, commented, “All over the world universities have become very passive – now, thank God, this is changing.”
He drew links to the worldwide student protests of 1968, which had humble beginnings in movements similar to the gathering outside the Sheldonian. “Protests like these make all the difference,” he said. “They add up.”