Police, Students Clash over UK Tuition Hike

Protesters and police officers clash during a protest against an increase in tuition fees on the edge of Parliament Square in London, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010. Police clashed with protesters marching to London's Parliament Square as lawmakers debated a controversial plan to triple university tuition fees in England.(AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo) AP Photo

Updated at 7:21 p.m. ET

Police with riot shields clashed with angry student protesters near London's Parliament Square on Thursday as lawmakers approved a controversial plan to triple university tuition fees in England.

Prince Charles, Camilla Attacked by Protesters

The plan to raise the cap on tuition fees to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) was approved, 323-302, a small margin given the government's 80-set majority.

Many in the crowd booed when they heard the result of the vote.

Britons pay very high taxes, and one of the things they have received in return is a free - or almost free - college education, CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

Not any more. The students protesting Thursday will graduate with very large debts, Palmer reports.

By nightfall, police corralled the students in the center of London, in Parliament Square, where some of the more violent ones started to attack government buildings, Palmer reports.

Earlier, small groups of protesters threw flares, billiard balls and paint bombs, and officers, some on horses, rushed to reinforce the security cordon. Police said 13 protesters and four officers were injured in the fracas, while seven people were arrested.

Thousands of other students held demonstrations and sit-ins throughout the country, heaping pressure on the government to reverse course. Students marching through central London banged drums, waved placards and chanted "education is not for sale," as weeks of nationwide protests reached a crescendo.

The vote put Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrat leaders in an awkward spot. Liberal Democrats signed a pre-election pledge to oppose any such tuition hike.

Those protesting in central London were particularly incensed by what seems like a broken pledge by Clegg's party.

"I'm here because the Liberal Democrats broke their promise," said 19-year-old Kings College student Shivan David from London's Trafalgar Square. "I don't think education should be free but I do think that tripling fees doesn't make any sense. We are paying more for less."

All of this has made Clegg one of the least popular politicians on university campuses. Protesters chanting "Nick Clegg, shame on you for turning blue" underscored the sense of betrayal, while the front page of the Daily Mirror newspaper called Clegg "the pathetic Pinocchio of politics."

The deputy prime minister defended his decision to support the proposals, saying the plans represent the "best possible choice" at a time of economic uncertainty.

"In the circumstances in which we face, where there isn't very much money around, where many millions of other people are being asked to make sacrifices, where many young people in the future want to go to university, we have to find the solution for all of that," Clegg told the BBC.

Cameron's government describes the move as a painful necessity to deal with a record budget deficit and a sputtering economy. To balance its books, the U.K. passed a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 billion pounds ($128 billion), which will lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs and cut or curtail hundreds of government programs.
  • CBSNews

Comments