UK backs tuition hike amid furore

Parliamentary coalition votes to triple university fees as students clash with police in massive, violent protests.

    Police said eight officers were hurt in clashes, one with a serious neck injury [EPA]

    Britain's parliament has approved plans to triple tuition fees paid by university students despite a rebellion by some members of the coalition government.

    The lower house of parliament approved the plan by a majority of 21 votes, with 27 members of the coalition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties voting against and a handful abstaining.

    Earlier, hundreds of protesters had clashed with police in the square in front of parliament, with some students throwing placards as mounted police tried to break up the crowd.

    Police said 12 officers were hurt in clashes, one with a serious neck injury, and that they had made 34 arrests.

    A photographer for the AP news agency said that he had seen some demonstrators kicking the car of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla in a central London street.

    The couple were heading to a theater for a charity variety performance Thursday when their Rolls Royce crossed paths with a volatile gang of demonstrators who attacked the vehicle with fists, boots and bottles, chanting "Off with their heads!" and "Tory scum".

    Thursday's vote posed a crucial test for the coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

    The proposal to raise fees had cast an uncomfortable spotlight on Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, who like other Liberal Democrat candidates signed a pre-election pledge to oppose any such hike.

    Thousands of students mounted demonstrations and sit-ins throughout England on Thursday following weeks of nationwide protests.

    In central London, demonstrators braved near-freezing temperatures as they protested outside Westminster, the location of parliament.

    Police, who said they had been expecting 20,000 demonstrators, were out in full force, with barricades surrounding parliament.

    The government vote raises the maximum university tuition fees in England from about $4,700 to $14,100.

    Reacting to the recent protests, the government has modified its plan by raising the income level at which graduates must start repaying student loans, and by making more part-time students eligible for loans.

    Students say that under the current proposal, piles of debt will plague graduates and make a well-rounded education unattainable for many.

    The government of David Cameron, the prime minister, has defended the move as a painful necessity to deal with a record budget deficit and a sputtering economy.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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