What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?

The 20th century is an influential year in world political history. When the increasingly widespread desire for secularization began to swallow up societies, universities were one of the institutions most affected by this situation. This period, which started with the end of the Second World War and continued until the last quarter of the twentieth century, was a period when students behaved like they were one. Let’s learn about ‘What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?’.

What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?

What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?

Protests in the 1960s spanned all continents, but these movements took on more serious concerns: second-wave feminism, justice, and environmentalism. All these terms are embraced with a desire for greater personal freedom. 

Key factors that triggered the student protests

While the number of students increased rapidly, university facilities (classrooms, dormitories, libraries, laboratories, etc.) did not increase simultaneously, and communication between students and lecturers decreased in crowded classrooms. 

One of the most important factors leading to student revolts; is the lack of job opportunities to meet the increasing number of students. Even in industrialized capitalist countries, the problem of unemployed with a diploma arose. For this reason, the unrest, which initially started about the problems within the university, gradually turned towards the regime and the current order. 

The Vietnam War was an important factor that contributed to the massification of the student movements and reaching significant dimensions. Anti-Vietnam War protests began to show themselves in many countries, especially the USA.

  • The growth of the new left
  • Vietnam War
  • Freedom of speech
  • Environment
  • Racism
  • Universities with insufficient facilities and declining quality

The Starting Point: What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?

In 1965, Malcolm X, an African-American activist was killed. The same year, the United States of America landed troops in Vietnam to pick up where France left off. As a result, it flamed the first student movements for anti-imperialism. The war in Vietnam mobilized the American youth, who were most directly affected by it.

The anti-war demonstrations that started in 1965 sometimes took the form of protests involving tens of thousands of young people. However, this opposition took the form of more massive mass actions and military boycott campaigns, when in 1967 the US Congress repealed the law exempting students from military service.

Figures that lead all around the world

With the exit of France from NATO, it was seen that the period of warm relations between the post-war USA and European imperialism came to an end. With the Red Guard band on their arms, the image of Mao bombing bourgeois headquarters and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution began, which met with the interest of the western youth, who got down to gain a protester identity against increasing poverty and exploitation. The opposition had found one of its symbols.

Another new and more influential symbol of the opposition was the guerrilla struggle led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Che was a doctor who left Cuba, where he was in power, to spread the revolution across the continent. Che had all the motives needed by the revolutionaries. With his simple guerrilla outfit, which does not show any privilege or career, he started to be seen in the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations that started to spread all over the world in the same year.

The example of student movements all over the world

• France

In May and June 1968, the student movement that started at Nanterre University against the conservative De Gaulle government in France grew gradually and led to nationwide uprisings, factory occupations, and general strikes with the support of the working class. The events resulted in the abolition of the Assembly and the re-run of the elections. De Gaulle came out of this election stronger than before.

• Germany

Vietnam entered the agenda of the German youth in 1965 and played a decisive role in the start of anti-imperialist student demonstrations.

In June 1967, the murder of a student by the police during the protest actions during the visit of the Iranian Shah Pahlavi to Germany led to the sudden rise of the student movement and took on new forms.

In Berlin on November 4 the most violent demonstration of 1968 took place. In the confrontation between the students and workers and the police, 130 police officers and 21 students were injured.

• the United Kingdom

It started with protest actions against the presence of the USA in Vietnam at the end of the year 1965. These actions, which facilitated the gathering of students in masses and started to create a tradition, later formed the basis of the demonstrations held to protest the university’s problems.

• Italy

Students who wanted the democratization of universities occupied the universities in five big cities. At the beginning of 1968, police broke through the invasions using violence. He emptied the “liberated universities”. However, the actions continued in the form of partial occupations and boycotts.


Now we have learnt ‘What Was The Main Reason For Student Protests During the 1960s And 70s?’, The main reason for the protests was that students stuck in political crises wanted a life free from imposed ideas of the society. Protests between the 60s and 70s took over the world under the ideas of peace, free speech, and better social standing. It started the era of a new rising left and many new ideas. The students learned what they can do and shake governments when they unite.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What were the main factors of student movements in the 60s?

The resistance of Vietnam, secularization, environmentalism, racism, and universities free from political abuse.

  1. What do students demand with these protests?

The students demanded the establishment of new world order, in which there would be no wars, no religion, language and race discrimination, no economic exploitation order, and peace and tranquility, with the rebellion they started against these existing systems in the world.

  1. What happening led to the protests?

With the entry of the USA into Vietnam, the rising opposition to war combined with the dissatisfaction of the society in the education system and many social areas, and protests began.

  1. Did the students succeed?

These protests, which found response in some countries, did not end with the same success everywhere.