Why are some people activists and others not?

Why do some young people demonstrate and protest and others stay away? A case study of 22 universities in 2010 found 22% of students took part in student protests against the UK government’s plan to triple university tuition fees, although two-thirds of the non-participants supported the protests. About 10% of students participated in demonstrations and 4% in occupations. Personal connections were the main influences; first, growing up with parents who often discussed politics and second, having activist friends. The majority (62%) of activists had previous experience being politically active before attending university. Students were more likely to visit occupations at their university if they had friends there and social science and humanities students had more activist friends than students in technical fields of study. Men were more involved than women who were less likely to discuss politics or to feel informed about politics. Researcher Alexander Hensby traced the legacy of the student protests as inspiring UK Uncut, the global Occupy Movement of 2011, and the Quebec student movement of 2012.


Alexander Hensby, “Exploring Participation and Non-Participation in the 2010/11 Student Protests Against Fees and Cuts,” Ph.D. dissertation University of Edinburgh, February 2014.


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