YOUNG VOICES

How Students Changed The World In 2014

05/01/2015 09:35 GMT | Updated 05/01/2015 09:59 GMT

The last year has played host to an escalating sense of social unrest, with scenes of violent clashes and anti-establishment protests dominating the international news agenda.

Stunning photos from the streets of Hong Kong, Bangkok and Cairo show how young activists are effecting change in whichever way they can; seizing back power from oppressive government regimes and knocking down rigid social paradigms.

The aims of these movements vary but what remains a constant is that students lie at the heart of them. In small pockets around the world, they are looking to chip away at and reshape the global socio-political landscape.

As 2014 draw to a close, HuffPost UK takes a look back at some of the year's most memorable - and world-changing - student protests.

Student Movements From Around the World

Hong Kong

The most iconic of all student-led movements is undoubtedly Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, dubbed-so for the umbrellas protesters carried in order to protect themselves against police tear gas. The umbrella has now risen to become a symbol.

In the months since the Chinese government picked its shortlist of preferred candidates for the Hong Kong elections, tensions between pro-democracy activists and the authorities have escalated. The student leaders have been calling for

Now, China risks damaging its international reputation; footage of violent clashes between an aggravated police force and a resilient core of student activists broadcast around the world threatens to sour ties with Western trading partners.

Venezuela

Escalating crime, an economy spiralling out of control, and a botched attempt to clamp down on dissent were the ingredients that sparked a series of anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela - the most prominent in a decade.

Students were the first to march in February, but the roots can be traced to the killing of Miss Venezuela 2004 Monica Spear and her ex-husband in January. The middle-classes and campaigners positioned against the socialist government have been sucked in, joining the students as the demonstrations threaten to spill into 2015.

Thailand

Thailand’s military-led administration has been clamping down on dissent ever since it staged a coup d’état in May. The draconian range of measures have even extended to a ban on citizens making a three-finger salute borrowed from the Hunger Games films. Activists have adopted the symbol to signify government oppression.

In November, five students were arrested for making the gesture in front of the Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the military commander who led the coup. The film has attracted huge controversy in the country with one cinema chain cancelling all screenings after a student group was thought to be planning an anti-coup protest outside one of its theatres.

Spain

Thousands of students marched for three consecutive days in October to call for an end to the centre-right government’s plans to cut scholarships and raise university fees. The protest followed a series of similar marches staged throughout the year.

Parents and teachers joined the students as they demonstrated in 43 cities, also calling for the minister of education, culture and sports to resign. According to the general secretary of Spain’s union of students, the ongoing action has a 90 per cent approval rating with the general public.

Spanish politics faces such staggering levels of disillusionment that a left-wing populist party known as Podemos (translated ‘We Can’) has skyrocketed to lead in the opinion polls after being founded only this year.

Mexico

The disappearance of 43 student teachers in September during a protest that turned violent caused a rumble. But it wasn’t until their charred remains were found hidden in bags on the bank of river that a nationwide movement erupted.

Three detained members of a drug cartel have since testified to murdering the students after they were handed over by a corrupt local police department. Drug-related violence is not a new phenomenon but this revelation struck a nerve with the public, as Mexico descended to become a state in crisis almost overnight.

Egypt

Egypt has never been at rest since Hosni Mubarak’s government was overthrown in 2011. The country has since cycled through administrations, with power recently changing hands through the force of a military coup.

Students have been protesting on university campuses since a recent court verdict cleared Mubarak of killing protesters during the 2011 revolution. They are pairing with hard line ‘ultras in what commentators are referring to as a “university uprising”.

Repressive measures imposed by the leadership designed to curtail dissent are bringing small pockets of the nation’s youth together against what they see as an illegitimate military regime.

Turkey

Turkey is finding it increasingly difficult contain seemingly never-ending domestic strife, with anti-government protests verging on breaking into a third successive year.

With Islamic State perched on the Syrian border, this vaguely anti-establishment movement is finding every reason to challenge the leadership. Recently, students gathered to rally against the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergoden’s new $350m 1000-room palace that he built in Ankara.

The police reaction has been heavy-handed. Water cannons are a regular feature during demonstrations, as are canisters of tear gas used to suppress protesters. Footage from one protest against Ergoden’s palace shows a policeman punching one student in the face as another officer restrained him.

Italy

Students and workers clashed with riot police as they marched through cities across Italy in November to protest the soaring unemployment and the volatile state of the nation’s finances. This follows a march (pictured) in October which saw hundreds of thousands rally against new labour laws.

The government’s disastrous economic performance has seen rampant job losses, with an imposed austerity programme souring the mood for Italy’s youngsters.

Youth unemployment is close to 50% while one in 10 are without a job. The recession has also had an impact on racial tensions. Anti-immigration rhetoric is rising as migrants are regularly fingered for the government’s failure to implement a sustainable economic policy.

London

Thousands of students from across the UK marched through London in November as part of a long-standing campaign to abolish tuition fees and end government-imposed austerity measures.

Since November’s rally, local protests have been widespread on university campuses. Most notable was a recent wave of occupations that were staged in response to alleged police violence during a sit-in at the University of Warwick.

A number of student groups, including the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and the Young Greens are planning a number of similar events for the coming months as the country gears up for the 2015 general election.