According to surveys, today’s students are on the whole satisfied with their higher education experience. Compared with previous generations, they are also more career-minded. After all, for many of them, improving their career options is why they went to university. So why are they protesting?
One explanation is that, like students in the 1960s, they are idealistic and values-driven. Growing up in the early 1990s, they are also sceptical of politicians and big companies – a scepticism that is likely to be enhanced by the credit crunch.
But the similarity between students today and the class of 68 stretches only so far. The days of the campus sit-in, when students would barricade themselves in the dean’s office, sometimes for days on end, seem to be a thing of the past. This could be because students now can’t afford lengthy protests. Unlike students in the 60s, most of them have part-time jobs to go to.
The way student demonstrations are organised is also very different. In the 60s, the main form of communication was hastily printed magazines and newsletters. Today, communications take place through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.