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UK: Tuition fee rise and student protests

On 9 December 2010, the British Parliament approved the government’s controversial plans to almost treble the maximum level of tuition fees in England and Wales for UK and EEA citizens to GBP 9 000 (EUR 10 595) annually. Universities which charge over GBP 6 000 (EUR 7 065) must introduce compensatory action for students from poorer backgrounds.  The government bill met with considerable backbench revolt. More than half of the Liberal Democrats, who form a coalition government with the Conservative Party, voted against the proposal or abstained. So did eight Tory MPs. Overall, the coalition’s majority shrank from 84 to 21.  The decision was particularly painful for the Liberal Democrats, who had promised before the elections to phase out tuition fees in the medium term.

The vote in Parliament was accompanied by angry student protest. Press reports indicated that in violent clashes with the police in Parliament Square, 12 police officers and 43 protesters were hurt. Another 34 were arrested. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla had a few scary moments when their car got stuck in the fray and was hit by paint.

Meanwhile in Scotland, fears are mounting that the fee rise in England and Wales could lead to a strong influx of students from the south into Scottish universities. Scotland so far does not charge Scottish students any fees, and students from the rest of the UK play slightly less that GBP 2 000 (EUR 2 355) per year. The Scottish National Party is now proposing to raise fees for non-Scottish UK students to up to EUR 6 500 (EUR 7 650) a year.

BBC Newsnet Scotland